The most recent iPhone is the iPhone 14, launched last September – but it all started way back in 2007, and the very first Apple-made smartphones that were launched in that year are now worth rather more than their initial $499 asking price.
An original, unopened iPhone 1 is now up for auction (via AppleInsider), and is expected to fetch as much as $50,000 (that's about £41,480 / AU$72,235 at today's exchange rate). That's not a bad return on an investment after 16 years.
This is "one of the most important and ubiquitous inventions of our lifetime" according to the auction listing, a device that "forever changed the smartphone industry" and which is now "widely regarded as a blue-chip asset amongst high-end collectors".
The gadget of the century
The auctioneers make reference to two earlier auctions for similar items that have come close to the $40,000 mark, and it would appear that the price is likely to go up over the years. As we're writing this, the top bid for the item stands at over $11,000, with the auction running until next Thursday.
It's clearly one of the most important gadgets of the century – perhaps the gadget of the century – but it doesn't hold up as a phone today: the screen is a tiny 3.5 inches from corner to corner (with a 480 x 320 pixel resolution), and the storage maxes out at 16GB. There's a single 2MP camera on the rear.
Our review of the first iPhone is still available to read online, and while we liked the intuitive interface and the "dazzling screen", we were disappointed by the lack of 3G connectivity (remember that?) and the fixed focus camera.
Analysis: clear out your drawers
Seeing the price of an Apple iPhone 1 rocket up a hundred fold over the course of 16 years shows just how iconic this particular smartphone is – so while it's worth checking your drawers at home for old and vintage tech, don't expect to make a fortune from your Google Pixel 2, for example.
It's not just the age but the manufacturer that's important, and the place that a device has in history, when it comes to making valuations on older tech. Collectors seem to love Apple, and you might remember that an Apple-1 computer built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak fetched a handsome $400,000 back in 2021.
Condition is crucial as well – you're not going to get anywhere near as much for your classic devices if you've been using them for a couple of years before stuffing them back in their box. Should you be planning to get into the long-term tech investment game, keep your electronics sealed in their original packaging.
It's hard to predict what might be the next must-have piece of collectable tech, but gaming machines and Apple devices are likely to be good bets – if you can afford it, it might be worth keeping an Apple AR/VR headset or a Nintendo Switch 2 stashed away somewhere, if and when they eventually launch.
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Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.