Design

Tracing the evolution of the iPhone's design over the years

The iPhone was a design marvel when it first debuted in 2007. Here's how it's changed over time.

2007: the original iPhone

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone on January 9, 2007. Instead of the button-filled feature phones popular at the time, the iPhone used a giant capacitative multi-touch screen for interactions. Where popular BlackBerry devices sported a full QWERTY keyboard, the iPhone had just four buttons: two volume buttons, a ring / silent switch, and a home button.

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The iPhone was initially unveiled with a plastic screen. This was changed to a glass screen ahead of the phone's launch on June 29. In 2017, Apple chief operating officer Jeff Williams described a last-minute dash to perfect the glass screen technology.

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Features like the volume buttons and the ring / silent switch have remained present on every iPhone since.

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The original iPhone, on the left, featured a metal casing with plastic at the base. The iPhone 3G, released 12 months later in 2008, ditched this casing for an all-plastic rear.

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The iPhone 3G — and its 2009 successor, the iPhone 3GS — both came with black or white rear casings.

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2010: The iPhone 4

The fourth-generation iPhone was a major redesign. The volume rocker was replaced by two circular buttons, the plastics were dropped from the rear in favor of glass, and the edges used a stainless steel frame. Oh, and the white option now switched the front bezel to white as well.

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Steve Jobs said the device looked "like a Leica camera." The new design was also famous for causing connection issues.

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For the first time, the device's rear camera featured a flash. The front bezel also sported a front-facing camera.

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The iPhone 4S in 2011 fixed the antenna issues and solidified a two-year pattern (or "tick-tock cycle") of design changes.

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The iPhone 5 in 2012 changed the screen's size from 3.5 inches across to 4 inches, a move designed to add more screen space while ensuring it was still possible to operate with one hand.

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The rear now used a predominantly metal design, reducing the chances of breaking the rear glass.

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The iPhone 5S in 2013 switched the plastic home button for a sapphire crystal fingerprint scanner. The phone also came in a gold color.

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2014: The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Arguably Apple's third major redesign, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus brought a curved design all across the phone. The 6 featured a 4.7-inch screen, while the 6 Plus featured a 5.5-inch screen.

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The larger screens debuted the year after iOS 7, which brought a major software redesign to the iPhone.

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Apple retained the same design for the next few years bar some minor tweaks. The iPhone 6S in 2015 used a strong 7000 series aluminum for the casing. The iPhone 7 in 2016 dropped the headphone jack, added waterproofing, and brought a dual-lens camera to the Plus model. The iPhone 8 in 2017 brought a glass casing back to the rear.

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2017: The iPhone X

Debuting the same year as the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, the X upended several expectations about the iPhone range. Gone was the iconic home button, replaced with a series of swiping gestures and a new face scanner. The 5.8-inch screen came in a body that measured around the same size as the iPhone 8, aided by new OLED technology.

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The new device featured sleek stainless steel sides.

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Apple replaced the three-device lineup in 2018. The iPhone XR featured a 6.1-inch LCD screen, the iPhone XS a 5.8-inch OLED screen, and the iPhone XS Max a giant 6.5-inch OLED screen.

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The iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max that launched in 2019 largely kept the same design. The Pro versions featured a triple-camera setup for the first time, while the 11 gained a second camera.

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Apple is expected to redesign the iPhone for the 2020 lineup. We'll find out just how much it's changed in September.

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