If you watched the iPhone 12 announcement, you might have been pleasantly surprised to learn Apple didn’t increase the price over last year’s iPhone 11. Both models of iPhone released with prices starting at $699.
Compared to the iPhone 11, an upgrade to the iPhone 12 gets you 5G cellular speed, an OLED XDR Super Retina display, a faster A14 Bionic Chip, MagSafe charging, and an improved camera sensor.
That’s a lot of extra features for the same price. Except, the iPhone 12 is actually a lot more expensive than it seems. Here are all the reasons why.
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Apple’s Starting Price Is for the iPhone 12 mini
This year’s lineup of iPhone 12 devices saw the reintroduction of a smaller handset size with the iPhone 12 mini. While the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 12 both offer a 6.1-inch display, the iPhone 12 mini shrinks down to 5.4 inches, fitting into a smaller enclosure but also suffering from a smaller battery.
Apple announced a starting price for the iPhone 12 of $699. But that’s actually the price of the iPhone 12 mini.
If you want the same 6.1-inch screen size as the iPhone 11, you need to shoot for an iPhone 12 upgrade instead, which is $100 more expensive at $799.
6.1-inch iPhone 12 starting price: $699 + $100 = $799
An Unlocked iPhone 12 Costs Even More
It’s generally agreed that when you talk about the price of a smartphone, you’re referring to the cost of an unlocked handset from the manufacturer. Carrier contracts change all the time and usually charge monthly, so it’s more complicated to compare those prices.
Usually, an iPhone costs exactly the same whether you buy it through a cell carrier — like Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon — or whether you buy an unlocked handset from Apple. So we’d generally recommend you buy an unlocked handset so you aren’t tied to a particular carrier.
But this year, Apple charges an extra $30 for the iPhone 12 if you want to buy it unlocked!
Technically, buying through a carrier gets you a $30 discount, but since Apple never mentioned the full price in its announcement it feels more like an added charge.
Unlocked iPhone 12 starting price: $799 + $30 = $829
EarPods and Power Adapters Aren’t Included
You’ve probably already heard that Apple doesn’t include a power adapter or wired EarPods with iPhone purchases anymore. This is the case for every iPhone 12 model as well as older models of iPhone that Apple still sells — even if they originally came with these accessories.
Apple claims it is doing this to reduce electronic waste and carbon emissions from producing and shipping these accessories; many iPhone users already own plenty of power adapter and headphones, so don’t need any more.
Despite these claims, Apple isn’t reducing the price of the iPhone to accommodate for the loss of these accessories. In fact, older iPhones that used to come with EarPods and a power adapter still cost the same even without these accessories.
What’s particularly frustrating is the fact that modern iPhones famously don’t offer a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you need to make sure you own Lightning EarPods from another recent iPhone to use with it. Otherwise you need to buy a 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter.
On top of that, Apple includes a Lightning-to-USB-C charging cable with the iPhone 12. But every previous iPhone except the iPhone 11 Pro shipped with a USB-A power adapter. So the chances are high that you need to buy a new power adapter to use with that cable anyway.
Apple did knock $10 off each of these accessories in the Apple Store, but if you need to buy them both it still adds more to the price of your iPhone 12 purchase. A USB-C power adapter is $19 from Apple, with Lightning EarPods also costing another $19.
Unlocked iPhone 12 with accessories: $829 + $19 + $19 = $867
There’s No MagSafe Charger in Sight
One of the big features of iPhone 12 is Apple’s introduction of MagSafe wireless charging technology for the iPhone.
A MagSafe charger uses magnets to snap into position on the back of your iPhone. It perfectly aligns the wireless charging coils to allow for 15W fast charging with power maximum efficiency.
Although the iPhone 12 still works with Qi charging pads, Apple limits the charging speed of Qi to 7.5W, despite both Qi and the iPhone 12 being capable of up to 15W speeds.
However, Apple doesn’t include a MagSafe charger with the iPhone 12 either. So if you want to experience this new technology, you need to buy a $39 MagSafe charger from Apple.
Make sure you also buy the USB-C power adapter from the last section to use with it if you do.
Of course, you don’t need to get a MagSafe charger to use your iPhone 12. But most people are likely to want to use it since it’s a big feature advertised with the new device.
Unlocked iPhone 12 with accessories and MagSafe charger: $867 + $39 = $906
A 5G Cell Contract Is Usually More Expensive
Apple’s most talked about selling point for the iPhone 12 is that it’s the first 5G-capable iPhone. That means even faster cellular speeds for downloading, streaming, and uploading whatever you like.
But if you hope to enjoy 5G on your iPhone 12, you need to make sure you sign up for a 5G contract with your carrier.
This is likely to cost more than current 4G contracts.
You don’t need to pay extra for 5G since 4G works just fine and is still pretty darn fast. But if you’re looking for the true iPhone 12 experience — and if Apple’s marketing has any effect on you — you’re probably desperate to try out the new cellular speeds.
Every carrier is different and some of them offer 5G at no extra cost. But for the most part, you’re limited to the most expensive tariffs if you want to enjoy 5G speed, and the maximum price you could pay for it is limitless.
Let’s say 5G costs an average of $5 extra a month compared to 4G. On a 24-month contract, that will cost you an extra $120.
Unlocked iPhone 12 with accessories, MagSafe, and 5G: $906 + ($5 x 12) = $1,026
What Is the True Cost of an iPhone 12?
Apple advertised the iPhone 12 as starting at $699, the same price the iPhone 11 started at last year. It’s not exactly a lie — the iPhone 12 mini starts at $699 with a carrier contract — but it doesn’t feel like an honest statement either.
If this is your very first iPhone, you’re unlikely to already own headphones that work with it and you may not own a USB-C power adapter either. If you then opted for an unlocked 6.1-inch iPhone 12, it’d set you back $867.
And that’s without a case, a screen protector, or any AppleCare+ insurance, which you might want to get considering screen repairs are more expensive with the iPhone 12 as well.
For the full iPhone 12 experience, with MagSafe charging and 5G mobile speeds, the price starts closer to $1,026. And that’s only for 64GB of storage.
We think you’ll agree it’s a far cry from the $699 starting price Apple boasted when it announced the iPhone 12.