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iPhone 13 incoming — now is the worst time to buy an iPhone 12

Purple iPhone 12
(Image credit: Future)

Three of the four iPhone 12 models still sit proudly on our list of the best smartphones you can buy, nearly a year after their release. But should you buy one right now? Absolutely not.

The reason should be obvious: the iPhone 13 is reportedly on the way, and may be unveiled as soon as September 14. That makes buying the iPhone 12, or any older iPhone, a poor decision for the very near term. 

While we won’t know for sure what upgrades and enhancements the new iPhone will have its predecessor until Tim Cook takes to the stage, plenty of rumors from usually reliable sources have given us a good idea of what iPhone 13 upgrades to expect. 

Aesthetically, the iPhone 13 will apparently look near identical to the iPhone 12 (albeit with a slightly smaller notch), but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and the new version will reportedly include a new faster A15 chipset, a larger battery, significant camera upgrades and a 120Hz display for the Pro models

Unusually for Apple, it’s also reportedly set to be a trend setter rather than a follower, by introducing emergency satellite communications with the new handsets. 

But even if you’re not interested in any of this, it pays to wait for a few more weeks before grabbing an iPhone 12 anyway.

 It pays to wait 

Technology depreciates in value from the day it’s released (with a few notable shortage-based exceptions), and phones are especially susceptible to this, as things move so quickly. 

For the iPhone, unlike the Samsung Galaxy series, it’s a slow depreciation, rather than sudden drops, but if the example of the iPhone 11 is anything to go by, one of the substantial dips comes a year after release when the latest version is released, as SellCell's graph below demonstrates.

iPhone 11 depreciation

(Image credit: SellCell)

Obviously, this chart specifically refers to resale value, rather than buying new, but the pre-owned market doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and the laws of supply and demand equally apply to the carriers trying to shift stock. With the new and shiny iPhone 13 available, carriers will be looking to offload their remaining inventory of iPhone 12 handsets, and that should mean sizable discounts. 

And it’s not just phones with contracts that should see a reduction. Traditionally, Apple has cut the price of the previous generation when a new model is unveiled. If Apple keeps the MSRP of the iPhone 13 broadly in line with the iPhone 12 – by no means guaranteed – then the older handset will require a price cut of its own to make it more appealing. 

Given the iPhone 11 dropped $100 to $599 on release of the iPhone 12, we can hope the latter gets a similar discount. And if you’re happy to go even older, that could have a knock on effect, making the iPhone 11 take the iPhone XR’s current $499 price.

This is all speculation, of course, but it would be truly surprising if Apple and its carriers didn’t drop prices when the iPhone 13 appears. For a few weeks delay, it certainly pays to wait, even if you have your heart set on the still excellent iPhone 12.  

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.