Coaxing out the best value iPhone in late 2019

As of launch time for the iPhone 11, Apple's entire Apple Store-based iPhone sales lineup has shifted. To look at Apple's iPhone collection right now is to decide between several different generations, prices, specs, colors, and future-proofing software promises. Today we're looking at the most important factors which a future new iPhone owner should consider.

When iPhone 11 becomes a factor

Important at the moment is the differentiation we must make between the time before September 10 and after September 20, 2019. Right now we're in limbo. Pre-orders for all new iPhone models (iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max) begin on the 13th, and all three models will be in stores on the 20th.

Which iPhones can I buy at an Apple Store?

You can buy iPhones released anywhere in the last half-decade if you buy from an authorized Apple reseller/retailer, or any iPhone EVER if you buy from an unauthorized, 3rd-party source. But if you're going straight to the source, buying from an Apple Store proper, you'll have a new lineup from which to choose starting this week.

Current Apple Store iPhone lineup:

• iPhone 8

• iPhone 8 Plus

• iPhone XR

• iPhone 11 (see our hands-on)

• iPhone 11 Pro

• iPhone 11 Pro Max (see our first impressions)

Starting prices are lowest with the iPhone 8, ramp up to iPhone 8 Plus, then to XR, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. The removal of the X and XS from Apple's currently-available lineup of phones makes this pricing scale simple to explain.

What happened to iPhone X, XS, and XS Max?

Starting this week, Apple Stores will not carry the iPhone X, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max. You might get lucky and find a store that's got a refurbished model – but officially, they're out the door. They're all available at "authorized resellers" in multiple colors and sizes and such, but Apple does not include these devices in its current active lineup.

Because Apple releases so many different iPhone models, skipping generations like this makes choosing a new iPhone easier for the consumer. It's not necessarily better or worse for anyone, value-wise. Instead, the iPhone lineup that's currently available at all Apple Stores is relatively easy to differentiate.

Explaining the differences between an iPhone 8 vs XR vs 11 is easy. Jam an iPhone X and an iPhone XS in that equation and things get complicated.

Which iPhone is the best value?

Over the past year (and beyond), the iPhone XR has been Apple's single most-shipped device. They've shipped more iPhone XR units than any other iPhone, worldwide. Now that the $750 base price point for the iPhone XR has been knocked down to $599 (as of the introduction of the iPhone 11 on September 10th, that is to say), it's difficult to imagine users finding a better value for an iPhone at an Apple Store.

However – now Apple's also released an iPhone 11. Where normally Apple would replace one device with another at the same price point, the iPhone 11 seems to replace the iPhone XR but ALSO cuts $50 off the base price. As such – maybe it's time to double-down on camera lenses at last?

From the iPhone 11 at approximately $699 USD, the jump to iPhone 11 Pro is another $300, up to $999, then another hundred to $1,099 for the Pro then the Pro Max. That's no small jump.

The best value iPhone, if you only want "an iPhone" but feel the need to buy an iPhone at an Apple Store today, is the iPhone 8. It's the least expensive iPhone at Apple today – not counting any possible Certified Refurbished models available.*

If you're talking about camera quality, you'll probably find the iPhone 8 Plus the best value, as the jump in camera features from the iPhone 8 to 8 Plus is significant enough to drop the extra several tens of dollars. Screen size is another factor entirely, given the extreme change from a rectangular display in the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus to everything afterward – iPhone XR and forward.

The only OLED display-toting devices available from Apple right this minute are the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, while the rest are LCD, including the XR.

The exclusive iPhone color factor

If you're looking for a specific color iPhone, note that some colors are exclusive to some models. Coral and Blue are exclusive to iPhone XR, light Purple and light sea Green is exclusive to iPhone 11, the striking Midnight Green is exclusive to iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. Both iPhone 11 and iPhone XR have their own unique version of Yellow – lighter on iPhone 11, more intense on iPhone XR.

Some come in lighter gray metal, some dark. iPhone XR and iPhone 11 have the same color White, Black, and (PRODUCT)RED editions – but even there the implementation of the color varies because of the different blends of metal, plastic, and glass.

Three years of updates

Apple promises that an iPhone will get software updates for three years after its initial in-store date. As such, it's always a factor to consider when buying a new phone VS an old phone. However, given that you're looking for the best value iPhone, not the iPhone with the longest always-updated software life, you might still want to keep an eye on that iPhone 8.

Just know that a couple years from now, you might have wished you tossed another hundred dollars on your device just to keep getting all the newest features from Apple past the year 2020. The iPhone 8 was first released back in September of 2017 – see our iPhone 8 and 8 Plus Review to see what they were all about at launch.

If you'd rather start from 2018, it's the iPhone XR Review from launch you'll want to see. Here in 2019 we're still making our way toward our final reviews of the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max before we decide if they're worth the extra several hundreds of dollars – stay tuned!

*Or you could just head down to the Apple Refurbished Devices department and see where the real in-the-know shoppers drop their hard-earned cash. Just yesterday the least expensive iPad there cost around $219 – no kidding!