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Storage, battery, camera and more: How the iPhone has evolved in nine years

Five charts tracking some of the main changes to Apple's iPhone since it was launched.
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1 of 6 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

iPhone evolution

Over nine years and 14 major iterations the iPhone has changed a lot -- from the original model with one 2MP rear camera and as little as 4GB of storage, to the iPhone 7 Plus with dual 12MP cameras at the back, a 7MP front camera and up to 256GB of storage. Here are some of the ways the iconic smartphone has changed since it launched in 2007.

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2 of 6 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

iPhone storage

This chart shows how the iPhone's storage capacity has increased over the years: the original iPhone started at just 4GB, while the top-of-the-range iPhone 7/7 Plus now offers 256GB of storage.

With the iPhone 7, Apple has done away with the 16GB option that has been available from the outset. Of course, 16GB was the top of the range for the original iPhone, not the entry-level configuration -- which is what 16GB has been since the iPhone 4S.

Now, the least amount of storage you can get on a 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch iPhone is 32GB (Apple having restructured its iPhone 6s/6s Plus offerings to 32GB or 128GB in the wake of the 7/7Plus launch). You can still get 16GB on an iPhone SE though.

The smallest-capacity iPhone 7 now has twice the storage of the highest-capacity original iPhone. In nine years, 16GB has gone from the most storage you could hope to get in an iPhone to being dropped from the flagship range as inadequate.

Or, looked at another way, the highest-capacity iPhone 7 has 16 times more storage than the highest-capacity original iPhone (and 64 times more storage than the basic model).

The entry-level iPhone 7 will give you 32GB of storage, but already some are wondering whether that's really enough for heavy app users and those who shoot lots of video.

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3 of 6 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

iPhone main camera

It's not all about the megapixels of course, and having more of them doesn't always mean a better image. Still, the iPhone has gone from a modest 2MP camera in its original incarnation to a solid 12MP as standard in its newest models (and even the front-facing selfie-snapper is now up to 7MP). The top-of -the-range iPhone 7 Plus even has dual 12MP sensors -- one with a wide-angle lens and one with a 2x telephoto lens. Among other things, this wide/tele combination will allow for portraits with the subject in sharp focus and the background blurred (an effect known as 'bokeh' to photographers).

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4 of 6 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Battery life

Battery life shows only gradual improvement through the iPhone generations, from 8 hours (GSM) talk time on the original model to 14h (3G) on the iPhone 7. During that time, battery capacity has risen from 1,400mAh on the original 3.5-inch iPhone to 1,960mAh on the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, while the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus has a 2,900mAh battery.

One thing to note: according to the specs, the battery life of the latest iPhones lags the previous generation on a couple of measures: there's slightly less 3G talk time on the iPhone 7 Plus compared to the 6s Plus (21h versus 24h) and less audio playback for both new models (40h versus 50h and 60h versus 80h). Apple, of course, prefers to highlight the increased internet times -- an extra 3h under wi-fi for the iPhone 7 and an extra 2h for the iPhone 7 Plus.

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5 of 6 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Pixels per inch

The screen's pixel densities (pixels per inch, or ppi) have remained unchanged for the last few generations, with the Plus (5.5-inch) models at 401ppi and the standard (4.7-inch) models at 326ppi, which is where they have been since the 3.5-inch iPhone 4.

By way of comparison, the screens on Samsung's 5.1-inch Galaxy S7 and 5.5-inch S7 Edge have much higher pixel densities, of 577ppi and 534ppi respectively.

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6 of 6 Steve Ranger/ZDNet

Pixel count

When you look at the total number of pixels, the combination of the Plus models' 5.5-inch screen and 401ppi pixel density stands out very clearly.

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