Recently I went searching on Ebay for an original, first generation iPhone. It only dawned on me a short while after receiving it that it’s coming up to the iPhone’s fifth birthday. In fact, in 28 days time it will be exactly five years since the iconic and game-changing smartphone was unleashed. I have to be honest, when I ordered the phone, I’d not thought for a second of giving it any coverage. But, I’ve changed my mind, and I’ll be bringing you random bits of coverage all about the iPhone 2G between now and the end of June.
Today, I’m going over some of the key hardware differences to show just how far the iPhone has come, and how it’s evolved over the past 5 years. In this article I’ll be comparing 3 of the biggest changes since its inception: design, display and camera. I’ll be comparing software and performance in a later article, once I can get iOS 1.0/1.1 running on it.
I wrote about the iPhone’s design just yesterday. And, although I love the way the iPhone 4/4S looks, I prefer the feel of the original iPhone by a long shot. The curved sides and smooth back make it feel a lot smaller than it is. Despite being 0.2mm shorter than the newest iOS-powered handset, it’s still 2.3mm thicker and 2.5mm wider, and yet feels thinner and narrower (being 5 grams lighter does make a small difference too).
There are some thing’s I’m really glad that Apple has changed since ’07. The plastic part at the bottom doesn’t feel classy. The same can be said of the volume rocker, mute switch and lock/power button. Swapping them out for more sturdy, metal switches was a great move by Apple’s design team.
One thing that really bugs me about the old iPhone, is the headphone jack. Although it’s a standard, 3.5mm jack input, it may as well be a proprietary connection, it’s so far recessed in to the body of the phone. The iPhone 4/4S design has the input placed right on the surface of the steel frame. The only part that’s radically different in terms of its placement, is the SIM tray. The original iPhone’s SIM tray was placed top, center; in between the headphone jack and the power/lock button. iPhone 4/4S has it on the right hand side.
On the display side, this is a no-brainer. Screen technology has leap forwards since the early days of iOS (or iPhone OS as it was known then). The original iPhone plays host to a 320 x 480 pixel, 3.5″ display. iPhone 4S has the same sized panel, but with twice the resolution at 640 x 960 pixels. The Retina display has four times as many pixels, is twice as sharp and much brighter. That much is obvious just from looking at them side-by-side.
It’s not just the sharpness that’s improved though. The contrast and color reproduction have both dramatically improved since the olden days. The iPhone 2G’s display looks almost navy blue when compared with the Retina, both with black wallpapers. Not only that, but, the original iPhone’s colors look completely washed out and lacking in contrast. Don’t get me wrong, 5 years ago the iPhone’s display was incredible for its time. This article isn’t here to have a dig and complain about old technology, just to highlight some of the areas that have improved over the years. The Retina display is outstanding, and could just be the most important part of the iPhone that Apple has developed since its launch.
The Retina display has made it possible for the iPhone to replace portable gaming consoles. Developers take advantage of the high pixel density, and produce some jaw dropping mobile games like Infinity Blade, and Real Racing 2. Games that rival those of the gaming specific devices, that cost a fraction of the price.
The original iPhone shipped with a fairly decent 2.0MP snapper with no LED flash. The 1600 x 1200 pixel camera wasn’t capable of shooting video, manual focussing or anything much else. All you could do was snap a quick image, that would undoubtedly look pretty grainy, dark and often out of focus. It’s simplicity at its most frustrating. Saying that, in daylight, the results weren’t all that bad. Compare the two below, there’s definitely more contrast in the iPhone 4S’s shot, but, as a part-time snapper I still couldn’t complain that much about the original iDevice’s results.
The two hippo shots make it even clearer. The difference between the two cameras is pretty staggering, not just looking at the sharpness. Compare depth of field, contrast, brightness, color reproduction. Everything about the iPhone camera has improved in the last five years. I know I can’t wait to see how this develops over the next five.
I’ll be bringing you more coverage of the original iPhone over the next few weeks. What would you like to see us cover? Shall I use it as my only mobile device for a couple of weeks running iOS 1 only? See if I can handle it? Let me know your thoughts.