For iPhone users who have been plugging away with an aging model, the smartphone to consider after Apple’s latest product-launch event might not be its new iPhone 14 series.
Instead, their upgrade could be the older iPhone 12 and 13, both fully compatible with US 5G networks and with Apple’s iOS, and both of which Apple now sells for $100 less.
That brings the starting price of the 2020-vintage iPhone 12 down to $599, while last year’s iPhone 13 now starts at $599 in its mini version and $699 in the standard size. The new iPhone 14, meanwhile, will start at $799 when it goes on pre-order on Sept. 9.
The updated iPhone SE that Apple introduced in January remains unchanged at $429, but its 4.7 in. display may represent a deal breaker for people now accustomed to larger devices such as the 13 mini, with a 5.4 in. screen, or the 12, 13 and 14 with their 6.1 in. screens.
The 12 and 13 lack the 14’s upgraded camera hardware and software as well as its Emergency SOS feature to summon help via satellite.
But those older models offer the same support for the most useful 5G: the fast, mid-band frequencies that T-Mobile sells as “Ultra Capacity,” AT&T markets as “5G+” and Verizon as “Ultra Wideband.”
AT&T customers, however, should note that in addition to those “C-band” frequencies, that carrier is also now lighting up a separate chunk of mid-band spectrum that it will support on the iPhone 14, but not the 13 or 12.
Either recent iPhone would provide a huge speedup compared to an older, 4G-only iPhone, assuming your carrier has mid-band 5G in your usual whereabouts.
Either would provide a huge speedup compared to an older, 4G-only iPhone–assuming your carrier has mid-band 5G in your usual whereabouts.
And yes, people still hanging on to a five-year-old iPhone 8 do exist.
“The average time that people hang on to their phones has been steadily increasing,” said analyst Avi Greengart, founder and lead analyst at Techsponential, after attending Apple’s event. “And there are certainly a lot of late adopters out there.”
Another industry analyst, Wave7 Research principal Jeffrey Moore, concurred in an email. “Big picture is that upgrade rates for smartphone purchases have been falling,” adding that he’d seen fading interest for the iPhone 14 at carrier stores before Wednesday’s introduction.
Apple has made it easy to stick with aging iPhones by providing long-lived software support, but that does come at the cost of reduced features. That, however, is not a risk with the iPhone 12 or 13; When iOS 16 ships Tuesday, it won’t asterisk away any of its advertised capabilities from those models, which is not the case with many older iPhones.
Greengart advised against going with a model older than two years, citing network compatibility and especially battery life.
“Newer phones are using more efficient processors, and they often have slightly larger batteries too,” he said. He suggested not going with a model older than the iPhone 13, which also has the advantage of starting with 128 GB of storage instead of the more easily exhausted entry-level storage of 64 GB on the iPhone 12.
The iPhone 14 lineup, meanwhile, does take away one feature that’s already upsetting some Apple users with multiple stamps in their passports: a SIM card slot, which frequent travelers can use to avoid international roaming charges by buying cheap prepaid SIMs overseas.
Greengart predicted that rapid adoption of the iPhone 14 will push more wireless operators to offer service via the eSIM standard that Apple has now squarely endorsed. But by the time that happens, we may very well be looking at the launch of an iPhone 15 making the iPhone 14 a discount-priced model.
Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, DC To submit a tech question, email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/robpegararo.