Skip to main content

An iPhone would have set you back $3.56 million in 1991

iphone set back 3 56 million 1991
Image used with permission by copyright holder

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.

Editors' Recommendations

David Nield
Dave is a freelance journalist from Manchester in the north-west of England. He's been writing about technology since the…
iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: what’s actually different?
Renders of the iPhone 15 Pro next to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

This year’s iPhone 15 lineup has arrived with some exciting changes for Apple’s flagship Pro models. Featuring a new high-grade titanium frame, a new A17 Pro chip that’s more powerful than ever, and some camera improvements that go beyond the usual year-over-year updates, it’s an interesting year for the iPhone 15 Pro models.

What’s more unusual is that while each year’s pair of iPhone Pro models are usually identical in nearly every way except size, Apple has packed some extra capabilities into its larger 6.7-inch iPhone 15 Pro Max this time around. It’s the first time since the 2020 iPhone 12 Pro Max that there’s been more of an incentive to consider the larger model than just the bigger screen and battery. Let’s dive in and see what the actual differences are between Apple’s two flagships.
iPhone 15 Pro vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: specs

Read more
The iPhone 15 Pro is overheating due to design compromises, prominent analyst says
Renders of the iPhone 15 Pro next to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Apple’s new iPhone 15 handsets have been largely well received since their release on Friday, though one troubling issue has emerged with the pricier Pro versions of the device.

As reported by Digital Trends on Monday, some owners of the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max have taken to online forums to express concerns that their new iPhone is heating up way beyond what seems normal, and certainly to a greater extent than their previous iPhone when performing the same or similar tasks.

Read more
Best phone deals: Save on iPhone 15, Google Pixel 7, and more
Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro cameras seen from the back.

It is time. Time for a phone upgrade and a new, hopefully more responsive device. If it's been a while, or you haven't been paying much attention to the smartphone market, you're in for a shock. You may find yourself overwhelmed with all the options that are available to you from brands like Apple, Samsung, Google, and more. To help you determine the best smartphone for you, we've gathered the top phone deals that you can shop right now across different retailers. You're going to have to decide quickly though, because the discounts attached to these devices usually don't last long. Proceed with your purchase as soon as possible so that you don't miss out on the low prices.

Apple iPhone 15 -- Free with Boost Mobile, was $830

Read more