The iPhone is getting some well-deserved praise right now, as Apple's landmark smartphone celebrates the 10th anniversary of its grand unveiling. And no wonder: Apple's phone was a game-changing device that completely re-invented we interacted with mobile devices. Just take a look at this list of iPhone innovations from the last decade. But not every iPhone from the past 10 years as been on the mark.
Even Apple evangelists such as myself — and from the day I abandoned my hot pink, doll-sized Pantech flip phone and got my teen hands on the first-ever iPhone in 2007, I was hooked — concede that there's been a few times the iPhone has come up short. Though it pains me to defile any products from my favorite #brand, I put together this comprehensive list of the iPhone’s biggest all-time fails, awkward stages and totally missed marks just before last fall's iPhone 7 launch. And as we rightly celebrate 10 years of the iPhone, it doesn't hurt to look back at those times when Apple's phone didn't meet lofty expectations.
Maybe it’s just me, but the iPhone SE is a confusing plateau for Apple’s typically progressive design. Sure, the SE’s design is prettier than similarly-sized iPhones, but it feels like a step backward as other smartphones — including the ones in Apple’s lineup — sport larger displays. Not everyone would agree, of course: the SE features the same processor and rear camera as the more expensive iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and at $399, it’s given the company a way to reach customers who might have balked at high Apple price tags. Still, it’s hardly the forward-looking device we’ve come to expect out of Cupertino, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Apple went through 2017 without upgrading its smallest iPhone.
Apple hasn't really changed the iPhone that much over the past several years, with one notable exception: It's taken greater pains not to repeat the mistake of 2014's iPhone 6 Plus. Apple's 5.5-inch iPhone was super thin, but it was also super bendy. Many users complained that after just a few hours of sitting and standing with the phone in their back pockets, the frame easily bent. We ask a lot of things of our smartphones, but malleability isn’t one of them. The Twitterverse spoke out accordingly with the hashtag #BendGate, to which Apple eventually responded, saying the bend in iPhone was “extremely rare.” The bendiness disappeared with the 6s and 6s Plus releases in 2015 and didn't return with last fall's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus updates. Not coincidentally, so did the complaints.
Looking back on iPhone’s history through the bright screen of my iPhone 6s, it’s easy to shoot down the earlier iPhone generations. No App Store? No Touch ID? How did I even live with a 2G network?? But we also have to credit the fact that these phones were revolutionary at the time. The 3G makes our list because unlike the revolutionary qualities introduced by the first iPhone, the 3G seemed to take a big step forward in terms of network but at the cost of the phone’s design. It Sporting a clunky plastic backing, the 3G was susceptible to cracks and slow processing. Not the worst of the worst, but not the best.
While the iPhone 4 ushered in a welcome redesign, there were certainly some flaws along the way. Who could forget the infamous Antennagate? Unlike previous models, the 4 placed the antenna on the outside of the phone, where you could not only see and feel its edges, but block the phone’s signal altogether if you covered the receptor with your finger. Apple’s response in 2010? Telling us to “just avoid holding it that way.” Classic.
It has come to this: the nadir or iPhones is, definitively, the iPhone 5c. It’s not fair to say the 5c was a bad concept — the idea was to release a more affordable iPhone to include a wider audience. I myself owned a neon green 5c for nearly two years because, full disclosure, I thought it was cute and I could easily pay the subsidized $99 price tag. But the 5c was barely cheaper than the flagship option and offered little more than a colorful plastic backing which made the phone feel flimsy. Despite being colorful and cheap, the 5c lacked Touch ID, expandable storage and speedy performance, especially when it came to operating new software updates.