Every year, there are certain events on the calendar we Macworld editors can count on, and one of those events is the release of a new iPhone. It’s during this period when reviewers devote most (if not all) of their time to Apple’s new phone. After all, you want to invest wisely, and we take the job of properly evaluating each new iPhone very, very seriously.
Looking back at the past ten years of reviews, it’s interesting to see not only how technology has evolved over time, but how users have adapted to the technology. For example, when the first iPhone hit the market, reviewers wondered how people would adapter to an on-screen keyboard. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems like such a concern is ridiculous.
Below are summaries of Macworld iPhone reviews from the past ten years. Click on the link to read the full review.
The original iPhone (2007)
The one that started it all. Jason Snell, who was our lead editor at the time, had the honor of writing the review.
On the overall design: “Steve Jobs proudly described the iPod as a beautiful piece of hardware that had amazing software inside it. And with the iPhone, Apple’s hardware designers have once again wrapped the output of the company’s in-house developers into a remarkable piece of hardware.”
When Flash was king: “There are a few limitations that prevent Safari on iPhone from truly showing the real Internet. The biggest is the fact that perhaps the most common browser plug-in in existence, Adobe’s Flash, is nowhere to be found…although the iPhone’s included YouTube player solves the problem for that popular video-sharing website, it doesn’t address the larger fact that numerous websites use Flash to play video or display other interactive content.”
Bottom line: “The iPhone is the real deal. It’s a product that has already changed the way people look at the devices they carry in their pockets and purses. After only a few days with mine, the prospect of carrying a cellphone with me wherever I go no longer fills me with begrudging acceptance, but actual excitement.”
Read the review of the original iPhone (July 3, 2007)
iPhone 3G (2008)
Unsurprisingly, the second iPhone was a much better device than the original iPhone. The shift to 3G networking had a lot to do with that. Review by Jason Snell.
Key new features: 3G networking, GPS, no more recessed headphone jack
Bottom line: “If you’ve been cautious and waited a year for the second generation of iPhone, your patience will be rewarded. The iPhone 3G improves on the original iPhone’s audio quality, offers access to a faster data network, and sports built-in GPS functionality.”
Read the review of the iPhone 3G (July 14, 2008)
iPhone 3GS (2009)
Third time’s the charm—at least that was true with the iPhone. This is the phone where Apple really started to hit its stride. Other smartphones started to hit the market, but the iPhone 3GS’s combination of refinements and new features kept the iPhone at the front of the pack. The review was written by Jason Snell.
Bottom line: “As of right now, the best smartphone on the planet is the iPhone 3GS. Unless you simply can’t abide AT&T’s service or coverage in your area, the iPhone 3GS is the best choice around.”
Read the review of the iPhone 3GS (June 22, 2009)
iPhone 4 (2010)
There are actually two iPhone 4 reviews (both by Jason Snell). The first one occurred during the standard release cycle, with AT&T service. The second one happened about eight months later, when Apple released the iPhone 4 with Verizon. Here are the highlights.
Key new features: Glass case, HSUPA support, A4 processor, 512MB RAM, Retina display, 720p video camera, 5 megapixels still camera, FaceTime
Bottom line: “I like the metal styling and the solid feel, and the flat glass front and back are gorgeous. But I’m concerned that the glass back adds an unnecessary level of fragility to the product. What’s the point of designing a beautiful product if it’s so fragile that your customers need to stick it in a case (or wrap it in a rubber bumper) in order to protect it?”
iPhone 4S (2011)
This phone is marked by the introduction of Siri. The iPhone already had voice controls, but Siri takes it to a whole new level. Also this is when Apple started releasing new iPhones in the fall instead of the summer. Jason Snell has the review.
Key new features: Siri, A5 processor, 8-megapixel still camera, 1080p video camera, AirPlay mirroring
Bottom line: “The iPhone 4S has speed, a great camera, some cool voice-recognition features, and the same beautiful industrial design that was introduced in the iPhone 4. It’s destined to be immensely popular. The S, in this case, seems to stand for ‘sure thing.’”
Read the review of the iPhone 4S (October 11, 2011)
iPhone 5 (2012)
Lightning struck with the iPhone 5, replacing the 30-pin connector in the previous iPhones. Users everywhere bemoaned the fact that cables and adapters needed to be purchased, and even some accessories weren’t usable anymore. Jason Snell with the review.
Key new features: Lightning connector, 4-inch 16:9 ratio Retina display, A6 processor, LTE support, 720p FaceTime camera, wideband audio
Bottom line: “Once again, Apple hasn’t reinvented the iPhone. All it’s done is make the best smartphone around even better.”
Read the review of the iPhone 5 (September 25, 2012)
iPhone 5s (2013)
This was the first iPhone offered with a gold finish. Why a gold iPhone? Some speculated that a gold iPhone would help Apple gain marketshare in China. As it turned out, gold was popular in the U.S.
Key new features: Touch ID, A7 processor, M7 motion coprocesor, larger camera sensor with bigger lens, camera flash of two LEDs, burst mode for still camera, slo-mo video mode
Bottom line: “The iPhone 5s continues Apple’s relentless iteration, with the company adding several cutting-edge technologies into the product line, impressively improving on last year’s model while utterly blowing away the features of the two-year-old phones owned by users who are ready to upgrade.”
Read the review of the iPhone 5s (September 26, 2013)
iPhone 5c (2013)
The iPhone 5c was offered as a more affordable option to the 5s. One way to make it cheaper: the 5c was based on the A6 processor that was used in the iPhone 5. Also, the 5c had a polycarbonate case available in an assortment of colors. Reviewed by Philip Michaels.
Key features: polycarbonate case, based on the iPhone 5; missing many feature found in iPhone 5s
Bottom line: “When the history of Apple’s 2013 iPhone-a-palooza is written, the iPhone 5c will inevitably be viewed as the opening act to the iPhone 5s’s headliner. But anyone who chooses the more colorful iPhone will hardly care.”
Read the review of the iPhone 5c (September 26, 2013)
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (2014)
It was go big or go home for Apple in 2014. Smartphones with larger screen grew in popularity, and Apple responded. With its new iPhones, Apple ditched the 4-inch screen and went with 4.7 inches for the iPhone 6, and 5.5 inches for the iPhone 6 Plus. Jason Snell reviewed both phones in one review.
Key new features: Larger screens, A8 processor, camera improvements
Bottom line: “Make no mistake: The most important new thing about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is their size. While their processors run faster and their cameras focus more exactingly, the real story is that these are larger phones with larger screens.”
Read the review of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (September 16, 2014)
iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus (2015)
Apple’s marketing slogan for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus was, “The only thing that’s changed is everything,” the idea being that the major changes didn’t happen to the design and exterior, but inside the phone. This iPhone was a big deal, getting the highest ratings Macworld has ever given to an iPhone. Jason Snell with the review.
Key new features: 3D Touch, Live Photos, 12-megapixel still camera, 4K video camera, 5 megapixel FaceTime camera, selfie flash, A9 processor, M9 motion coprocessor, 2GB RAM
Bottom line: “What’s more remarkable is not that this year’s iPhone is once again the best model ever, it’s the margin by which it improves on last year’s model. It’s a surprisingly wide one.”
Read the review of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus (September 28, 2015)
Some people like having a smaller phone, so in response, Apple released the iPhone SE. It sports a design like the iPhone 5s, but it’s a more capable phone. It lacks some features of the iPhone 6s, though. Susie Ochs wrote the review.
Key features: 4-inch screen, A9 processor, Live Photos, 12-megapixel still camera, 4K video camera, 1.2 megapixel FaceTime camera
Bottom line: “The iPhone SE is powerful, speedy, and a worthy addition to the low end of the lineup.”
Read the review of the iPhone SE (March 31, 2016)
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
Only one thing matters about the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus: it doesn’t have a headphone jack. Forget about everything else. So many people fretted about this that no one cared about the phone’s other features. But we did, because that’s our job. Susie Ochs has the full review.
Key new features: Lightning-only connector, A10 Fusion processor, M10 motion coprocessor, two-lens camera system (iPhone 7 Plus only), 7 megapixel FaceTime camera, Portait mode with photos, increased color gamut and brightness with screens, Home button, water resistance
Bottom line (iPhone 7): “If you’re excited enough about the camera to upgrade, or your current iPhone is old enough that you want to upgrade, this is the best iPhone for you. But if the drawbacks make you want to sit out a year, I think that’s really smart.”
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