The iPhone lineup
Source: Apple Inc.
The options can be confusing if you’re not constantly on top of iPhone news. If you visit Apple’s website, for example, you’ll see five iPhones to choose from: the iPhone 12 Pro, the iPhone 12, the iPhone SE, the iPhone 11 and the iPhone XR.
But then those break out into even more options: There are two models of the iPhone 12 (the iPhone 12 Mini and the regular iPhone 12) and two more of the iPhone 12 Pro (the Pro and the Pro Max).
See what I mean? It’s a little confusing.
So here’s what you need to know about each model and how much they cost.
The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max is unveiled during a virtual product launch.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Prices: $1,099 (128 GB of storage), $1,199 (256 GB of storage), $1,399 (512 GB of storage.)
5G: Yes. However, you may not notice much difference in internet speeds at first — that has more to do with the carriers and how quickly they build out their networks than anything to do with the iPhone itself.
What to know: The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the largest screen Apple has ever included in an iPhone, at 6.7 inches diagonal, and it also has the most advanced features. Its cameras are better than every other model, with up to 2.5x optical zoom-in (versus 2x on the iPhone 12 Pro) and better stabilization to prevent shaky photos and videos. It also offers the longest battery life of any of Apple’s new iPhones, at up to 20 hours of video playback.
The iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max have stainless steel borders, while the regular iPhone 12 uses aluminum. They’re available in gold, white, gray and blue. But they all have new “ceramic shield” front screens that are supposed to be more durable from drops.
The Apple iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max are unveiled.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Prices: $999 (128 GB of storage), $1,099 (256 GB of storage), $1,299 (512 GB of storage.)
What to know: The iPhone 12 Pro is the second-best iPhone Apple makes, and you only give up some camera enhancements and the larger screen of the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Otherwise, it’s got all the bells and whistles: zoom camera lens, lidar for augmented reality and portrait photos, bright screen, steel borders and blue/gray/gold/white finishes, and up to 512 GB of storage.
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini.
Prices: $799 (64 GB of storage), $849 (128 GB of storage), $949 ($256 GB of storage.) — Those prices are if you buy on Verizon or AT&T from T-Mobile. They’re $30 more if you buy unlocked or from T-Mobile. I still don’t know why but have asked Apple and T-Mobile to help me understand.
How it stands out: I think the iPhone 12 is going to be the iPhone for most people this year. You get a lot of fun colors that pop more than the Pro models, including a deeper shade of blue, green, red, white and black. The edges are aluminum instead of stainless steel. It has the same-size 6.1-inch screen as the iPhone 12 Pro, including the supposedly more durable ceramic coating, and it is upgraded from LCD in previous versions to more colorful OLED this year. It supports all the 5G networks you may need in the future, wireless charging and more. And it has ultrawide and wide-angle lenses like the Pro versions, which let you fit more of a scene in a picture, although it doesn’t have the telephoto lens. You can always still manually zoom using software.
In addition, there’s no lidar sensor for faster augmented reality, though you can still use augmented reality apps. It has the same battery life as the iPhone 12 Pro, at about 17 hours of video playback. Finally, it’s not as bright the Pro models most of the time, but has a peak brightness for HDR video that’s the same as the iPhone 12 Pro models.
iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Mini
Prices: $699 (64 GB of storage), $749 (128 GB of storage), $849 (256 GB of storage.) Again, it’s $30 more if you buy unlocked or on T-Mobile.
How it stands out: It’s tiny! Folks with small hands have been asking for a smaller iPhone for years. The iPhone SE that launched earlier this year covered them for a bit, but the iPhone 12 Mini has all the features of the regular iPhone 12, including the new faster A14 Bionic processor, with a smaller 5.4-inch screen. You get the same cameras, same quality screen, same processor, Face ID and more. But it has slightly worse battery life. Apple promises up to 15 hours of video playback versus 17 on the regular iPhone 12.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Prices: $599 (64 GB), $649 (128 GB), $749 (256 GB)
How it stands out: It’s last year’s phone, which I thought was the best phone for most people, and is still great if you want to save $100 off the iPhone 12 price. It has slightly older but still great cameras and a fast A13 Bionic processor. But it lacks the better water-resistance of the iPhone 12, and the screen isn’t as sharp, colorful or bright. It’s a great bang-for-your buck phone, I just think most people should jump to the iPhone 12 to futureproof a bit with 5G support (it’ll matter a lot more in the coming years).
Prices: $499 (64GB), $549 (128GB)
How it stands out: It’s the cheapest iPhone with Face ID and offers a big 6.1-inch screen at an affordable price. I think most people should try to spend $100 more and get an iPhone 11 instead, since it has better cameras and a newer processor. But it has the same screen as the iPhone 11, wireless charging, and a still-good single wide-angle camera. This is the oldest iPhone in Apple’s lineup right now, though, so it may stop receiving software updates before the other models on this list.
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Prices: $399 (64 GB), $449 (128 GB), $549 (256 GB)
How it stands out: It’s the cheapest iPhone you can get, but it’s still a great phone. If you need a phone with Touch ID instead of Face ID (so you don’t have to remove your mask) or just want a fast iPhone that’s very affordable, the iPhone SE is for you.
But it lacks some things you’ll find in the other phones, like the ultra-wide camera, optical zoom, sharper cameras and better water resistance. (The camera is still really good, though.) Oh, and no 5G. If you just need a new iPhone and are on a budget, this is for you, and I think you’ll like it a lot and some of the bonus features like wireless charging.