Original iMac vs. iPhone 6S

Recently, Apple made a cool page comparing the original iMac to the new 5K iMac. The difference is, of course, stunning. We’ve come a long way since ’98.

I have fond memories of that iMac. Up until then I had been using a Performa 6320CD (120MHz! SNAPPY), preceded by the wonderful LC II. That iMac was so fast! The colors were so vibrant! Getting online was so easy!

I spent countless hours on that thing, messing with AppleScript, REALbasic and CodeWarrior (remember when you had to use third party development environments to make Mac software?), and playing Nanosaur. Even the graphing calculator was awesome. That computer was a joy to use, and it deserved every bit of success it garnered.

Fast-forward seventeen years, and I’m typing this on an iMac 5K (which I absolutely love). But the computer I use most frequently throughout the day, as so many others are finding, is the iPhone in my pocket. I thought it would be interesting to compare the original G3 iMac, the pinnacle of state-of-the-art in 1998, with the pocket computer so many of us cary around, frequently use, and take for granted every single day.


Weighing in at over 38 pounds, the iMac G3 was not portable in any way. However, at the time, I remember being impressed with how little it weighed, and how easy it was to move around, thanks to that handle.


The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus weigh 4.55 ounces and 6.07 ounces respectively. To put that into perspective:

You could put around 100 iPhones 6S Plus into a box and it would just barely weight the same as one iMac. Or 130 iPhones 6S!


The G3 iMac had a 15″ screen with a maximum resolution of 1024 x 768. That’s a little more than 85 pixels per inch.


The iPhone 6S has a 4.7″ screen with a resolution of 1334 x 750, and the iPhone 6S Plus has a 5.5″ screen with 1920 x 1080. They sport 326 and 401 pixels per inch respectively.

The iPhone packs way more pixel density (3.8 times and 4.75 times more), a much wider color gamut, and is far brighter.

CPU, Memory, Storage

The G3 iMac had a 233MHz G3 processor, 32MB of RAM standard (128MB officially supported), and 4GB storage standard (up to 128GB supported).


The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus use Apple’s A9 SOC, which clocks in right around 1.85GHz. They come with 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage standard (up to 128GB).

The chart below shows the iMac’s maximum specs vs. the iPhone 6S maximum specs. It’s interesting to note that the max CPU and max RAM of the iMac vs. the iPhone show huge gains, while the maximum storage is actually identical: 128GB. This goes to show how important utilizing the cloud has become to offset some of the requirements of local storage.

Spec ChartApps & Utility

I have no way of knowing exactly how many applications existed for Mac OS System 8 and System 9, but suffice to say there are a ton more apps available on iOS now than System 8 and System 9 ever had. I mean a staggering amount more. The de-facto argument against Apple in the 90’s was “there’s no software available for Macintosh”. I remember, I was there. Developing software for Macintosh. And it was a small brotherhood.

So much more than just the number of apps, is the growing functionality of apps. Thanks to the evolution of the internet, I now use my computer (i.e. iPhone) to keep in touch with news, my friends and family, countless blogs, podcasts, other various online groups and social media, in a constantly-updating swirling mishmash of information, available at my fingertips, 24/7.

I used to sit down at the G3 iMac and think, “what can I play with today?” I would seek out interesting software, read Mac magazines for the latest tips and tricks, and do a lot utilitarian tasks. But if there was no new interesting app, nothing new to customize or tweak today, then the computer was shut down. Until next time. Now, reaching into my pocket is a habit. If I need to look something up, want to jot down a note, connect with someone, or just let myself be consumed by limitless streams of information, I have instant access to all of it and more. That is remarkable.

Putting It Together

Let’s take a minute to absorb this. Seventeen years ago, the iMac came out, starting at $1,299. It was gorgeous. Fast. Modern. Ready for the new internet age. And by all accounts, it was a phenomenal marriage of hardware and software. Today, the iPhone in your pocket is much cheaper and vastly superior in every way. What will we be comparing the iPhone to seventeen years from now? These are exciting times to be alive!