Five years of iPhone
iPhone 3GS: iPhone OS 3.0
Apple's third iPhone didn't dramatically change its form factor, but did enhance its internal components, adding a faster ARM Cortex-A8 processor and PowerVR SGX 535 graphics core, 256MB of RAM, a more competent 3 megapixel camera with video recording features, a digital compass and improved 7.2 Mbps HSDPA 3G wireless features.
In software, iPhone OS 3.0 added support for three features being held out at the time as conspicuous omissions: copy/paste, MMS picture/data messaging, and support for tethering. Apple made the software available to all iPhone users, but for the first time, it became obvious that Apple could deliver a software solutions that mobile carriers might not immediately be able to support. AT&T didn't support MMS for months, and it took nearly a year before the carrier enabled support for data tethering from iPhones, even though both features had been widely supported on the carrier's network for other phones.
While Apple was enjoying a network effect of snowballing sales, the flip side was that so many people were buying iPhones that it was changing the market itself; AT&T struggled to keep up with the iPhone's advancement, because adding a new feature on the iPhone meant supporting it across a growing army of millions of iPhone users.
Apple demonstrated the iPhone's MMS feature at preview of OS 3.0 in March.
Apple also introduced an array of accessibility features for the iPhone 3GS, as well as introducing system wide Spotlight search (a key feature promoted by Palm's webOS), a new push notifications system for third party developers that borrowed the same functionality and technology supporting Apple's own MobileMe push messaging features introduced the prior year, the CalDAV calendaring standard and 1,000 new APIs for developers.
Spotlight will search across all your applications on an iPhone or iPod touch.
iPhone competitors: 2009 - 2010
Just after Palm introduced its new webOS Pre, Microsoft began teasing Windows Mobile 6.5, presenting it as a credible platform with a new app launcher (creatively rethinking Apple's square grid of icons and replacing it with a fresh, staggered honeycomb arrangement!) and a rival new app Skymarket just like the iPhone's.
Microsoft also announced a new partnership with LG to promote WiMo 6.5, largely because its former supporters Samsung and Sony Ericsson had all but abandoned the platform. Instead of continuing to use WiMo 6.x to take on the iPhone, Samsung introduced its 2009 Omni HD running Nokia'a Symbian, while Sony Ericsson similarly picked Symbian to power its new high end Idou. Nokia itself continued focusing on button-oriented phones as its smartphone sales rapidly began to slip. It was also working to spin its aging smartphone platform off into the open source Symbian Platform.
By the end of 2009, carriers led by Verizon had given up on Palm or Microsoft or RIM delivering a credible iPhone competitor, and jumped to support the new Android 2.0, ushered in by the Motorola Droid and Verizon's 2010 multimillion dollar Droid branding exercise. Android was now being linked to the leading edge of mobile hardware, supporting new chips, cameras and display resolutions that made the previous year's iPhone 3GS look plain and old-fashioned in comparison.
After a year of failure in pushing Windows Mobile 6.5 and its app market, Microsoft began seeding news of its next platform, the incompatible new Windows Phone 7. It would be available in another year, a vaporware record it replayed over and over across the iPhone's five years of existence.
On page 4 of 5: iPhone 4, iOS 4.0 and competitors 2010 - 2011