The original iPhone SE (Special Edition) was released along with the larger iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Many users preferred the smaller size of this phone and its flat sides that used the same design as the iPhone 5s.
The original iPhone SE’s exterior differed from the iPhone 5s in its finishes, including four colors, and matte (instead of shiny) edges. Colors for the iPhone SE included Silver (white glass front and a silver aluminum sides and back with a white top and bottom detail); Space Gray (black glass front and a gunmetal gray aluminum sides and back with a black top and bottom detail); Gold (white glass front and a gold aluminum sides and back with a white top and bottom detail); and Rose Gold (white glass front and a pink-tinted gold aluminum sides and back with a white top and bottom detail).
The original iPhone SE used a 4-inch Retina display (1136×640 at 326 ppi). Its two cameras included a rear 12-megapixel iSight camera with a True Tone flash and a front 1.2-megapixel 720p FaceTime camera.
A Touch ID fingerprint sensor was embedded in the Home button of the iPhone SE. It used Apple’s A9 processor and was available with 16, 32, 64, or 128 GB storage. Wireless connections included 4G/LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC (Apple Pay). Wired connections included a headphone jack and a Lightning connector.
The iPhone SE would become the first iPhone name to be later reused (in April 2020) in a completely different design.
The iPhone Lightning Dock was a minimalist charging dock with a heavy base, protruding angled Lightning connector, and two ports on the back, including a Lightning port for charging and an audio jack to allow music to be played on a speaker or headphones while the iPhone charged.
The iPhone Lightning Dock was available in several colors, including white, black, silver, space gray, rose gold, gold, and “new” gold (to match an updated gold iPhone color). This example is space gray.
Apple described the Dock:
“You can use it to charge and sync any iPhone that has a Lightning connector. Your iPhone sits upright in the dock as it syncs or charges, so it’s ideal for a desk or countertop. Even when your iPhone is in an Apple-designed case, it’s easy to dock. And you can unlock iPhone or use Touch ID without having to remove it from the dock.”
Although this Dock will also charge an iPad, its size and weight make it too unstable for everyday use. However, I sometimes use this Dock to photograph iPad devices in my collection since its minimal design and slight angle works well as a temporary display base.
The iPhone 5s was released in 2013 as a successor to the iPhone 5. While previous “s” updates delivered only slight enhancements, the 5s had major upgrades internally and externally. The iPhone 5s included an A7 chip (Apple’s first 64-bit “system-on-a-chip”), Apple’s first fingerprint Touch ID, and greatly enhanced cameras with a flash system that used different color temperatures.
The iPhone 5s was offered in three metallic colors: silver (white glass front with a metallic sliver back), gold (white glass front with a metallic gold back), and space gray (black glass front with metallic gunmetal gray back). Its touch screen was a Retina display (1136 x 640). The back camera was an 8-megapixel iSight camera (1080p), and the front camera was a 1.2 megapixel FaceTime camera (720p).
The A7 chip that powered the iPhone 5s ran at 1.3 GHz and storage was offered at 16, 32, or 64 GB. Wireless connections included 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and 4G/LTE. Wired connections included the Lightning connector and a standard headphone jack.
This was the first iPhone to ship with iOS 7, the first iOS version designed under Jony Ive that removed the previous “skeuomorphic” design aesthetic that used true-life design elements such as faux textures, drop shadows, glossy surfaces, beveled edges, and other real-world visual cues (e.g., the Notes app icon resembled a legal pad with torn-off pages, the Newsstand app icon that resembled a book case). Instead, iOS 7 icons and interfaces were flat and featured a defined colorful palette.
The iPhone 5c was released along with the iPhone 5s as a lower-cost addition to the iPhone 5 family. Instead of using a an aluminum back, it used a polycarbonate shell in one of five colors: white, blue, green, yellow, and pink. All colors used a black glass front. This example is white.
The iPhone 5c used the same screen and cameras as the iPhone 5s released at the same time. Its touch screen was a Retina display (1136 x 640). The back camera was an 8-megapixel iSight camera (1080p), and the front camera was a 1.2-megapixel FaceTime camera (720p).
Internally, the iPhone 5c used an A6 processor at 1.3 GHz. Its internal storage included 8, 16, or 32 GB. Also like the iPhone 5s, wireless connections included 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and 4G/LTE. Wired connections included the Lightning connector and a standard headphone jack.
The iPhone 5c was released with a unique Apple-designed case with 35 circular holes (and an oblong hole cutout for the camera and flash). The case came in six colors including black, white, pink, yellow, blue, and green, that allowed 30 possible color combinations when paired with the phones.
The similarities in features between the iPhone 5c and other iPhone 5 models—along with the iPhone 5c’s color choices and relatively lower price—made this iPhone popular.
The iPhone 8 was announced September 12, 2017, at the same time as the iPhone X (iPhone ten). Except for a glass back (replacing a metal back), the iPhone 8 (and the iPhone 8 Plus) were similar in design to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models that preceded them. The iPhone 8 was arguably eclipsed by the iPhone X with Apple’s first edge-to-edge screen with no Home button and a design that hinted at future designs of iPhone and iPad devices.
The iPhone 8 had a 4.7-inch Retina HD touchscreen (1334×750 at 326 ppi). Its solid-state Home button used Apple’s Taptic engine and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Its front camera was a 7-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, and its back camera was a 12-megapixel 4K camera with a six-element lens system with augmented reality (AR) support.
The iPhone 8 was first offered in gold (white front with gold glass back), silver (white front with silver glass back), and space gray (black front with dark gray glass back), and Apple later added a (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition model (black front with a red glass back).
Internally, the iPhone 8 used an A11 Bionic processor with six cores, 2 GB RAM, and was offered in storage options of 64, 128, and 256 GB. Wireless connections included 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE (4G), and NFC (Apple Pay). Its only wired connection was the Lightning port (the headphone jack had been removed from the previous iPhone 7 models).
Qi wireless charging was also introduced with the iPhone 8—and also the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, introduced at the same time.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max Leather Case with MagSafe was designed with built-in magnets to offer “a magical attach and detach experience, every time. The perfectly aligned magnets make wireless charging faster and easier than ever before. And when it’s time to charge, just leave the case on your iPhone and snap on your MagSafe charger, or set it on your Qi-certified charger.”
As with previous leather cases for the iPhone, Apple included, “Made from specially tanned and finished leather, the outside feels soft to the touch and develops a natural patina over time. The case quickly snaps into place and fits snugly over your iPhone without adding bulk.”
Although the color is listed as (PRODUCT)RED, the label on the packaging specifies “Scarlet.” Apple specified that the new MagSafe charger built into the case “will leave slight imprints,” and added: “If you are concerned about this, we suggest you use an iPhone 12 Pro Max Silicone or Clear Case.”
In the past, (PRODUCT)RED purchases benefitted AIDS research, but in 2020, Apple changed the charitable cause to COVID-19:
“When you buy the (PRODUCT)RED Leather Case with MagSafe, we will now send a contribution to the Global Fund to fight COVID-19. Your support can make all the difference.”
Apple’s MagSafe Charger was released in 2020 along with the iPhone 12 line of devices. All iPhone 12 models (iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max) had MagSafe charging capabilities and could use this MagSafe Charger. Upon release, only the iPhone 12 models benefitted from the “magnetic alignment experience.”
Apple’s website states:
“The MagSafe Charger makes wireless charging a snap. The perfectly aligned magnets attach to your iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 Pro and provide faster wireless charging up to 15W. The MagSafe Charger maintains compatibility with Qi charging, so it can be used to wirelessly charge your iPhone 8 or later, as well as AirPods models with a wireless charging case, as you would with any Qi-certified charger. The magnetic alignment experience only applies to iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models. Recommended: 20W USB-C Power Adapter (sold separately)”
In my opinion, this product—and the MagSafe 2020 concept—is riddled with ambiguities.
The the past, the “MagSafe” name was used by Apple to refer to a power plug on Apple laptops. This name made perfect sense in that it used a magnet (“Mag-”) to safely (“-Safe”) attach to the computer. If someone accidentally tripped over a MagSafe power cord, the cord would safely detach and save the computer from dropping to the floor and/or harming the port built into the computer—an overall excellent solution.
However, the MagSafe system used on the iPhone 12 is not the same. While the 2020 version of MagSafe uses a magnet (“Mag-”), it is in no way “-Safe.” Instead, the charger grips so tightly that an accidental trip over the charging cord will send the iPhone 12 to the floor. Further, the Apple Wallet, a leather wallet designed to hold 2–3 credit cards that uses the MagSafe magnets, has been shown by reviewers to easily detach when slipped into a pocket. Thus, MagSafe 2020 is decidedly UN-Safe!
In addition, although this product is named a MagSafe Charger, it does not charge on its own because it does not include a power adapter. A more accurate name for this product would be a “MagSafe Charging Cable” since that is all it is. A very similar product, the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable, also does not ship with a power adapter; thus, it is appropriately named.
Other reviewers have criticized Apple for not including power adapters in the box along with products. Apple asserts that this decision makes the company more environmentally friendly. I am not criticizing Apple’s decisions or motives. I am, however, criticizing the name of this product on two accounts. First, it is inaccurate because it is not “-Safe,” either now or when compared to previous MagSafe products. And second, because the name of the product does not accomplish the implied purpose of the device by omitting a power adapter to make the product function.
When Apple introduced all of the iPhone 12 models, they included a new method of wireless charging with an old name: MagSafe. Originally used for laptop power cables that used a magnet to safely attach and prevent a laptop from accidentally falling to the floor from a cord trip, this version of MagSafe used a strong magnet that caused an iPhone to fall to the floor with a cord trip. Thus, it is unknown why Apple continued to use the “MagSafe” name when no safety features were offered.
The case was crystal clear, and Apple specified that it resisted yellowing. The pattern on the back of the clear case was a white open circle with a downward dash. The downward dash allowed a MagSafe charger or an iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe to attach with the magnet and align perfectly.
According to Apple:
“Thin, light, and easy to grip — this Apple-designed case shows off the brilliant colored finish of iPhone 12 Pro Max while providing extra protection. Crafted with a blend of optically clear polycarbonate and flexible materials, the case fits right over the buttons for easy use. On the surface, a scratch-resistant coating has been applied to both the interior and exterior. And all materials and coatings are optimized to prevent yellowing over time. With built-in magnets that align perfectly with iPhone 12 Pro Max, this case offers a magical attach experience and faster wireless charging, every time. When it’s time to charge, just leave the case on your iPhone and snap on your MagSafe charger, or set it on your Qi-certified charger.”
This Clear Case is also pictured on an iPhone 12 Pro Max in Pacific Blue. Both items were purchased at the same time for my day-to-day use in November 2020.
In 2020 Apple released four iPhone 12 models simultaneously: the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12 Pro, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The four options offer two “regular” iPhone models in two sizes, the 12 and 12 mini; and two “Pro” iPhone models in two sizes, the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. Overall, three sizes were available: mini, “regular,” and Pro Max, since the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro were the same size. The iPhone 12 models had arguably bolder color options, while the Pro models included more refined shades of Silver, Graphite, Gold, and Pacific Blue. This example is an iPhone 12 Pro Max with 256 GB storage in Pacific Blue.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max had an edge-to-edge 6.7-inch screen referred to as a “Super Retina XDR” display with 2778 x 1284 pixels (458 ppi). The camera system on the iPhone 12 Pro Max included four separate cameras, three on the back and one on the front. Apple listed the camera specifications for the Pro Max model as follows:
Pro 12MP camera system: Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto cameras
The TrueDepth Camera on the front gained many new features from previous front iPhone cameras. The 12MP camera had features including:
Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High‑Key Mono)
Smart HDR 3
HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 30 fps
4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
Video recording features included:
HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 60 fps
4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
720p HD video recording at 30 fps
Sensors included Face ID, LiDAR Scanner, Barometer, Three‑axis gyro, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, and an Ambient light sensor.
Apple described the iPhone 12 Pro Max finish as “surgical grade” stainless steel with flat stainless steel sides, a glass back, and a glass front with a “Ceramic Shield” cover for increased durability. The back had a MagSafe connector for wireless charging that used a magnet to attach a wireless charger (it is unknown why the term “-Safe” was used since the charger introduced no safety features).
The iPhone 12 Pro Max used the Apple A14 Bionic processor with 6 GB of RAM and 128, 256, or 512 GB of flash storage. Wireless connectivity included 802.11ax Wi-Fi, 5G wireless, Bluetooth 5.0, and NFC (for Apple Pay). Its only wired connection was a Lightning port.
My personal iPhone upgrade pattern had been established as upgrading to “major” model releases, but skipping the “update” models. For example, I would upgrade from the iPhone 6, skip the 6s model, and then upgrade to the iPhone 7. However, beginning with the iPhone 8, this pattern was broken when the iPhone X [ten] was released along with the iPhone 8—and no iPhone 9 was released. Since the iPhone X and the iPhone 8 were released simultaneously, I never used an iPhone 8. Thus, I went from the iPhone 7 to the X, skipped the XR, and upgraded to the iPhone 11. Apple broke the pattern again by jumping from the iPhone 11 to the iPhone 12, skipping what may have been called the iPhone 11S or 11R (following previous conventions).
In 2020 Apple made a major change to its iPhone 12 packaging when they stopped including Lightning headphones and a wall power “brick” charger in the box at the time of an iPhone purchase. With these items removed, Apple was able to reduce the size of the iPhone box and reduce the extra packaging associated with the headphones and charger. It was announced that the iPhone 12 would ship only with the phone and a USB-C-to-Lightning charging cable.
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, announced at an October 2020 Apple event, “Customers already have over 700 million Lightning headphones, and many customers have moved to a wireless experience with AirPods, Beats, or other wireless headphones. And there are also over 2 billion Apple power adapters out in the world, and that’s not counting the billions of third-party adapters. So we are removing these items from the iPhone box.”
With the iPhone 12 announcement, I was not at all expecting this packaging change to also affect older, but still manufactured iPhone models. At the time of the iPhone 12 release, Apple was still offering the iPhone XR as a lower-end and less expensive iPhone option. Surprisingly, the iPhone XR packaging was also reduced in size and shipped without the headphones and charger. Also, the cable was switched to a USB-C-to-Lightning, replacing the former USB-to-Lightning option.
While the change may contribute to some environmental benefits, the situation was not universally accepted as positive. Some critics noted that, “The move saves the company money, but some of the environmental benefits could be offset by people buying earbuds and chargers separately” (The Verge). From a practical standpoint, some users—namely enterprise, government, and school districts like mine—had not switched to USB-C when this decision was made. As Apple indicated, it is likely that most users likely already have more than one charger and at least one set of Lightning headphones.
The photos here represent my school district’s iPhone XR upgrade affected mid-stream—where iPhone XR models purchased before October 2020 used “classic” packaging, and devices purchased in late-October/November 2020 unexpectedly used the new packaging without an announcement or warning.