/iPhone 12 pre-orders now live: Release dates, prices and more

iPhone 12 pre-orders now live: Release dates, prices and more

Like clockwork, new iPhones are once again on their way to a pocket near you: Starting today, you can pre-order two of Apple’s brand new iPhones. How much is the iPhone 12? Pending the model, you’re looking at initial pricing of anywhere from $700 to $1,100. If you’re thinking about upgrading, we’re here to help you decide whether the new iPhone 12 is worth your money — and it depends on what phone you currently have. There are four new iPhone models this time around: the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Mini, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max — each with their own form factors and improvements. Here’s what sets them apart (and what is similar among them). A quick note on pre-orders and delivery: Apple has divided its four new phones into two buckets of availability. We note each set of dates below and here’s a quick look at them all:

  • Price: starts at $800
  • Pre-order: Oct. 16
  • Ships: Oct. 23

The iPhone 12, which starts at $800 depending on the amount of storage you want, is an update both inside and out. The flat-edge design is similar to the iPhone 5 from a few years back, but with five different colors to choose from, an improved dual-camera layout on the back, and the large screen modern iPhones have used for the past few years. It’s also powered by Apple’s newest A14 Bionic processor for snappy performance, alongside 5G support for super-fast wireless internet (you know, if and when you can find it — 5G isn’t that useful yet). Its magnetic wireless charger makes for lots of fun accessories, and ensures your charging pad snaps into place every time. You can also pre-order the iPhone 12 on Amazon with an unlimited plan from Cricket.

  • Price: starts at $700
  • Pre-order: Nov. 6
  • Ships: Nov. 13

After years of phones growing in size, Apple finally reversed course a bit and introduced the iPhone 12 Mini. Its 5.4-inch screen still goes edge to edge, however, which is more than enough for most folks. It has all the same specs as the standard iPhone 12, though slightly less expensive at $700. The smaller screen may not be quite as pleasant for watching movies or playing games, but for most people, it still strikes a good balance between screen size and pocketability.

  • Price: starts at $1,000
  • Pre-order: Oct. 16
  • Ships: Oct. 23

The iPhone 12 Pro includes all the improvements of the iPhone 12, alongside a LIDAR sensor for improved augmented reality, and an even more beefed up triple-camera system with better zoom and low-light performance (not to mention HDR video). These upgrades are most useful for photographers and videographers (or Instagrammers, YouTubers and TikTokers). You can also pre-order the iPhone 12 Pro on Amazon with an unlimited plan from Cricket.

  • Price: starts at $1,100
  • Pre-order: Nov. 6
  • Ships: Nov. 13

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is similar to the iPhone 12 Pro, but in a larger form factor with the best camera system of the entire lineup, with even better optical zoom and low-light performance.

So the iPhone 12 sounds exciting. Should you buy one?

As a tech reviewer for longer than a decade, I love getting to play with the latest gadgets. But phones have gotten good enough that you don’t need to upgrade as often as you used to. Apple has done an incredible job keeping older phones snappy and up-to-date with the latest software (unlike the days of old when a two-year-old iPhone would stop getting updates and felt unbearably slow). So I usually recommend holding onto your devices as long as possible — your wallet will thank you, and so will the environment.

But no phone lasts forever.

Maybe your current iPhone is feeling long in the tooth, or you’re weighing the decision to repair the phone you have vs upgrading it. Here are some ballpark recommendations to help steer your iPhone 12 deliberation:

If you have an iPhone X, iPhone 11 or other new-ish device, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading. Those iPhones are still fantastic, providing high-quality cameras, speedy performance and modern software. As much as Apple would like you to think the iPhone 12 would be a revolutionary life change — just like last year’s model and the year’s before that — upgrading from a recent iPhone is going to offer incremental improvements in the grand scheme of things. That probably isn’t worth $700 to $1,100. Even if your phone needs repairs, it’ll be a fraction of that cost, so don’t let FOMO get the better of you. Your phone is still great.

The iPhone Xr may not have the perfect blacks of an OLED screen or the triple-camera layout of the iPhone 12 Pro but it’s still a fantastic phone. In fact, it’s so good that Apple still sells it, and for $500, it’s a pretty good deal for those that don’t need the latest and greatest. (You can get it refurbished for even less, too.)

If you have an iPhone 6s, 7, 8 or first-gen SE, the choice is a bit tougher. I think these devices are still pretty solid — my wife and I both own iPhones in this bracket, for example, and they’re still performing well and getting software updates. The iPhone 12 models, however, will likely have better performance in high-end games and noticeably better cameras, particularly when it comes to portraits and low-light shots. So if you have kids or otherwise take lots of photos, that upgrade may be worth it to you.

Alternatively, if you’re itching for that new-phone high but don’t need the iPhone 12, consider replacing your phone’s worn-out battery and grabbing a new case for a slightly fresher look and feel.

If you’ve been holding off upgrading because you don’t like the new form factors — I’m a fan of the home button and fingerprint sensor myself — the latest iPhone SE is a good alternative. It has the size and shape of older iPhone models with more modern internals for snappy performance. And it starts at $400, which is super compelling for the quality of what you get.

If you have an iPhone 6, 5s, or older device, it’s almost certainly worth upgrading to a newer iPhone. While these phones haven’t been abandoned entirely (they did get some security updates this year), they aren’t getting any major iOS feature updates, and the general experience is probably feeling a little sluggish thanks to the old hardware inside. Upgrading to a new model will be a big step up, whether you go with the affordable SE or the top-of-the-line 12 Pro Max.

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