With the iPhone 6s announcement and release date fast approaching, we took some time to reflect on the previous released iPhones and what this tells us about the future. When a numbered iPhone is released, like the iPhone 5 or iPhone 6, there’s always a new design. Apple changes the rear panel, front panel, updates the internal components and more. When an S-series phone is released, like the iPhone 4S or iPhone 5s, the design is the same, but there’s always one flagship feature that makes it stand out above the rest. So every year we switch back-and-forth between a new design and a new feature that redefines everything.
The iPhone 2G, which was the first generation iPhone, came out in June 2007 with revolutionary touchscreen, music player and had standard apps that allowed users to read mail, connect to the Internet and more. It was a brand new smartphone that changed every phone available on the market. The rear panel had a mostly aluminum back with a small plastic panel on the bottom. It’s successor, the iPhone 3G, was the first redesign to the iPhone lineup (granted it was only the second generation, but it was still a redesign). It dropped the metal and plastic rear shell for an all-plastic design. The phone became thinner, buttons changed and it was easier to open up for repair. After this, we saw the similarly designed iPhone 3GS, which was the first S-series iPhone. Although there was other changes to the phone, the flagship feature was the digital compass. This was a unique feature because it added more GPS capabilities to the iPhone and it paved the way for turn-by-turn directions and more which would come out in the next few years.
The next-generation iPhone, which was Steve Jobs last iPhone, was the iPhone 4. This, as expected, had a complete redesign. Apple dropped the plastic rear panel for a glass rear panel, stretched the silver ring around the front of the phone to be the frame of the phone which incorporated the antennas in it. The phone also became thinner and got a new internal design with updates. The iPhone 4S came out a year later in October 2011 with our favorite digital assistant, Siri. The phone looked the same as the iPhone 4, but now the phone could talk to you and tell you about the weather, your calendar, open apps and more.
The iPhone 5 succeeded the iPhone 4S in September of 2012 with a complete redesign and larger display. The rear panel changed from the all-glass design to mostly metal and partially glass design. The phone also became thinner and a lot lighter. The iPhone 5s was released a year later alongside the iPhone 5c, which was the first year Apple had released two iPhones together. The iPhone 5s featured the same design as the iPhone 5 with a few updates, most notably being the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The iPhone 5c replaced the iPhone 5 to become the less expensive alternative to the iPhone 5s and allowed Apple to reach more markets that previously couldn’t get an iPhone. The iPhone 5c doesn’t fit into our story since it’s not one of Apple’s flagship phones, but we anticipate that it will have it’s own story once the iPhone 6c is released next month.
This now brings us to the iPhone 6, which was released in September 2014 and came with an all-new design. The rear panel changed again to all metal, the phone became larger, thinner, lighter and had a protruding camera. It came out with the much larger iPhone 6 Plus that shares a few features with the iPad. The iPhone 6s is expected to come out next month with the Apple Watch’s Force Touch display, which will be its flagship feature. The phone will also follow the same pattern as the other S-series phones by having the same external design and receiving internal updates.
The next phone to be released (after the iPhone 6s), which will happen in 2016, will be the iPhone 7. Then we will see the iPhone 7s, iPhone 8, iPhone 8s, iPhone 9, iPhone 9s, iPhone 10, etc. with a new one every year. Assuming Apple continues with the pattern they have held for the past 8 years, every numbered generation will have a complete redesign and every S-series will see a flagship feature that will revolutionize it. So the iPhone 7 will redesign the iPhone 6, and the iPhone 8 will redesign the iPhone 7, etc. The iPhone 7s, iPhone 8s, iPhone 9s, etc. will have one standout feature with the same design as its predecessor.
While we have no idea what Apple has in store for the iPhone 7 or any other numbered generations, besides the standard redesigns, we can start to predict what we will see on the S-series. For the iPhone 7s, we imagine seeing the Touch ID sensor incorporated into the iPhone’s display. If the rumors are true about Force Touch display differentiating between a small finger pad (i.e. top of the finger) and a large finger pad (i.e. the entire finger) for the iPhone 6s and that Apple is seriously looking into adding Touch ID to the display, then it only makes sense for Touch ID to make its way from the Home button to the display. As for the iPhone 8s, it may have a revolutionary touchscreen that goes beyond Force Touch. Perhaps a second or third sensor will make its way into the phone so it will differentiate between more than just a tap and a deep press. We may also see the headphone jack disappear in favor of Bluetooth or Lightning-powered headphones, wireless charging replace the Lightning connector and a significantly smarter Siri that can do more than just help us with basic tasks.
Whatever happens with the iPhone 6s, iPhone 7, iPhone 7s or iPhone 8; we will be right here to share it with you.