In case you missed it, Apple has
four newiPhone 12s to sell you. But the lineup is even more confusing and treacherous than the addition of a single extra model.
Let’s start with the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini. Compared to the iPhone 11, you get a new smaller option, 5G, better cameras, and a thinner design, with pricing that’s pretty much in line with last year.
Here are the prices with a “customer discount” through the four major carriers—Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T—which require an activation fee of $25 or $30, so you’re not actually saving anything:
iPhone 12 mini (Carrier discount)
iPhone 12 (Carrier discount)
But if you’re buying an unlocked, SIM-free model, you’ll actually pay a little more:
iPhone 12 mini (Unlocked)
iPhone 12 (Sprint, T-Mobile, Unlocked):
Maybe now we know why Apple trotted out a Verizon exec during the iPhone event to help launch the iPhone 12’s 5G capabilities. What’s even odder is that the pricing duplicity doesn’t apply to the Pros. You can get either the standard 6.1-inch Pro or the 6.7-inch Max for the same starting prices as last year with double the storage, and the tiers have decreased by $50 across the board to reflect that as well.
iPhone 12 Pro
iPhone 12 Pro Max
However Apple wants to spin this, it’s very out of character for an iPhone purchase. Apple is one of the few companies that doesn’t play carrier games, but that’s changed with the iPhone 12, and it’s a bit of a bait-and-switch tactic that might not sit right with longtime fans.
And that’s not all Apple is also still selling the iPhone SE for $399, as well as the iPhone XR and iPhone 11, both of which got a price cut. And to make matters more confusing, none of these phones include a power adapter or earphones anymore, only a USB-C-to-Lightning cable.
Put it all together, and Apple is selling 26 different iPhone pricing tiers, and the phones no longer include an adapter or earphones. With so many options, you might not realize you’re paying more than you should (or at least more than Apple advertises) for an unlocked iPhone 12.
iPhone SE: $399/$449/$549
iPhone XR: $499/$549
iPhone 11: $599/$649/$749
iPhone 12 mini: $699/$749/$849
iPhone 12 mini (unlocked): $729/$779/$879
iPhone 12: $799/$849/$949
iPhone 12 (unlocked): $829/$879/$979
iPhone 12 Pro: $999/$1,099/$1,299
iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099/$1,199/$1,399
Got all that? Sure the new iPhones may be faster than ever, but they’re also a confusing minefield of pricing pitfalls and options. Remember when buying a new iPhone was simply a choice of which color you wanted?
Update 10/16:T-Mobile now offers the same $30 customer discount that AT&T and Verizon offer.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.