October 23, 2021

PC TECH THERAPY

PC Tech Therapy Blog by Daniyal Computer

A look back at the evolution of iPhone hardware with GRID frames [Gallery]

7 min read


It has been 14 years since the first iPhone was introduced by Steve Jobs, and a lot has changed since then. Each generation of the iPhone has brought unique advances that are sometimes hard to notice, but that have made a difference when we look back at the past. And that’s what I did with GRID frames.

I have always loved understanding how things are made behind what we see and use every day, like the code and hardware that makes it all work. Earlier this year I discovered GRID, a company that sells disassembled electronics in frames. I even wrote about GRID 4S here on 9to5Mac:

As someone who really likes technology (and Apple, of course), I was looking for some related decorations for my home — and then I met GRID 4S, which is literally a piece with a disassembled iPhone 4s that you can put anywhere you want.

GRID is a company that has been selling framed electronic products for some time, and they all seem pretty cool. For Apple fans, they have pieces with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, and the second-generation iPod touch.

After getting the iPhone 4s frame, I had to complete my collection with other models. Seeing how the iPhone has evolved over all these years was nice, but being able to look at all the hardware evolution right in front of me is even more amazing — which is why I wanted to share this gallery with our readers.

iPhone 2G

Who doesn’t remember the moment when Jobs first unveiled the iPhone in January 2007? That was an iconic moment that changed everything. And although I never had the iPhone 2G (also known as the iPhone Classic), that product made me want to go all in on the Apple ecosystem (and I ended up getting the first iPod touch that year).

The construction of this iPhone may seem simple by today’s standards, but it was far more sophisticated than other smartphones of the time. The iPhone 2G body was made almost entirely of aluminum, but with a plastic bottom part to enable cellular and Wi-Fi signals.

This iPhone already had a built-in rear camera, but the quality was really low. Its sensor — with a really low aperture — captures 2MP photos, and it cannot shoot video. Also, it has no focus adjustment.

The logic board was split into two parts and it relies on a Samsung ARM processor, since Apple hadn’t yet developed its own Apple Silicon at that time. Although the CPU has a single 620MHz core, Apple has lowered the clock to 412MHz in order to save battery life. There are also other things to note, such as the simplicity of components like the speakers and vibration motor.

As a gift, GRID included the 9to5Mac logo on a metal plate that made my unit even more unique.

iPhone 3GS

A year later, Apple completely redesigned the iPhone with iPhone 3G. It was the first model to support 3G networks, but there weren’t many other changes to its hardware (it even uses the same CPU as the iPhone 2G). However, iPhone 3GS came in 2009 keeping the same design but with more hardware improvements.

iPhone 3GS was announced at WWDC 2009 by Phil Schiller, as Steve Jobs had to leave Apple for a few months that year for a liver transplant. During the keynote, Schiller mentioned that the letter “S” stood for “speed,” since the iPhone 3GS was the first to have an upgraded processor and graphics. Also made by Samsung, this ARM processor is 600MHz.

Besides the shiny plastic back, we can notice that the iPhone 3GS camera is slightly different when compared to previous generations. Unlike its predecessors, iPhone 3GS had a 3MP sensor with adjustable focus that shoots 480p video.

It’s also cool to see how Apple brands its components, even the smaller ones like flex cables.

iPhone 4S

iPhone 4 in 2010 was the first major change to the iPhone since the original product. After a massive leak, iPhone 4 was introduced with a new glass design, Retina display, the first Apple-made A4 chip, and significant upgrades to the cameras.

In 2011, exactly a day before Steve Jobs passed away, iPhone 4S was announced at an event presented by Tim Cook, who had recently taken over as Apple’s CEO. The iPhone 4S followed the iPhone 3GS strategy of keeping the same design as the previous generation, but with more in-depth hardware improvements.

One of the main highlights was the A5 chip, the second version of Apple’s own ARM chip that was also the first dual-core chip in an iPhone. The performance of the iPhone 4S was noticeably better when compared to every other iPhone.

By looking at the camera module, it’s easy to guess that it’s much better than the cameras seen on previous iPhones. The sensor looks more advanced, as it now captures 8MP photos and, for the first time, 1080p video. It also has a small LED flash, which was introduced with iPhone 4.

The front camera was only 0.3MP, just like on the iPhone 4 (which was the first model to have one), but even so it certainly provided amazing moments for many people on their first FaceTime calls or selfies taken with an iPhone. Look how small the front sensor is.

Overall, the internal design of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S is much more robust and most components such as the buttons and flex cables seem more refined.

iPhone 6

Following the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, which both got a slightly larger screen, there’s the iPhone 6. I remember watching the Apple event in September 2014 and being super excited about the new iPhones, as they were much bigger than their predecessors.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus had an all-new, more rounded design made entirely of aluminum, with the antennas embedded as plastic strips on their back. With a more compact logic board and more internal space, Apple was able to add bigger batteries to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (they still weren’t perfect, but much better than those in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5).

The rear camera sensor was still 8MP, but it has more tricks. It was the first iPhone to be able to capture 1080p video at 60 frames per second, or 720p at 240 frames per second — which enabled super slow-motion. Users could capture photos while recording videos and the autofocus became faster and more accurate. You can also see the True Tone LED flash in the photos.

Here the front camera was already 1.3MP with the ability to shoot video in 720p. In terms of performance, the A8 chip was still a dual-core processor, but now with 64-bit architecture (first introduced with the A7 chip in the iPhone 5s). The iPhone 6 still had a mechanical Home button, which was also the biometric reader.

iPhone 7

Finally, we get to the iPhone 7, which I consider the last iteration of the original iPhone form-factor before the iPhone X (excluding the iPhone 8 and iPhone SE). iPhone 7 was quite an upgrade with a refreshed look (including this gorgeous matte black version) and important enhancements.

Unlike the other iPhones, the Home button on the iPhone 7 is somewhat virtual. It is there, but it’s not a mechanical part since it works based on pressure sensors.

The four-core A10 Fusion chip was way ahead of the competition at the time, and it is still considered a great chip today. The “Fusion” name is due to the fact that this chip was the first with different cores for full performance and power efficiency.

The cameras on the iPhone 7 were quite advanced, with optical stabilization on all models for the first time. The larger 12MP sensor has an aperture of f/1.8 for capturing better photos in the dark and it can record videos in 4K resolution. The front camera also had a giant leap with a 7MP sensor.

Components such as the Lightning port and the speakers have rubber protection, as the iPhone 7 was the first water-resistant iPhone. Speaking of speakers, look how much bigger the iPhone 7 earpiece is — that’s because it was also the first iPhone with stereo speakers. And I couldn’t forget Taptic Feedback, which is really cool to see that it looks exactly like Apple shows in its videos.

Looking ahead to the future

Nowadays we have very different iPhones with no Home button, much smaller chips, and advanced sensors for facial recognition. These, however, I’ll leave for another article in the future when we get to the next iteration of iPhone design.

If you also want to take a closer look at iPhone hardware or simply decorate your home with technology, check out GRID’s store to get these and other frames. GRID is now selling the frames with the iPhone 5 and iPhone X, and the company will soon have more units of the iPhone 2G frame — which are expected to be available on June 29 at 7AM PT.

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