This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Apple iPhone 11 is often recommended as the go-to iPhone for the average Joe: it's a $700 iPhone after all, not as prohibitively expensive as the $1,000+ Pro series, and yet you still get basically the same outstanding camera quality and the fast performance.
But if you are looking for the best "bargain iPhone", I would recommend against the iPhone 11.
The reason for that is that the iPhone 11 feels like a compromised device in 2019: the screen might not be bad per se, but it's just not on par with modern standards. The low resolution makes text appear jittery, the LCD panel doesn't have the lush and vibrancy of a high-quality AMOLED screen, and those bezels are gigantic and make the phone overall extra wide and less comfortable to hold. Those are compromises made with the one component you interact with every single time on your phone: the screen. They are not a footnote, they are important, and switching to a Pro series iPhone makes these shortcomings very obvious, very quickly.
So... how can you get a modern iPhone experience at about the same $700 price?
That's what I was wondering and hear me out: there is a $700 iPhone with a high quality AMOLED screen and most of the other bells and whistles.
Unfortunately, it's not sold officially by Apple anymore: it's the iPhone XS Max. But that doesn't mean you cannot buy it right now.
Last year's top-of-the-line iPhone XS Max is available for about $700 used, but in a mint condition over at popular second-hand phone sellers like Swappa. You can get the phone with all the accessories, and if you are lucky some sort of warranty too, and have it shipped just as easily as it would be buying it from the Apple Store.
Of course, you don't get to peel the plastic off and unbox it with all the delight of exploring a brand new gadget, but if you just want a great phone that will last you for years, and you are not dead set on having the ultra-wide camera of the iPhone 11, then a used iPhone XS Max is my pick for "most reasonable" iPhone purchase right now.
Just one more thing: speaking of being reasonable, did I mention that the afore-mentioned $700 price is for the 256GB version? Yep, that's the same iPhone that used to cost $1,250 last year, a cool savings of $550. Look carefully, and you will find offers that will give you additional warranty, free priority shipping and a unit with a 100% battery health. At $700, this is an absolute steal.
Or do you prefer the XS Max 512GB model? That would be around $800, much less than the $1,450 that Apple was asking for the same model brand new last year.
The prices obviously vary a little bit from seller to seller, and it would be wise to take the extra time to pick your unit carefully, but if you do, you will end up with the best bargain iPhone of the year.