Slideshow

In Pictures: Apple’s most important iPhone upgrades over the years

Seven years after its initial launch, the iPhone has come a long way in terms of its feature set

  • Last month marked the seventh anniversary of the launch of Apple's first-ever iPhone, the device that quite literally sparked the smartphone revolution. Since then, the iPhone, while essentially retaining the same shape, has incorporated a ton of features that, when taken together, make the original iPhone look beyond antiquated. With that in mind, here is a list detailing all of the biggest iPhone enhancements we've seen since the original launched all the way back in 2007.

  • GPS Believe it or not, the original iPhone didn't ship with GPS. Today, that seems pretty crazy given how integral location-based functionality is to the modern smartphone. Indeed, it wasn't until the iPhone 3G shipped in 2008 that we were graced with more accurate location mapping thanks to GPS.

  • Cut, Copy and Paste The ability to cut, copy, and paste text has been part of the computing experience ever since Apple ushered in the GUI-based personal computing revolution with the Mac. Nonetheless, Apple took its sweet time implementing this basic feature on iOS. The story goes that Apple wanted to make sure that it did the feature right, as opposed to just rolling it out as quickly as possible. On top of that, Apple executives indicated that there were more pressing iPhone features they wanted to tackle first. Consequently, cut, copy and paste didn't appear on the iPhone until the iPhone 3GS (running iOS 3) was released in 2009.

  • Retina Display The introduction of the Retina Display with the iPhone 4 is arguably a watershed moment in iPhone history. Packing an astonishing 326 pixels per inch, Apple's Retina Display brought a clarity and vibrancy to mobile displays that most people hadn't previously experienced. It's not hyperbolic to state that once you've used a mobile device with a Retina Display, it's impossible to go back. If you hold up any Retina Display iPhone next to an older-generation model, the difference is jarring. Steve Jobs once called the iPhone 4 an A+ upgrade, and the Retina Display is largely why.

  • Touch ID With the iPhone 5s, Apple introduced Touch ID and brought futuristic technology into the mainstream. Though the rollout of Touch ID elicited some controversy from privacy proponents, the feature has been an all-out success for Apple and a key selling point for the company's flagship iPhone. What's more, the introduction of Touch ID has led to a decrease in iPhone thefts. Looking ahead, Touch ID will likely be essential should Apple ever decide to embrace mobile payments as a native feature.

  • Siri Now a household phrase, Siri was the new kid on the block when it was originally introduced with the iPhone 4s. The initial feature set of Siri was somewhat limited, but in true Apple style, Siri's capabilities have slowly but surely expanded quite considerably over the past few years. From making dinner reservations to checking the latest sports scores to finding out what's trending on Twitter, Siri can do a whole lot these days.

  • Multitasking Multitasking was long a feature iPhone users were clamoring for, though it wasn't until the iPhone 4 was released (alongside iOS 4) that Apple finally got around to implementing what many felt should have been included years earlier. Notably, Apple's multitasking pane most recently received an aesthetic and functional upgrade last year with the introduction of iOS 7.

  • LTE support With the iPhone 5, Apple finally included LTE functionality on the iPhone, allowing users to browse the web at much faster speeds. For some, the move to LTE was long overdue, but then again, Apple isn't shy about taking its time in rolling out new features. Remember, the original iPhone didn't even support 3G! Dark times indeed.

  • A4 chip The A4 chip, initially introduced with the iPhone 4, is notable because it marked Apple's foray into chip design. No longer content to rely on third parties, Apple's own chip designs are positioned to be more efficient insofar as they can be streamlined for iOS. Since the debut of the A4, Apple has continuously built upon it, most recently with the blazing fast 64-bit A7 processor Apple unveiled with the iPhone 5s last fall.

  • Larger display For years, one of the key selling points of iPhone competitors like Samsung and HTC was that they offered users devices with larger screens. While such devices drained the battery, users didn't seem to care all that much. So after sticking with a 3.5-inch display for five years, Apple with the release of the iPhone 5 finally upped the ante with a 4-inch display. Looking ahead, many expect Apple to increase the iPhone display size even more with the release of the iPhone 6.

  • Facetime Introduced with the iPhone 4, Facetime is one of those features you don't really appreciate until you end up using it. Steve Jobs was more than thrilled to demo this feature, likening it at one point to Jetsons technology hitting the mainstream.

  • Camera I'm including the iPhone camera here as an honorable mention, if only because the camera quality and feature set of the iPhone has steadily improved with each new model. Today, the photo quality made possible on the iPhone 5s is light-years ahead of what the iPhone was capable of even three years ago. Over and above that, Apple has added many great photo quirks over the years, including panoramic photo options, slow-motion video capabilities, and with iOS 8, time-lapse video functionality.

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