Apple launched the original iPhone in 2007, and we’ve come a long way, as evidenced by the 2022 iPhone 14 lineup. There are 38 total iPhones released in 15 years, and more every year who passed.
But as great as the iPhone as a whole is, it’s never perfect. Some iPhones are clear winners… while others were big flops. Here are five of the worst iPhones of all time, and a look at how they made this list.
you hold it wrong
Although we’ve included the iPhone 4 in our list of the best iPhones of all time, you can’t avoid the elephant in the room: “the antenna”.
The iPhone 4 introduced an all-new design that deviated from the curves of the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and 3GS before it. We had flat stainless steel sides and edges on the iPhone 4, which looked fantastic. But Apple also moved the cellular antenna outwards via the stainless steel frame, and when you held it in your hand – naturally, may I add – it would cover the antenna and cause signal loss.
It became such a huge deal that Steve Jobs made a special announcement discussing the issue, ultimately telling owners of the phone, “you’re wrong.” This didn’t sit well with most people, and Apple eventually admitted it was a design flaw and offered free bumper cases to help alleviate the problem.
So while the iPhone 4 brought revolutionary new features like the Retina display and 5MP camera, it was also marred by all the antennae controversy. After all, what good is an iPhone if you can’t make calls with it because of the way you’re holding it?
If there’s one thing Apple isn’t known for, it’s that it’s cheap. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the iPhone 5c was, and it went against everything the company stands for.
The iPhone 5c was launched alongside the iPhone 5S and was meant to be a “budget” option, as evidenced by the glossy and colorful polycarbonate plastic casing. These neon colors were an attempt to make the device more “fun” and appealing to a wider audience. As Apple put it, the iPhone 5c was “shamelessly plastic.”
However, despite being marketed as a more affordable iPhone, it cost $549, just $100 less than the flagship iPhone 5S. For just $100 more you can get the superior build quality of the iPhone 5S, premium feel (the 5c felt flimsy due to the plastic), Touch ID sensor, extra storage, burst mode photos , and more.
Not to mention those hideous covers that were made for the iPhone 5c. You know the ones – the cases with holes, combined with bright colors to contrast with the bright hues of the plastic back of the iPhone 5c? To me, they were like the Crocs of iPhone cases.
With all the terrible choices made with the iPhone 5c, it’s no wonder it failed so badly. Seriously, what was Apple thinking?
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
Does it bend?
Like the iPhone 4, the iPhone 6 ushered in a new era of iPhone design. Apple ditched flat sides and edges for rounded corners, curves and smoothness. And don’t forget those antenna lines sticking out like a sore thumb from the back and sides of the device. But in Apple’s quest for the thinnest phone possible, there’s been a new controversy: bend-gate.
Because the iPhone 6 used 6000 series aluminum, it was meant to be thin and light. But it lacked support around the frame, mainly around the buttons on the edge. It didn’t take iPhone 6 owners long to discover that having the device in their pockets while seated could apply enough force to bend the chassis. And unfortunately, aluminum does not spring back when bent, unlike other materials like plastic.
What’s surprising is that Apple was aware this could be a problem, but they released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in this condition anyway. Internal testing was done and Apple engineers calculated that the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely to bend than its predecessor, the iPhone 5s, and the iPhone 6 Plus was 7.2 times more likely.
On top of that, the specs of the iPhone 6 weren’t too impressive either, especially once the iPhone 6s came out. Although the “s” years are usually iterative updates, the iPhone 6s has gone from 12MP to 8MP on the rear camera and 5MP to 1.2MP on the front camera, both of which are quite significant. The iPhone 6s also debuted 3D Touch, one of the best screen features that Apple oddly eliminated for haptic touch, which is inferior.
iPhone SE (2022)
No longer a great value
The original iPhone SE was unique and appealed to a very active group of users who were looking for a small iPhone that was easy to use with one hand. The 4-inch screen size was just about perfect, and truly the last of an era.
Apple relaunched the iPhone SE in 2020 with the 2nd generation, but instead of having that classic 4-inch screen, the iPhone SE was a bit of a Franken phone: it recycled the chassis of the iPhone 8, but had the A13 Bionic chip from the iPhone 11 series, which also allowed it to use a single lens for Portrait mode images like on the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. But it was priced at $399, making it a real budget iPhone.
However, two years later, in 2022, Apple released the 3rd generation iPhone SE. It retains the same iPhone 8 body, but the chip has been moved to the A15 of the iPhone 13 lineup, and it now has 5G connectivity. The price has also dropped from $399 to $429. Although this is only a $30 price difference, it no longer looks like a budget device over $400.
Although the 3rd generation iPhone SE is not a wrong device, it just seems… pointless. At least the 2nd generation model was attractive because of the value it offered, but the iPhone SE (2022) just doesn’t have the same value with that price increase. It also still has the same old iPhone 8 body and slightly upgraded specs with the A15 and 5G.
And if you just wanted the iPhone SE because it’s a small phone, well, there’s always the iPhone 13 mini.
iPhone 14 Plus
Replace the small option with… a big one?
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lines were great because there was a bit of something for everyone, including those who wanted a small iPhone. But with the iPhone 14, Apple decided to put the 5.4-inch mini size on the chopping block and bring the Plus back as a 6.7-inch monster. Those who prefer smaller smartphones now find themselves with a 6.1-inch iPhone 14 or a 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro. There’s still the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, and for some reason now the iPhone 14 Plus.
I can’t quite wrap my head around him. At least with the mini, it was advantageous for those who wanted a smaller screen because it was cheaper than the base iPhone 12 or iPhone 13. But the iPhone 14 starts at $799, with the iPhone 14 Plus $100 more at $899. For $100 more, you can get the iPhone 14 Pro. And $200 more gets you the iPhone 14 Pro Max – which would be the bigger superior phone anyway.
The iPhone 14 Plus is exactly the same as the iPhone 14, just… bigger. You still have the last generation A15 Bionic, no telephoto lens, only a 12 MP main camera instead of 48 MP on the Pro models, a notch instead of Dynamic Island, no 120 Hz ProMotion display and only up to 512 GB of storage. I guess the only real benefit of the iPhone 14 Plus is if you don’t care about all the fancy bells and whistles of Pro devices, but want a larger 6.7-inch screen rather than a 6.1 inches. Plus, the aluminum design is lighter than the Pro’s stainless steel.
But still, if you spend that much on a phone, shouldn’t you settle for the one with more impressive features? Maybe it’s just me, though. I think the iPhone mini had its place with a certain audience, but the iPhone 14 Plus seems oddly out of place.
Looking at the road ahead
While Apple has plenty of success under its belt, there have also been plenty of flops. However, it feels like Apple has mostly learned from past failures, as newer iPhone models don’t have a new “antenna” or “bend-gate” issue like they did in the past. Apple still made some questionable decisions, like with the iPhone SE (2022) and iPhone 14 Plus. Even then, it’s not about huge controversies like the infamous “you’re wrong” iPhone 4 saga.
Although the iPhone 14 lineup was released recently, we will get the iPhone 15 sometime next year. Will this series be a resounding success? Or will it have a model that sticks out like a sore thumb, similar to the iPhone 14 Plus? Only time will tell.
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