iPhone 2G to iPhone 4 - what's the difference?

iPhone 2G to iPhone 4 - what's the difference?In last week’s Where the heck did HTC come from? feature, I asked how far the iPhone had advanced in three years. Love or hate Apple, there have been some substantial improvements since the iPhone's initial launch. Indeed, when the first 2G iPhone was released back in 2007, many cynics dubbed it the “worst phone ever”, and with some justification too. World class touchscreen and stupidly intuitive OS aside, the 2G iPhone was, for lack of a better term, crap. Let’s look at how the iPhone has gradually evolved over the years.

Text messaging

It’s 2007. You’ve just picked up your brand spanking new iPhone and you can’t wait to rub it in your friends’ faces. Maybe you’ve got a new number too. Time for a group text. But wait a minute, the iPhone doesn’t support bulk messaging. Oops. Looks like you’ll have to SMS each of your mates individually. It wasn’t until January 2008, with the release of iOS 1.1.3, that texting multiple contacts became possible.


Released in March 2007, the Nokia 95 was one of the most popular powerhouse phones of its day. It packed a mighty 5MP camera with a flash on the back, and a front camera for video calling. How did the iPhone respond? With a measly 2MP effort, no flash, and no video recording. Outstanding. It took Apple almost three years to match the Nokia 95’s specs with the iPhone 4. To be fair, though, the old iPhone 2G camera did take some decent pictures considering that miserly resolution.


So you’ve gotten over the basic camera. It might be a modest 2MP, but at least you can share your pictures with your friends, right? Right? Wrong. Incredibly, the iPhone 2G was completely and utterly bereft of MMS support. Early adopters could neither send nor receive pictures. The MMS app finally made an appearance in June 2009, with iOS 3.0.

Custom ringtones

In a remarkable omission that still hasn’t been addressed, it’s not possible to set custom ringtones on the iPhone. Yes, I know it’s technically possible with some tinkering about on iTunes, but why hasn’t the option been integrated into iOS? Android users simply create a Ringtones folder on their SD cards and they’re laughing.

App Store

It seems almost inconceivable now, but when the iPhone first burst onto the scene, there was no App Store. We could download music through iTunes, but gaming was impossible without jailbreaking. Imagine a world without Angry Birds, Viber and iFart. It really doesn’t bear thinking about. The App Store debuted in July 2008 with the release of iOS 2.0.


When Steve Jobs initially revealed the iPhone 4 to the drooling masses, multitasking seemed to be the feature that excited his bearded face the most. By double tapping the Home button, users could finally switch between apps without closing them. The same menu also gives users the option to lock the iPhone in portrait mode. Needless to say, there was no hint of multitasking back in the dark days of 2007.

Group apps

Picture the scene: you’re standing in the pub chatting up some hot chica. Whip out your iPhone, show her iFart and you’ve pulled for sure. But where the hell is it? As you flick from screen to screen, desperately seeking the hilarious flatulence simulator, the fair maiden you’ve been courting loses interest and walks away. Jobs and crew know your pain only too well. Which is why, with iOS 4, they created the ability to throw multiple apps into easy-to-manage groups. No longer are we restricted to 16 apps per screen. Rejoice!

Copy and paste

It never seemed like a particularly huge deal back in the day, but it’s now hard to imagine the iPhone without copy and paste. The functionality was introduced in June 2009 with iOS 3.0.

And the iPhone 5?

Those are the most notable of the dozens of improvements that have been made over the years. Apple is renowned for drip-feeding new technology, but with increasingly stiff competition from HTC et al, it’ll be interesting to see what's in store with the iPhone 5.

iPhone 2G to iPhone 4 - what's the difference?

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Add a comment

rsg  Jan. 25, 2011 at 13:54

The iPhone 2g could make calls no matter how you held the phone.

JanSt / MOD  Jan. 25, 2011 at 21:50

Ha Ha Ha
I remember the debates on forums in 2006 when the speculations about the Apple phone took off. Some would say, 'it won't mms nor give you access to the file system to plug'n'play for mass storage'... people were laughing

goliath  Jan. 26, 2011 at 05:57

People bitched about the lack of mms but who really uses it? 35p to send a picture message or send it via email for free. And I think it's only kids and chavs now that constantly change their ringtones to the latest chart hits.

rsg  Jan. 26, 2011 at 10:04

True - but the same is said for Facetime, it's a great feature in theory, but no one uses it more than once or twice.

The design of the iPhone 4 is it's greatest strength and it's greatest weakness at the same time. Would explain why they're completely redesigning the iPhone 5.


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