Here’s an interesting look at the rapid advancement in mobile phone tech: an iPhone released in 1991 with a similar spec to today’s 5S would’ve cost around $3.56 million. A “back-of-the-envelope” analysis on TechPolicyDaily by Bret Swanson compared component prices between then and now to reach the figure, though he admitted that the requisite technology just wasn’t around or easily available at the start of the 90s.
Before you go reaching for your calculators, bear in mind that Swanson’s calculations are “very roughly” worked out and don’t consider other factors, such as inflation. “This account also ignores the crucial fact that no matter how much money one spent, it would have been impossible in 1991 to pack that much technological power into a form factor the size of the iPhone, or even a refrigerator,” he says.
Even with those caveats in mind, it’s still an interesting exercise to see how far we’ve come in the space of a couple of decades. In 1991, for example, a gigabyte of hard disk storage cost $10,000; today, you can pick the same amount of drive space up for 4 cents. Apple’s new A7 CPU processor inside its latest devices outpaces the desktop PC standard of 1991 by a factor of 1,242 — something to think about the next time you’re waiting for Flappy Bird to load.
Swanson’s calculations haven’t factored in the cost of the motion detectors, cameras and software inside the iPhone, so the actual figure is much higher, which is worth bearing in mind if you find today’s smartphone prices hard to swallow.