Apple has made a lot of gorgeous smartphones over the years.
While the iPhone has evolved plenty over the years, particularly with regards to functionality, we thought it’d be fun to just focus on how the exterior of the phone has changed over the years, and rank our favourite looks.
Here are the best-looking iPhone designs of all-time, from the original iPhone to the iPhone X:
12. The original iPhone
We’ve written extensively about how terrible the very first iPhone was from a technical standpoint when it was launched in 2007.
From a design perspective, though, it was a good-looking phone that was intuitive to use, with buttons and the mute toggle on the side, and the power button on top. With its silver trim and matte back, it looked like a more premium version of the iPod Touch. More beautiful iPhone models came along, but this was the model the launched the smartphone wave that defined the last decade.
11. The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus were very similar to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The phones were slightly thicker,slightly heavier, and made of a stronger aluminium that made it tougher to bend. It also had a finish that made it slightly less slippery to hold.
Other than that, Apple kept all the design choices from the iPhone 6, for better or worse. The display was still the star of the show, but details on the back of the phone – like the awkward antenna lines and the rear camera bump – left much to be desired.
10. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
Apple ditched the glass portions from the iPhone 5S and went whole-hog on aluminium with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The all-aluminium design made those phones much thinner and much lighter than previous iPhone designs, which had an unintended consequence where people tested the phone’s flexibility by bending it, leading to the much-publicized #BendGate.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus featured a new rounded look, compared to the flat edges of the iPhone 5 and 5S, making them look more like iPod designs from way back when. But the biggest improvement in the iPhone 6 line was the display: Apple upgraded from the 4-inch screens of the iPhone 5 era to a larger 4.7-inch screen for the iPhone 6, and a much larger 5.5-inch screen for the iPhone 6 Plus.
The iPhone 6 phones were the first inkling that Apple wanted to create a phone that was mostly display. Still, those antenna lines on the back were not very appealing, and this was the first iPhone to introduce the rear camera bump: The lens is raised slightly off the back of the device, which meant the phone couldn’t lie perfectly flat on a table.
9. The iPhone X
The iPhone X represents the future of Apple’s smartphone efforts, and the phone itself is an incredible testament to Apple’s industrial design. When the phone is off, it looks like a seamless slab of glass, like the iPhone 7 and 8. It’s a different story when the phone is on, however, as the eyes are naturally drawn to the “notch” at the top of the phone that houses Apple’s TrueDepth camera system.
The iPhone X is very close to Apple’s ideal all-screen smartphone, especially with its gorgeous edge-to-edge OLED display. Still, between the notch on the front and the bulbous camera bump on the back of the phone, there are some obvious areas for improvement. In the same way the iPhone 6 design looked much better by the time Apple released the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, the iPhone X is likely to undergo a similar evolution in the coming years.
8. The iPhone 3G and 3GS
The iPhone 3G and 3GS – released in 2008 and 2009, respectively – had identical designs, save for the model number listed on the back of the phones.
The iPhone 3G and 3GS also looked pretty similar to the original iPhone, at least from the front (save for slightly thicker bezels, or black borders, on the later iPhones).
The backs of the iPhone 3G and 3GS, however, looked much more attractive than the original iPhone. Whereas the 2007 iPhone had an aluminium backside, the iPhone 3G and 3GS had all-white or all-black backs that were made of plastic.
7. The iPhone 5C
The iPhone 5C was a complete departure from previous iPhones – even the other new iPhone released that same year, the iPhone 5S, felt completely different.
While the iPhone 5S was a more natural evolution of the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5C featured a polycarbonate material over a steel build that gave it a heft and feeling similar to ceramic. It also came in the five candy colours you see above.
Apple never followed up on the iPhone 5C, but it shares the same fun and colourful spirit as the iMac G3 from 1998 – one of the first projects from Steve Jobs and Jony Ive after Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. The iMac G3 was famously sold in 13 different “flavours,” including “Bondi Blue,” “Grape,” and “Tangerine.”
6. The iPhone 4S
The iPhone 4S – the first iPhone with Siri – was virtually identical to the iPhone 4 from a design standpoint.
Given the question mark that was (and still is) Siri, keeping the beloved design from the prior-year phone, with its combination of metal and glass, was a very smart idea.
5. The iPhone 4
The iPhone 4 was drastically different from the iPhone 3GS, with Apple moving from a rounded plastic back to a flat glass and stainless-steel design, highlighted by a thin piece of metal that wrapped around the phone and served as the phone’s antenna.
The iPhone 4 was, and is still, one of the best-looking iPhone models Apple ever came out with. It was also the first iPhone with a Retina display.
4. The iPhone 5
With the iPhone 5, Apple moved away from the stainless steel body of the iPhone 4 and 4S and replaced it with an aluminium-and-glass design that featured diamond-cut chamfered edges around the sides.
Moving from steel to aluminium made the iPhone 5 surprisingly light. In fact, the iPhone 5 was 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S. Some owners said the phone felt “hollow.” It was also the last major iPhone design where the rear camera was flush with the back of the phone, which is to say, there was no camera bump. And the matte finish on the backs of these phones was beautiful and memorable as well.
3. The iPhone 5S and the iPhone SE
The iPhone 5S, in many ways, was the pinnacle of the original iPhone design. It was lightweight but sturdy. And like the iPhone 5, it had the “large” (at the time) 4-inch screen.
Notably, the iPhone 5S was the first iPhone to finally get rid of that rounded-square icon on the home button, thanks to the implementation of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. It was also the first iPhone with a gold colour option.
Everything about this phone, from its mix of aluminium and glass, to the clean look of the new home button, to the location of the volume and power buttons, to its size in the hand, was pretty much perfect. Its spirit lives on in the iPhone SE, which looks identical to the iPhone 5S but packs the processor of an iPhone 6S under the hood.
2. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus look nearly identical to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but the iPhone 8 features glass on both the front and back. Put another way, the iPhone 8 looks like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 4 designs had a baby. It’s a beautiful phone to look at and hold (even if busting its glass back when it’s out of warranty is extremely costly).
1. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus represented the culmination of the iPhone 6-era design at Apple, and they were truly gorgeous phones.
Apple finally got the memo about creating more subtle antenna lines on the backs of the phones, which made for a cleaner overall look. The iPhone 7 was the most refined iPhone design, but still had the most colour options of any iPhone (tied with the iPhone 5C) at five. In particular, the matte- and jet-black iPhone 7 models were stunning. And even though the iPhone 8 got a glass back for wireless charging, the matte aluminium finish of the iPhone 7 looked much better.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are still the most attractive phones Apple has ever made.
Check out our other Apple comparisons:
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