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What are the main differences between all iPhone models? How can each be identified quickly?
When the original iPhone was introduced, EveryiPhone.com provided an in-depth evaluation of the device and likewise compared the subsequently introduced iPhone 3G to the original, the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4. For those interested in complete details comparing each iPhone to its immediate predecessor, those Q&As remain the the best option.
However, for those only interested in a quick summary of the main differences of each iPhone and how to quickly differentiate them from one another, this Q&A can help. Each iPhone is differentiated primarily by design, features, performance, and operating system support and is identified most easily by model number.
Design & Model Number Differences
Visual differentiation works well for the original iPhone (sometimes called the "2G" in reference to its networking capabilities), as it has a rounded silver-colored metal back with a plastic portion at the bottom. It also works well in general for the iPhone 5, as it has both a metal band that wraps around the sides of the phone and a flat aluminum back. The iPhone 5 is taller, too, but that differentiating factor may not be immediately apparent unless it is side-by-side with another iPhone.
However, other iPhone models, like the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS -- which share plastic black or white cases with a rounded and tapered design -- and the iPhone 4 (GSM) and iPhone 4S -- which share a similar flat glass back and a metal band that wraps around the sides of the phone -- are difficult, if not impossible, to differentiate visually if they are not next to one another. It's not possible to visually differentiate between the three different iPhone 5 models -- the iPhone 5 (GSM/North America), (CDMA), and (GSM/International) -- either.
|iPhone 3G (China/No Wi-Fi)||A1324|
|iPhone 3GS (China/No Wi-Fi)||A1325|
|iPhone 4 (GSM)||A1332|
|iPhone 4 (CDMA)||A1349|
|iPhone 5 (GSM/North America)||A1428|
|iPhone 5 (CDMA/GSM)||A1429*|
|iPhone 5 (GSM/International)||A1429*|
* Confusingly, these two iPhone 5 models share the same model number. They can be uniquely identified by order number and serial number, however.
Another convenient way to identify each model in software, assuming the device will boot, is by using the order number, which is referenced oddly as "Model" in software. This can be accessed by selecting Settings > General > About within the device itself.
In addition to model number and order number, Everyi.com's Ultimate iLookup feature as well as the EveryMac app also can identify each iPhone model by EMC number, and the last three or four characters of its serial number as well (the last three characters if it has an eleven character serial number and the last four characters if it has a twelve character serial number).
Other than the external housing, the first noticeable difference between all iPhone models is the display -- the original iPhone, iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS models all have a 3.5" display with 320x480 resolution at 163 ppi and the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models have a 3.5" display with 960x640 resolution at 326 ppi, IPS technology for improved viewable angle, and LED-backlighting.
Finally, the iPhone 5 models have a taller, but not wider, 4" display with 1136x640 resolution at 326 ppi, along with IPS and LED-backlighting.
Apple refers to the display in the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5 as a "Retina Display."
Cellular Connectivity Differences
The original iPhone supports the EDGE "2G" mobile wireless standard and the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (GSM) -- support EDGE and faster 3G networking (with the iPhone 3GS adding faster 7.2 Mbps HSDPA support and the GSM-equipped iPhone 4 also supporting HSUPA networks for compatibility with more cellular carriers worldwide). The iPhone 4 (CDMA) model, on the other hand, instead supports CDMA (EV-DO, Rev. A, 800 MHz, 1900 MHz).
The iPhone 4S is a dual-antenna equipped "world phone" that supports both GSM and CDMA networks -- UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), and CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz) -- and the "antenna automatically switches between send and receive." HSDPA is faster than the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 up to a theoretical maximum of 14.4 Mbps.
The iPhone 5 models are the only to support 4G/LTE, although the bands supported by different configurations vary. Specifically, the A1428 iPhone 5 (GSM/North America), supports LTE bands 4 and 17, the CDMA A1429 iPhone 5, supports LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 13, and 25, and the "International" GSM A1429 iPhone 5, supports LTE bands 1, 3, and 5. All three iPhone 5 models support UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz), and GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), but only the CDMA version supports CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1900, 2100 MHz).
All iPhone models have at least one camera and all recent models have two cameras. The capabilities of each vary significantly, though.
The original iPhone and iPhone 3G have a 2.0 megapixel still camera whereas the iPhone 3GS has a 3.0 megapixel video camera with VGA video recording at 30 FPS.
The iPhone 4 and all later models have dual cameras. The iPhone 4 has a 5 megapixel HD video/still camera (720p at 30 FPS) and a VGA quality video/still camera. The iPhone 4S has a rear camera capable of shooting 8 megapixel stills and 1080p 30 FPS video and the same VGA quality video/still camera as the iPhone 4 on the front.
Finally, the iPhone 5 has a rear 8 megapixel camera like the iPhone 4S. However, the iPhone 5 rear camera has better video stabilization, the ability to take still photos while also recording video, and face detection. The iPhone 5 additionally has a better front 1.2 megapixel, 720p "FaceTime HD" camera.
Minor Feature Differences
The iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5 all have GPS support with the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 adding support for GLONASS, it's former Soviet counterpart, too. The original iPhone does not support GPS at all.
The iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5 have a digital compass and earlier models do not. The iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and iPhone 5 models have a three-axis gyroscope for more 3D gaming options, and earlier models do not.
The iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 both have VoiceOver for accessibility, voice control functionality as well as integrated Nike + iPod support, and earlier models do not. The iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 are the only models to support "Siri," Apple's "intelligent assistant" software program, even when upgraded to iOS 6.
The performance difference between iPhone models is notable as well. Although no official processor and memory information is available, the original iPhone and iPhone 3G both are believed to be powered by a 412 MHz Samsung ARM 11 processor and have 128 MB of RAM. As a result, these models provide similar performance.
The iPhone 3GS, on the other hand, has a significantly faster processor (600 MHz up from 412 MHz, with a dramatically improved graphics processor as well) and twice the RAM (256 MB up from 128 MB). The iPhone 4 has an "Apple A4" processor with a maximum clockspeed of 1 GHz that is believed to commonly run around 800 MHz. The iPhone 4 models both have 512 MB of RAM as well. As a result, the iPhone 3GS is faster than previous models and the iPhone 4 is faster still.
The iPhone 4S is even faster than the iPhone 4 models, with a dual core 1 GHz "Apple A5" processor and much faster graphics although it still has the same 512 MB of RAM.
Finally, the iPhone 5 is the fastest of all, with a a dual core "Apple A6" processor and a three core graphics processor, most likely a 266 MHz PowerVR SGX 543MP3. It has a variable speed processor that commonly runs around 1 GHz with a top speed of 1.3 GHz. It has 1 GB of RAM, too.
iOS Support Differences
The original iPhone does not support versions of the iOS (then called the iPhone OS), beyond 3.1.3. The iPhone 3G officially is able to run versions of iOS 4 up to 4.2, but not all features are supported (perhaps most notably, multitasking is not supported), and numerous users have complained about performance going as far as suing Apple over the issue.
The iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models all fully support iOS 5, but the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 only partially support iOS 6. The iPhone 5 fully supports iOS 6.
The differences enumerated above, as well as other more minor differences, are summarized in the below chart:
|Speed:||412 MHz||412 MHz||600 MHz||1 GHz||1 GHz||1.3 GHz|
|Processor:||ARM 11||ARM 11||ARM A8||Apple A4||Apple A5||Apple A6|
|RAM:||128 MB||128 MB||256 MB||512 MB||512 MB||1 GB|
|Storage:||4, 8, 16 GB||8, 16 GB||8, 16, 32 GB||8, 16, 32 GB||16, 32, 64 GB||16, 32, 64 GB|
|PPI:||163 ppi||163 ppi||163 ppi||326 ppi||326 ppi||326 ppi|
|Front Color:||Black||Black or White||Black or White||Black or White||Black or White||Black or White|
|Back Color:||Silver||Black or White||Black or White||Black or White||Black or White||Slate or Silver|
|Camera:||2.0 MP||2.0 MP||3.0 MP||5.0 MP||8.0 MP||8.0 MP|
|3G Talk:||None||5 Hours||5 Hours||7 Hours||8 Hours||8 Hours|
|2G Talk:||8 Hours||10 Hours||12 Hours||14 Hours†||14 Hours||14 Hours|
|3G Web:||None||5 Hours||5 Hours||6 Hours||6 Hours||8 Hours|
|Wi-Fi Web:||6 Hours||6 Hours||9 Hours||10 Hours||9 Hours||10 Hours|
|Music:||24 Hours||24 Hours||30 Hours||40 Hours||40 Hours||40 Hours|
|Video:||7 Hours||7 Hours||10 Hours||10 Hours||10 Hours||10 Hours|
|Standby:||250 Hours||300 Hours||300 Hours||300 Hours||200 Hours||225 Hours|
|Max iOS:||3.1.3||4 (Partial)||6 (Partial)||6 (Partial)||6||6|
|Orig. Price:||US$499, US$599||US$199, US$299||US$199, US$299||US$199, US$299||US$199, US$299, US$399||US$199, US$299, US$399|
† The iPhone 4 (CDMA) does not support a 2G/EDGE network.
It is hoped that this basic overview of the differences between all iPhone models is helpful for you decide which is best for your needs whether you are buying a new one, buying a used one, or trying to decide whether or not to upgrade from your existing iPhone to a new or newer model.