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The Apple iPhone at 5: a potted history

David Price | July 3, 2012
The iPhone is five years old today. That's right: it was only five years ago that Steve Jobs turned the technology world upside down with his company's take on the smartphone. It feels like it's been around forever.

Steve Jobs once referred to the iPod touch as "training wheels for the iPhone".

10 September 2007: One millionth iPhone is sold

It took Apple 74 days to sell a million units of the first iPhone: a great and by no means universally predicted success, but one that would be continually outshone by later iOS devices.

9 June 2008: Apple unveils the iPhone 3G

In 2008 Steve Jobs established the tradition of announcing an update to the iPhone at WWDC, also held in San Francisco. As the name suggested, the new model differed most significantly from the first-gen iPhone in offering a 3G data connection for faster downloads. But it also saw external modifications, with a tapered-edge, grip-friendly chassis, a plastic back and black and white colour options.

11 July 2008: The iPhone 3G is launched

It was with the iPhone 3G that Apple also established its now traditional rapid turnaround from unveiling to launch, an approach that depends on the company's legendary secrecy. Barely a month elapsed between the 3G being announced and hitting the shops, in a multinational launch across 22 countries.

"If you've been cautious and waited a year for the second generation of iPhone, your patience will be rewarded," was our iPhone 3G verdict. "The iPhone 3G improves on the original iPhone's audio quality, offers access to a faster data network, and sports built-in GPS functionality. You'll also be getting in on the ground floor of the exciting new world of third-party software written for the iPhone."

8 June 2009: iPhone 3GS is announced

The 3GS - which is the earliest iPhone to remain available today, and remains popular - was launched with the promise of faster software processing. "The S stands for speed," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, at the unveiling event at WWDC.

19 June: iPhone 3GS is launched

Apple by this point had got its iPhone turnaround down to 11 days, although this time the initial launch encompassed only 9 countries: here in the UK we had to wait until 26 June.

In a follow-up iPhone 3GS review we wrote a little after the initial excitement had died down, we wrote: "The general consensus is that this time Apple has "nailed it". Despite concerns over heating, battery life, pricing and upgrade options, the iPhone 3GS has sold out in all territories.

"The iPhone 3GS is an amazing gadget. It's a portable computer with the world's most vibrant development base (65,000 independent applications covering every imaginable need, and more being made every day.) It's also an astonishing mobile internet device. Even with the absence of Flash it offers the best mobile internet experience around; and it's the best means of accessing email on the move that we know of. On top of all that it's the best music and video player on the market; with iPlayer web access, built-in YouTube, not to mention a host of radio and video applications it's a stunning portable entertainment system. It even has a really good built-in speaker. It's really not hard to see why Apple is sewing up this market."


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