How 2020 became the best year to buy an iPhone

iPhone 12 Pro review
iPhone 12 Pro review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / iMore)

It's been dubbed "the year that wasn't," "the year from hell," and even "the year that shall not be named," but finally, 2020 is coming to an end. Even in all the uncertainty in the world this year, Apple still manages to launch, not one or two, but five iPhones this year — all the iPhone 12 models and the second-generation iPhone SE.

Even with a ton of rumors about production being affected by the pandemic, supply chains being slowed down, and general chaos that all manufacturers had to deal with this year, Apple did deliver a bunch of spectacular products. In fact, I would argue that 2020 became the year that finding the best iPhone, regardless of your budget, was made the easiest.

iPhone SE — The iPhone of the people

iPhone SE (2020) in space gray

Iphone Se 2020 Hero (Image credit: iMore)

Near the end of April, when the whole world seemed like it was in lockdown, Apple released the new iPhone SE. It had been rumored for quite some time beforehand, so while it wasn't a total surprise, it offered a product (and price point) that Apple had missed in its iPhone lineup for years.

We talk at great length in our iPhone SE (2020) review about just how much bang for your buck Apple's cheapest iPhone turned out to be, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

The A13 Bionic chip was Apple's fastest chip when the iPhone SE was released, making the whole phone as speedy and powerful as any person could want. For fans of smaller phones, it had the nice, compact feel of the older generation iPhone back before the change in design in 2017.

The $399 price point is super important for the success of this device. Not only is the iPhone SE very attractive to any budget-minded consumers, but it's also the perfect iPhone for people who have been holding on to their old iPhones waiting for something similar to come out from Apple.

My Mom is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. She had an iPhone 6S that finally kicked the bucket on her back in May, and she was dreading getting a new iPhone because, like a lot of people, she hates change. When she walked into her wireless service provider's shop to buy a new phone and upgrade her plan, she specifically told the sales rep that she was looking for her exact phone but better. To her surprise and delight, she was offered the iPhone SE (2020).

That's the true power of the iPhone SE, and we diehard Apple lovers and tech fans can often forget that. When Apple makes an affordable quality iPhone, it is appealing to a way wider audience than the iPhone 12, and especially way more appealing than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

iPhone 12 — Four incredible phones

iPhone 12 Pro Review

iPhone 12 Pro Review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / iMore)

Early in the year, they were some doubts that Apple would be able to launch new flagship phones in 2020 due to the pandemic, but even though they ended up getting delayed, the iPhone 12 launch happened in October. While 2019 saw the launch of three new iPhones sporting the "11" number in its name, the iPhone 12 launch came with news of four phones. The standard iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max were all the newest iteration of the previous year's models. However, the iPhone 12 mini was also introduced, and some people — like former iMore managing editor Lory Gil, were beyond thrilled for the new powerful mini iPhone, as her glowing iPhone 12 mini review clearly states.

The iPhone 12 wasn't just an upgrade to internals, but it also saw a design change, bringing back that boxed and flat edge that you either love or hate. Plus, it also saw MagSafe come to all four models, a magnet system that allows iPhone 12 models to use certain magnet lined accessories.

If you really want to turn things up to 12 (see what I did there?), the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max offer the latest and greatest that Apple has to offer, and the larger of the two even has some fancier camera features than the smaller version. It's the first time we've seen Apple offer a few exclusive features to just the "Max" size of a phone since they started producing them.

So, with all five iPhones that launched this year, how does the iPhone lineup as a whole look. Spoiler alert: really damn good.

The iPhone lineup — Something for everyone

iPhones in front of Christmas Tree

iPhones in front of Christmas Tree (Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

I can sit here and talk about each iPhone Apple released in 2020 forever, but what excites me the most about the iPhone is taking a step back and looking at the entire lineup Apple currently sells. That lineup looks like this:

  • iPhone SE (2020): $399
  • iPhone XR: $499
  • iPhone 11: $599
  • iPhone 12 mini: $699
  • iPhone 12: $799
  • iPhone 12 Pro: $999
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max: $1,099

There are seven iPhones currently on sale, and a ton of different price points, features, compromises, and choices to be made if you're in the market for a new iPhone. From the budget-friendly small but mighty iPhone SE all the way to the mammoth that is the iPhone 12 Pro Max, this lineup has something for everyone. Even though I called the iPhone XR an ugly duckling earlier this month, there's still a place for it in this incredible lineup, which is why Apple still keeps it around.

This is the most robust, price-competitive, and fully featured iPhone lineup Apple has ever been selling all at once, and I am so here for it.

You want Touch ID and a processor that will be speedy for years to come? Bam! iPhone SE. Really digging Face ID but don't care about have all the absolutely latest features? Let me introduce you to the iPhone XR. Do you want a small and powerful flagship phone? The iPhone 12 mini is in the house! Do you need the biggest and baddest phone around? The iPhone 12 Pro Max is reporting for duty.

Choices and competitive pricing are the hallmarks of the Android market that Apple fans also can point to as something they wish Apple could emulate, and against all odds, 2020 became the year they did it as best as they could.

While there are lots of reasons to throw 2020 into the garbage and forget about its existence, there's never been a better time to buy an iPhone, and that's something we can all be happy about.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.