The 6 Most Underwhelming iPhones of All Time
Apple has released many iPhone models since Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007. Naturally, with an extensive product line, there are bound to be some versions that don’t quite hit the mark.
Despite the loyal fanbase, a few versions of the iPhone were underwhelming to many consumers and swayed them from upgrading. Here, we’ll cover the most underwhelming iPhones to date.
1. iPhone SE (2022): Ancient Design
We’ll start with the 3rd generation iPhone SE, which Apple released in Spring 2022. Despite being a new iPhone, which usually draws a lot of attention, the SE versions don’t grab the same attention since they are the budget option and feature an older design compared to the high-end iPhones. And the same goes for the 2022 version.
One of the iPhone SE’s main features is the new A15 Bionic chip, the same chip in the iPhone 13. While the A15 chip is no slouch when it comes to performance, Apple’s improvements to its chips between one or two generations are not as significant as before.
Additionally, the 3rd generation SE gets 5G, which, depending on your area, can be a hit or miss in terms of faster download speeds. Not only that, but the addition of 5G impacts the battery life of the iPhone SE, which already features a smaller battery, to begin with.
The 2022 iPhone SE was mainly a minor spec bump, which also came with a price increase, contradicting the phone’s primary purpose: to be the budget option for consumers. And that makes it one of the most disappointing Apple products released in 2022.
2. iPhone 8: Overshadowed by the iPhone X
In 2017, Apple released three iPhone models: the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus. The iPhone X undoubtedly stole the spotlight with its new design and nearly all-screen display. Therefore, when you compare the iPhone X to the iPhone 8, the latter immediately looks dated.
When it comes to the iPhone 8 itself, it is a solid phone all around. However, while it is the perfected iPhone in its series, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table that we haven’t seen already in the smartphone market. The notable changes included a glass back with wireless charging, a newer processor, True Tone technology, 25% louder speakers, and some enhancements to the camera system.
There was very little reason to upgrade from an iPhone 6s or 7, especially with the iPhone X releasing in November of the same year.
3. iPhone 4s: One-Trick Pony
The “s” models of iPhones have always unofficially implied internal upgrades, especially since they don’t receive any noteworthy design changes. When the iPhone 4s launched in 2011, the headline feature was Siri, Apple’s new virtual assistant. At the time, Siri was useful in executing simple tasks such as checking the weather, setting a reminder, or adding an event to your calendar.
Besides Siri, the iPhone 4s added minor improvements to the device, such as the A5 chip, faster network download speeds, an improved camera system with 1080p video recording, and more. The only design change the iPhone 4s received was to the antenna system, which was mainly to correct the famous “antennagate” issue that plagued the iPhone 4.
4. iPhone 14: More of the Same
The most recent underwhelming iPhone is the iPhone 14, as the standard models received minimal upgrades that didn’t warrant an upgrade. The iPhone 14 features the same A15 chip that was in the iPhone 13 Pro, which translates to slightly better graphics performance with the extra GPU core.
In addition to the slightly better chip, the iPhone 14 gained the Emergency SOS via Satellite feature. While useful, it isn’t a day-to-day feature that someone will use. The same goes for Crash Detection, a feature also available on the iPhone 14 Pro and newer Apple Watch models.
The iPhone 12 was a substantial improvement over the 11, mainly due to the significantly improved display with the switch from LCD to OLED and the new design. Then, the iPhone 13 made some improvements to battery life that was impacted in the iPhone 12 due to 5G, and Apple finally shrank the size of the notch, but even then, it was considered boring by many.
Aside from some improvements to low-light photos, the addition of Action mode, and the Photonic Engine, the iPhone 14 was a letdown in 2022. Compare the iPhone 14 to the iPhone 14 Pro, and you’d quickly realize how lackluster the device is. Also, don’t forget that you can get the iPhone 13 directly from Apple and save $100.
5. iPhone 5c: Poor Value
In 2013, Apple introduced two iPhones simultaneously for the first time. There was the iPhone 5s, Apple’s flagship smartphone, then the iPhone 5c, basically the internals of an iPhone 5 in a plastic shell. The iPhone 5c was for consumers who didn’t want to spend top dollar for a smartphone, allowing Apple to reach more potential customers with an affordable option.
However, the iPhone 5c didn’t meet the aspirations that Apple had for it. Not only did the phone strip the superior design and offer similar specifications as the iPhone 5, but you could still find an iPhone 5 for around the same price as the 5c, getting the majority of the 5c’s specifications and a premium design made of aluminum compared to plastic.
Overall, the iPhone 5c was not of considerable value, and the plastic design was not something Apple fans loved. Since then, the Cupertino-based company hasn’t released an iPhone made of plastic.
6. iPhone Xs: Hard Act to Follow
After the immense success of the iPhone X in 2017, Apple released the iPhone Xs and Xs Max the following year. After a radical redesign, everyone expected the next-generation iPhone to be a spec bump. While the iPhone Xs did get hardware upgrades, it lacked a standout feature. For example, the iPhone 4s introduced Siri, the 5s released with Touch ID, and the 6s had 3D Touch.
The iPhone Xs’ notable upgrades were the A12 Bionic chip, IP68 rating, dual SIM capabilities, camera improvements, and more. The iPhone Xs series was only a good upgrade for iPhone X users that wanted a larger screen since the Xs Max featured a 6.5-inch display.
The iPhone XR was the most popular choice of the three models Apple launched in 2018. When you compare the iPhone XR to the XS, the former offered a lot for the average consumer at $750 despite skimping on display resolution. The iPhone Xs, while still a great smartphone, didn’t have iPhone X owners running to the Apple Store to upgrade.
Underwhelming, But Not Terrible iPhones
While Apple has primarily knocked it out of the park with its iPhone releases, there were some misfires for some users. The iPhones on this list are not bad smartphones by any means; they were just considered underwhelming at the time. But thankfully, the iPhone 14 Pro is anything but underwhelming,