The iPhone: From Debut to Deluxe Machine

A look back at the start of the cell phone technology revolution.

ByABC News
September 27, 2011, 4:03 PM

Oct. 4, 2011 — -- intro: So Apple has unveiled its new iPhone. Not the iPhone 5 people were hoping for, but an upgraded version of the 4: the iPhone 4S with its faster processor, 8-megapixel camera, new antenna system and a new voice recognition program called Siri.

READ: Full details about the new iPhone 4S, including why Apple's stock dipped after the announcement.

It's the first iPhone not introduced by Apple's legendary co-founder, Steve Jobs. Instead Tim Cook, the company's newly named CEO, opened the Apple "Let's Talk iPhone" event at the Apple campus in Cupertino, Calif. Tuesday.

"This is my first product launch since being named CEO," Cook told the audience. "I love Apple...and I am very excited about this new role."

READ: "Nightline's" Bill Weir's live blog of the event.

The build-up to Tuesday's release was vintage Apple -- the company itself virtually silent about its announcement, while the cottage industry of websites devoted to Apple rumors provided all the buzz any company could ever hope to have. Many of the rumors turned out to be true.

But let's travel back to a time when the first rumblings of a revolution in cell phone technology were being felt in Silicon Valley. That would have been eons ago -- in 2007.

quicklist: 2category: iPhone 1title: June 29, 2007: iPhone Debutsurl: media: 14659695text: And so it begins. The revolution of the smart phone (and the obsessive, franic buyer's need to have one) started with typical Apple fanfare.

Apple debuted the iPhone at the Macworld convention in January 2007, but in keeping with the company's traditional secrecy, it didn't announce the phone's public release date until June 3, 2007 -- remember the "Mmm, did someone say calamari" ad? The iPhone was then released in stores on June 29, 2007.

Lines snaked around Apple stores across the country as people waited for the phone.

Touted as "major breakthrough" in cell phone technology, the first iPhone combined Apple's immensely popular mp3 player, the iPod, with smartphone capabilities: surfing the Internet, checking email, playing movies, messaging friends and -- oh, yeah -- making phone calls. All that came in one sleek, lightweight package.

It made the smartphone wicked cool, but it only worked on AT&T's network.

Features included: a multi-touch screen, up to 16 GB of storage, 620 MHz processor, 2.0-megapixel camera for still images, USB dock.

Debut price: $499 and $599 for 4 GB and 8 GB respectively. The 16 GB model wasn't released until Feb. 5, 2008.

Status: Discontinued.

Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO and the "Babe Ruth of Sillicon Valley" until he stepped down in August, told ABC News' Neal Karlinsky in a 2007 interview that his motivation to develop the iPhone wasn't to compete with other tech companies. He said it was the need for a fresher product, one that he would want to use daily.

"We just try to build products that we feel are really wonderful and that people might want," Jobs said at the time. "Sometimes we're right, sometimes we're wrong, but I think we're going to hit a grand slam with this."

The iPhone was named TIME magazine's 2007 "Invention of the Year."

WATCH: 2007: The iPhone's Debut

quicklist: 3category: iPhone 2 title: July 11, 2008: iPhone 3Gurl: media: 14659707text: Within two weeks of the iPhone's 2007 debut, Apple sold 700,000 units. Within a year, the company had sold 6 million units.

The iPhone 3G, often called the "iPhone 2," was released on July 11, 2008. With Apple having staked a solid claim in the comsumer cellphone market, once again a buying frenzy followed the announcement.

Apple made some tweaks to its 3G unit, but one of the biggest was to its price. Just 10 weeks after the original iPhone's release on June 29, 2007, Apple dropped the price from $599 to $399 for the 8 GB model. When the original iPhone 16 GB model debuted in February 2008, it was priced at $499, but was dropped to $399 within two months.

Early-bird customers who paid the higher prices up front were outraged, and Apple took their criticisms to heart. With the debut of the iPhone 3G, the company offered its new operating system upgrade -- iPhone 2.0 firmware -- for the original unit for free.

Additional features added: thinner edges, assisted GPS.

Debut price: $199 and $299 for the 8 GB and 16 GB phones, respectively, with cell carrier contract; $599 and $699 without a contract.

Status: Discontinued.

quicklist: 4category: iPhone, Third Version title: June 19, 2009: iPhone 3GSurl: media: 14659718 text: "Better, faster, stronger," Apple could have easily lifted those Kanye West lyrics for their press release announcing the coming of the iPhone 3GS in 2009.

The 3GS promised to perform "twice as fast as the iPhone 3G" -- after all, the "S" stood for "speed." Over 1 million units were sold within the first three days of going on sale.

2009 was also the same year Apple launched its "There's an app for that" ad campaign, and its now-famous App market.

Additional features added: up to 32 GB of storage, 833 MHz processor, 3.0-megapixal camera that includes video recording, digital compass, voice control, Nike+.

Debut price: $199 and $299 for the 16 GB and 32 GB, respectively, with cell carrier contract for new and qualifying customers; $599 and $699 for the 16 GB and 32 GB without a contract.

Status: Available.

quicklist: 5category: iPhone 4 title: June 24, 2010: iPhone 4media: 14659747url: text: Steve Jobs said the iPhone 4 would be "the biggest leap since the original iPhone."

When it was first announced on June 15, 2010, Apple and AT&T said they took in 600,000 preorders within the first 24 hours -- so many that it caused their online ordering system to crash. Although the white version of the phone was also slated for a June 2010 release, it was delayed until April 2011.

WATCH: Presenting the iPhone 4

Aside from boosting the phone's processor, camera and video capabilities, Apple also gave its fourth model a makeover, flattening the phone's curved back and slimming its sides to create the sleekest iPhone yet.

Perhaps the biggest change came when Verizon Wireless announced on Jan. 11, 2011 that it would now carry the iPhone 4. Even though the phone more or less worked the same on either network, the real advantage was giving Verizon's roughly 94 million wireless customers the option to get in on the iPhone without switching carriers.

WATCH: Smartphone Salvo: Verizon Gets the iPhone

Additional features added: black or white body, bigger battery, 1 GHz processor, FaceTime, 5.0-megapixel camera with LED flash, HD video recording.

Debut price: $199 and $299 for the 16 GB and 32 GB, respectively, with carrier contract for new and qualifying customers. $599 and $699 without a contract.

Status: Available.

quicklist: 6category: iPhone 4S title: Oct. 4, 2011: iPhone 4Smedia: 14665898url: text: The iPhone 4S looked a lot like its predecessor, but inside, said Apple, it was all new. The killer app -- if "app" is the word for it -- was intelligent voice recognition, a system called Siri that allows users to query the phone with regular spoken words. Apple said Siri is smart enough that if you ask, "What's the weather forecast?" or "Do I need a raincoat?" it will recognize that you want essentially the same information.

Other added features: an A5 processor (the same as the one that runs the iPad 2), an 8-megapixel camera capable of shooting stills in low light and HD video, and dual antennas so that it can be used almost anywhere in the world.

Apple said it would be available to customers of AT&T, Verizon and -- for the first time -- Sprint.

Price with a two-year contract: $199 with 16 GB, $299 with 32 GB, and $399 with 64 GB. The iPhone 3GS is still out there -- and offered for free with a contract.

A powerful little phone, but many people said they were disappointed that they weren't wowed. Apple stock dropped as it became clear the company wasn't announcing an iPhone 5 -- never mind that the 4S had many of the rumored features.

"It may not be very visually exciting," said analyst Ross Rubin of the NPD Group, "but the debut on Sprint and the 3GS at a free price point will do a lot to increase Apple's market share."

Price with a two-year contract: $199 with 16 GB, $299 with 32 GB, and $399 with 64 GB. The iPhone 3GS is still out there -- and offered for free with a contract.

A powerful little phone, but many people said they were disappointed that they weren't wowed. Apple stock dropped as it became clear the company wasn't announcing an iPhone 5 -- never mind that the 4S had many of the rumored features.

\"It may not be very visually exciting,\" said analyst Ross Rubin of the NPD Group, \"but the debut on Sprint and the 3GS at a free price point will do a lot to increase Apple's market share.\"

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