The five worst iPhone models of all time
Apple debuted the first iPhone in 2007 and has come a long way until it shows off the iPhone 14 lineup from 2022. In 15 years, a total of 38 iPhone models have been released, with more appearing every year.
But as great as the iPhone is overall, it’s never perfect. Some iPhones are clear winners… while others are big flops. Here are five of the worst iPhones of all time and how they got on this list.
iPhone 4 – „you’re holding it wrong“
The iPhone 4 introduced an all-new design that differed from the curves of the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G, and the previous model, the 3GS. With the iPhone 4, we got flat sides and stainless steel edges that looked fantastic. But Apple also moved the cellular antenna to the outside via the stainless steel frame, and when you held it in your hand — naturally, I might add — it covered the antenna and led to some signal loss.
This became such a big problem that Steve Jobs made a special statement to discuss the issue, finally telling the phone’s owners:
„you’re holding it wrong.“
This didn’t go down well with most people, and Apple eventually admitted it was a design flaw and offered free bulletproof cases to alleviate the problem.
So while the iPhone 4 brought revolutionary new features like its Retina display and 5MP camera, it was also marred by the whole Antennagate controversy. After all, what good is an iPhone if you can’t have conversations with it because of the way you hold it?
iPhone 5C – Casually plastic
If there’s one thing Apple isn’t known for, it’s accessibility. Unfortunately, the iPhone 5c was just that and 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 bright and colorful polycarbonate plastic body. 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 „casually plastic.“
Although it was advertised as a more affordable iPhone, however, it cost a whopping $549 – just $100 less than the then-flagship iPhone 5S. For just $100 more, you could get the iPhone 5S’s better build quality, premium feel (the 5c felt flimsy because of its plastic body), Touch ID sensor, extra memory, and more.
Not to mention those hideous cases that were made for the iPhone 5c. You know those – the cases with holes in them, combined with bright colors that contrast with the bright hues of the plastic back of the iPhone 5c?
With all these terrible decisions made with the iPhone 5c, it’s no wonder it failed so badly. Seriously, what were Apple thinking?
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – do they bend?
Like the iPhone 4, the iPhone 6 ushered in a new era in iPhone design. Apple ditched the flat sides and edges and replaced them with rounded corners, curves and thinness. Don’t forget the antenna lines that protruded into the back and sides of the device. But in Apple’s quest for the thinnest phone possible, a new controversy has emerged: „bending.“
Since the iPhone 6 uses 6000 series aluminum, it had to be thin and light. But it lacked support around the bezel, most notably around the edge buttons. It wasn’t long before iPhone 6 owners discovered that if they held the device in their pockets while sitting down, they could apply enough force to bend its chassis. Unfortunately, aluminum does not spring back into shape after being bent, unlike other materials such as plastic.
The surprising thing is that Apple was aware that this could be a problem, but still released the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in this condition. Internal tests have been conducted and Apple engineers have calculated that the iPhone 6 is 3.3 times more likely to bend than its predecessor, the iPhone 5s, and 7.2 times more likely for the iPhone 6 Plus.
On top of that, the iPhone 6’s specs weren’t too impressive either, especially after the release of the iPhone 6s. While the „s“ years were usually iterative updates, the iPhone 6s made a jump to 12MP from 8MP on the rear camera and to 5MP from 1.2MP on the front camera, which in both cases is pretty substantial. The iPhone 6s also debuts 3D Touch, one of the screen’s best features, which Apple has bafflingly eliminated in favor of the inferior haptic touch.
iPhone SE from 2022 – not very affordable anymore
The original iPhone SE was unique and appealed to a large group of users who wanted a small iPhone for easy one-handed use. The 4 inch screen size was near perfect and truly the last of an era.
Apple revived the iPhone SE in 2020 with the second generation, but instead of having that classic 4-inch display, the iPhone SE was a slightly different phone: it recycled the iPhone 8’s chassis, but had the A13 Bionic chip from the iPhone 11 series that allowed it to also use one lens for portrait mode photos, like the iPhone XS and iPhone XR. But it was priced comfortably at $399, making it a true budget iPhone.
However, two years later, in 2022, Apple launched the third-generation iPhone SE. It retains the same body as the iPhone 8, but the chip is the A15 from the iPhone 13 line and now has 5G connectivity. The price also increased from $399 to $429. Although the price difference is only $30, at over $400 it no longer looks like a budget device.
While the third-generation iPhone SE isn’t a bad device, it just seems… unnecessary. At least the 2nd generation model was attractive for the value it offered, but the iPhone SE (2022) just doesn’t have the same value with this price increase. Other than that, it still has the same old iPhone 8 body and only slightly increased 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 – the small option replaced by… large?
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 were great because they had something for everyone, including those who wanted a small iPhone. But with the iPhone 14, Apple decided to ditch the 5.4-inch mini size and bring back the Plus as a 6.7-inch behemoth. Those who prefer smaller smartphones are now left with either the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 or the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro. There’s also still the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, and for some reason now the iPhone 14 Plus.
There is no meaningful explanation for this. At least with the Mini versions, it was a bargain 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 and the iPhone 14 Plus is $100 more high – 899 dollars. For $100 more, you can get the iPhone 14 Pro. And for $200 more, you’ll get the iPhone 14 Pro Max — which would be the better bigger phone anyway.
The iPhone 14 Plus is the same as the iPhone 14, only… bigger. You still have the last-gen A15 Bionic, no telephoto lens, only a 12MP main camera instead of the 48MP on the Pro models, you have a notch instead of Dynamic Island, no 120Hz ProMotion display and its memory capacity is only up to 512GB. Additionally, the aluminum construction is lighter than the Pro’s stainless steel.
But still, if you’re spending that much on a phone, shouldn’t you just settle for the one with more impressive specs? It’s as if the iPhone Mini had its place with a certain audience, but the iPhone 14 Plus feels strangely out of place.
A look ahead
While Apple has had many successes, it has also had many failures. However, it seems that Apple has mostly learned from its past failures, as the newer iPhone models do not have a new „antennagate“ or „bend“ like in the past. Apple has still made some questionable decisions, such as with the iPhone SE (2022) and iPhone 14 Plus. Even then, they’re not huge controversies like the infamous iPhone 4 „you’re holding it wrong“ saga.
Although the iPhone 14 line only recently came out, sometime next year the iPhone 15 will be here. Will this series be a huge success? Or will it have a model that will stick out like a sore thumb, similar to the iPhone 14 Plus? Only time will tell.