Apple's number game: How the iPhone has grown over the years

It's been almost 8 years since the first 'touch screen' iPhone was introduced. A time when the word 'smartphone' wasn't even coined yet.


It's been almost 8 years since the first iPhone was introduced by Apple. A time when the word 'smartphone' wasn't even coined. The device immediately caught all eyes as the company smartly brought about tech innovation paired with minimalistic design and creative advertisements. This happened under the leadership of the brilliant Steve Jobs, under whose leadership, the Cupertino-based company rose to become one of the most valuable brands in the world.

After almost 10 models down, Apple will unveil another iPhone on September 9. Even though the company has invested a great deal in other smart devices, Apple's major revenue is driven by its iPhone models.

We take a look at how the iPhone has grown through the years in terms of global sales. The chart represents clearly, that even though many competitors have entered the market offering great specifications and fierce prices, iPhone fans know where their loyalty lies.

Data Source: Statista

Data Source: Statista

Beginning with the 1st gen iPhone, launched on June 29, 2007, it was often referred to as iPhone 1, iPhone 1G, or iPhone 2G. Back then, the device featured quad-band GSM cellular connectivity with GPRS and EDGE support for data transfer. It featured a 3.5-inch display with a mere 2MP rear camera. At that time, there was no option for a secondary camera. In the span of one year, the device reportedly sold about 1.9 million units worldwide. No arguments here, as such a numbers were impressive back then.

On June 9, 2008, Apple announced the successor to the iPhone - the iPhone 3G. The device, which was very similar to its predecessor ran iPhone OS 2.0. The biggest jump included a new App Store, which was a distribution platform for third-party applications. It was offered in two storage options: 8GB and 16GB, featured a 3.5-inch display, along with the same 2MP camera. Even though it included similar set of specifications as the previous edition, more and more users were gaining attention to Apple's new phone. In 2008, Apple sold a whopping 11.63 million devices!


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This was definitely a significant jump. Probably the word significant would be an understatement. Looking at this growth and popularity for the device, global sales results for 2009 were 20.73 million units.

By this time, the company was already growing at an unstoppable speed. Next year, the company unveiled an 'S' variant for the phone in 2009, where the letter stood for, speed! It included a few upgrades such as a 3MP rear camera, along with a higher resolution display. There were many manufacturers who were offering similar specifications but what kept an iPhone apart was its 'looks and build quality'. The company never compromised on it which led more and more consumers towards Apple's premium device.

It was succeeded by the iPhone 4 in 2010. However, the 3GS production continued until September 2012. By this year, the company had already made a global sale record of 39.99 million units. From the previous two years, the company was gaining similar sales figures. It was a consistent growth of roughly 10 million units per year. As long as it was a growth, that’s all that mattered.

By the fourth iteration, the ‘iPhone’ brand gained huge popularity. Everyone wanted an iPhone as the company introduced a brand new hardware design which was known to be the slimmest smartphone, back in the day. According to the company, it had sold over 1.7 million of its iPhone 4 through Saturday, June 26th, just three days after its launch on June 24. “This is the most successful product launch in Apple’s history”, said Steve Jobs, Apple’s then CEO. “Even so, we apologise to those customers who were turned away because we did not have enough supply”.

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iPhone 4 also featured a 5MP rear camera with LED flash, HD 720p video recording, Apple’s A4 processor, a 3-axis gyro and up to 40 percent longer talk time. With some great improvements, Apple started offering users a device which was beyond expectations. By 2010, more and more people started using what we call today, a ‘smart’phone. The device spent a long time being the company’s flagship phone. In 2011, smartphone sales for the device doubled with over 72.3 million units sold.

This was the largest jump in the company history. Reviews indicated that this was the ‘best device in its class’. Ratings for the device were impressive. This device changed the way a person looked at a phone.

Immediately, everyone became a fan and started looking forward to its future iPhone plans. The company already had all the monetary needs, along with great engineers to crack open some innovative designs and features.

In September 2013, after the release of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, Apple stopped selling the iPhone 4 in most of their stores as well as on their site. It was replaced by the 8 GB iPhone 4S.

There were no real exterior differences between the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Unlike the previous editions where the S stood for speed, this iPhone was named 4S where ‘S’ stood for Siri. This device was introduced with iOS 5, the fifth major version of iOS that brought about features including iCloud, iMessage, Notification Center, Reminders, Twitter integration and more.

Along with both fourth generation devices, Apple sold over 125.04 million units in 2012. It might have not been the exact jump as seen previously, but rather a slow-paced one. Shortly, news regarding the death of former Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs surfaced. Since then, Apple has been run by Jobs's longtime deputy, Tim Cook. Before he died, Jobs warned Cook against trying to run Apple by asking how Jobs would have handled each decision. "Just do what’s right," Jobs said. Cook appears to have taken that advice to heart, points out Vox.

Image: Reuters

Image: Reuters

In 2012, Apple released the iPhone 5, marking the last year the company released just one model. The new iPhone featured some major design changes, including an aluminum body, a taller screen size, an Apple A6 system-on-chip, LTE and more. This might have been the prefect iPhone for a few. It had all the necessary features in a perfect package.

“Demand for iPhone 5 has been incredible and we are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “While we have sold out of our initial supply, stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone.”

The company also announced that it had sold over five million of its new iPhone 5, just three days after its launch on September 21. Apple fans stood out the retail shops for hours just to get their hands on an iPhone. It was mayhem.

iPhone sales reached 150.26 million units in 2013. The company had come a long way. Even though masses were going gaga about the device, sales might have not been as expected.

By now, many competitors had entered the smartphone market which offered great specifications, for an affordable price. Companies like Samsung, Nokia had many fans worldwide that preferred to opt for a cheaper device. Unlike Apple, who mostly focused on selling devices in the US, other companies tried have a reach wherever they could. Apple might have been slightly hit by this.

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Eventually, as time passed by, the iPhone 5 was officially discontinued by Apple on September 10, 2013 with the announcement of its successors, the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C.

Apple might have got the hint that not everyone can afford an iPhone, however it yet wanted everyone to own an iPhone. In this attempt, Apple launched the iPhone 5C, a slightly cheaper plastic variant by the company along with the 5S.

The 5S was similar to the iPhone 5 but with improvements such as redesigned home button with Touch ID, a fingerprint recognition system and more. The company added a few changes in this model. iPhone 5 users did not seem very excited about the new phone. Not many felt the need to change a perfectly working phone for minor innovations.

For others, an iPhone 5C did not make sense at all. Apple stood for premium devices; this was the main reason why consumers would shell out so much for a device. A plastic phone, with cheaper hardware was not welcomed. By 2014, Apple sold 169.22 iPhone units. This might have been a marginal growth in the iPhone department for Apple.

According to 9to5Mac, the iPhone 5c is being discontinued, showing that it accounts for just 8.5 percent of active iPhones, putting it below the iPhone 4S. This might have been the reasons why rumours for the iPhone 6C eventually stopped.

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Over the last couple of years, Chinese companies have certainly started to make a mark in the smartphone industry. Companies such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Huawei, Lenovo are offering beautiful devices with great specifications at unimaginable price tags.

In a market where companies were trying to offer something new to consumers, Apple fans were hoping that they would get some change or some innovation which other manufacturers are offering.

Last year on September 9, 2014, Apple unveiled 2 iPhones, with one of them adopting a large display, which was the current trend. According to a report published by Localytics, the iPhone 6 is Apple’s most adopted iPhone model and also has the highest app engagement of any iPhone to date. In addition, the iPhone 6 series has the highest adoption rate in iPhone history.

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As the phones adopted larger displays, the app usage considerably increased as well. Pre-orders of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus exceeded four million within its first 24 hours of availability, an Apple record. More than ten million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices were sold in the first three days as well.

As of last quarter of 2015, Apple has reportedly made a sale of 183.17 million iPhone units and if past history is any indicator to go by, these numbers should be on the rise. As the numbers game continues, we shall see if there will be an even higher bar on the graph above before the next year's launch.


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