Original iPhone vs iPhone 7: What’s the difference 10 years on?

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Today, 29 June 2017, is 10 years to the day since the original Apple iPhone hit store shelves in the US. It’s arguably the most significant mobile device ever launched, and no device before or since has had such a big impact on the market.

Simply put, smartphones are the way they are today because of the iPhone’s leap forward.

While few will argue against the original iPhone’s impact, many will happily complain at the lack of progress between each new version of the popular smartphone brand. Exactly what has changed since the first model?

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  • Plastic, metal and glass on the Apple iPhone
  • Slim, metal and glass iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 is water and dust resistant
  • Big 30-pin connector on original iPhone

The biggest difference between the current iPhone and the original iPhone is its size and shape. Apple’s first model features a metal case, with a large plastic portion at the bottom acting as a window for wireless chips. It measured 115 x 61 x 11.6 mm, weighed 135g and had a single, small camera in the top corner.

At the bottom edge, there was a large 30-pin connector with two sets of grills. One covering the microphone, the other letting sound out from the loudspeaker. It also had a round home button beneath the display with a rounded square icon printed on, and just an earpiece at the top. There was no front facing camera and no water and dust proofing of any kind. The 3.5mm jack sat quite heavily recessed in the top edge, making it hard to use third party earphones.

Fast forward ten years, and the iPhone 7 measures 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm and weighs 138g. This makes it noticeably wider and taller than the original, but almost 40 per cent thinner. Apple replaced the 30-pin connector with the much smaller, reversible Lightning connector some time ago and that joins the speaker and microphone grilles on the bottom edge.

There’s no plastic anywhere on the latest model, with the back made entirely of metal, and the front covered in glass. There is still a round home button on the front, but the design has been altered to incorporate a fingerprint sensor. There’s no more rounded square icon, and it’s surrounded by a metal ring.

Up top there’s an earpiece and a front facing camera, while the back now features a protruding camera and dual-tone LED flash.

One of the other noticeable differences is the wide variety of colours. The current iPhone is available in Jet Black, matte black, silver, gold, rose gold and a special Product RED edition. Back in 2007, you had the standard black and silver combination, and nothing else.

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  • 3.5-inch screen with 3:2 ratio on original
  • iPhone 7 has 4.7-inch 16:9 display
  • 326ppi versus 165ppi

Smartphone displays have been growing in both size and pixel count ever since the first iPhone was released. Its 3.5-inch 480 x 320 LCD screen was both big and sharp when it came out in 2007. By today’s standards, that isn’t big or sharp at all. In fact, it’s not far off the resolution of some high-end smartwatches.

In 2007, the technology wasn’t widely available to laminate the glass surface to the display panel either, meaning there was a noticeable air gap between the glass on top, and the content underneath.

By contrast, the iPhone 7’s 4.7-inch screen boasts a 1334 x 750 resolution screen is much bigger and sharper, but even then isn’t among the biggest and sharpest available in today’s market. It is a 16:9 screen, meaning it’s longer than the original iPhone’s.

Another key difference is the technology used. The original iPhone had a TFT screen, while the latest uses LCD based IPS technology, which is brighter, more colourful and offers much wider viewing angles. It also now has a pressure-sensitive layer, so you can press harder for specific menus and functions.

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  • 2MP camera on original
  • 12MP camera on iPhone 7

As well as displays advancing over the years, cameras have come on leaps and bounds. So much so that smartphones are now worthy competitors to point-and-shoot compact cameras. Back in the original iPhone’s day, that definitely wasn’t the case, and the first Apple smartphone wasn’t even a competitor with the best phone cameras.

While other feature phones were starting to increase sensor size, pixel count and features, the original iPhone had a bog standard two-megapixel camera. It couldn’t record video and wasn’t equipped with a flash, or a decent autofocus. Perhaps worse, there was no way (except email) of sharing images with your friends. You couldn’t use Bluetooth or MMS for that purpose.

Now, in 2017, the iPhone’s regarded as having one of the best cameras available in a phone. It has a 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.8 aperture, phase detection autofocus, optical image stabilisation and 4K video recording. This is all paired with a dual-tone flash, and a 7-megapixel front camera. There are also numerous sharing options of course.

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  • Quad-core A10 Fusion chip in iPhone 7
  • 412MHz ARM chip in first model
  • 16GB storage maximum in original

Like its iPods, Apple brought non-expandable storage to its smartphones. That means, unlike so many other phones, you couldn’t stick a memory card in the iPhone and get more memory. You were limited to 4GB, 8GB or (eventually) 16GB in the first model.

It also had a 412MHz ARM processor, and we don’t know officially how much RAM it had, but we think it was around 128MB.

In 2017, Apple’s newest phones come with a generous amount of storage, bar the minimum entry model. You can now get 32GB, 128GB or 256GB of hoarding space in your phone, which is paired with 2GB RAM and a four-core A10 Fusion processor.

Even though battery life is fairly similar to the one-day achieved by the first iPhone, battery capacity has increased from around 1400mAh to 1960mAh.

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  • Original iPhone launched on iOS 1
  • iPhone 7 will have iOS 11 in a few months

Apple’s iPhone OS 1 (as it was known then) was a grid based software featuring app icons on a black wallpaper. There was no App Store for downloading third party software and no ability to change the background. You had a pre-selected array of 15 apps, all made by Apple.

With iOS 11 coming out soon, the grid of apps is familiar still, as is the Messages conversation appearance. Virtually everything else has changed though.

We have an App Store full of millions of apps, iMessage, FaceTime calling, app-switching multitasking, Control Centre, Notification Centre, Siri, and so much more than there was at the beginning. Of course, we now also have wallpapers, which feature a Parrallax effect to make the screen appear somewhat three-dimensional.

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Apple was bold with the first iPhone, demanding carriers sell it without subsidy. That meant you had to pony up $499 and still got signed into a two-year contract with AT&T in the US. In the UK, it cost £269 on contract with O2, which was still far more expensive than any other phone on contract.

Nowadays, the iPhone 7 starts at $649, but that’s the price to own the phone, unlocked and network free. In the UK, it’s £599, network unlocked and contract free.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/xaac4c)

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