Apple's making it harder than ever to know which iPhone to buy

  • Apple announced three new phones last week: the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR.

  • As of 2018, Apple's iPhone naming convention is officially off the rails.

  • In addition to the already existing iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple is introducing three new models with non-sequential names. That's six different models of iPhone in total.

"Which iPhone should I buy?" just became a harder question to answer than ever before. The answer comes with its own set of questions.

How much do you care about bezels? How much are you willing to spend? Are you ready to learn a whole lot of new names for the iPhone?

You should be: Apple just announced three new models, all with different names.

  • There's the iPhone XS — the next main edition of the iPhone, and the successor to 2017's iPhone X.

  • There's the iPhone XS Max — the larger version of Apple's already large iPhone XS.

  • And then there's the iPhone XR — a "budget" version of the iPhone XS, similar to the iPhone 5C and iPhone SE before it.

That's in addition to the iPhone 7, 8, and 8 Plus. The "Plus" version of the iPhone 8 is equivalent to the iPhone XS Max — the word "Max" seemingly replaces the "Plus" branding.

It's a lot.

You may notice that most of these names aren't sequential, like the iPhone (sort of) used to be. The iPhone 4 preceded the iPhone 5, iPhone 6, iPhone 7, and iPhone 8. There have always been "S" models — the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5S, and iPhone 6S — for the in-between years.

At least there used to be ... until the iPhone 7.

There is no iPhone 7S; the year after the iPhone 7 was released (2016), Apple launched the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X (pronounced "ten" in honor of the iPhone's 10-year anniversary).

That's right: In the same year, Apple released the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X (ten).

There is no iPhone 9, and there's unlikely to ever be one. Instead, Apple skipped right past the number nine to X — ten — with the iPhone X.

And this year, the successor to the iPhone X is named "iPhone XS" — a return to the "S" naming convention that used to characterize the iPhone's in-between years. The iPhone 7 and 8 remain on sale, but the iPhone X is no longer available from Apple.

Confused yet?

And that's before we start talking about the iPhone XR; no one knows what the "R" stands for, nor is Apple saying.

It's the less expensive (though still very expensive at $750) version of the new model of iPhone. It's the iPhone for people who prefer the look of the iPhone X — no bezels, with a small "notch" at the top — but don't want to drop the $1,000 asking price for the least expensive version of the iPhone XS.

All of these different versions of the iPhone, available in a dizzying array of different storage configurations and colors, make it more confusing than ever for the average person who's interested in buying a new iPhone.

"Which iPhone should I buy?" becomes a nearly impossible question to answer without a mess of caveats.

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