Which iPhone Should I Get?

August 24, 2018

12:27 pm

For Apple devotees, the iPhone is the only phone that matters, and the biggest choice they have to make is whether they need to get the newest iPhone, right now, grab a bargain on an older model, or hold off in the hopes of a new iPhone being launched.

However, simply going for the newest iPhone doesn’t always mean you’ll get the best deal. Often, the older iPhone models are just as slick and feature-packed as the newer ones. Put simply, there’s no bad iPhones out there if you go for a model from the past couple of years.

You could buy any from the eight iPhones currently on sale, plus Apple has announced the new iPhone XS, XS Max and XR – available from late September (XS models) and October (XR).

Of course, you’re not most people. So, if you’re after the perfect iPhone, which one is right one for you?

Which Is The Best iPhone?

These are the best Apple iPhone models you can buy. Though it’s still possible to track down older ones second-hand or refurbished, we’d advise sticking to one of the iPhones below:

  1. iPhone XS Max – The biggest, best and newest. A huge 6.5-inch Super Retina display, dual cameras, and a new super fast processor. Oh, and a $1,099 price tag.
  2. iPhone XR – The new baby iPhone borrows the iPhone X’s design, but adds a splash of colour not seen since the 5c. A genuine return to form.
  3. iPhone XS – Picks up where the iPhone X left off. New processor, sharper screen, longer battery life. A decent, if predictable, upgrade.
  4. iPhone X – No longer available direct from Apple, but still a very worthy contender if you’re after a big-screened iPhone.
  5. iPhone 8 Plus – A big screen, big battery and dual camera combo. Great for power users and cheaper than the iPhone X.
  6. iPhone 8 – The cheapest ‘new’ iPhone. It’s still a good phone, but probably not worth the upgrade if you already have a 7.
  7. iPhone 7 Plus – Nearly two years old now, but the 7 Plus still remains a good, and affordable option to track down.
  8. iPhone 7 – Starting to feel its age a little, particularly as it only has 32GB storage.

In this guide:

iPhone Models Compared

At first glance, it might look like all iPhones are largely the same – particularly the new XR, XS and XS Max models.

However, the differences between the models, no matter how subtle, do have an impact on the experience you’ll have with your phone.

iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS Max which iphone should i buy
  • From $1,099
  • 2x 12Mp rear cameras
  • 7Mp front camera
  • 64GB, 128GB or 512GB storage
  • 6.5″ Super Retina HD display
  • iOS 12
  • Up to 1.5 hours longer than iPhone X
  • Pre-order the iPhone XS Max

iPhone XS

Apple iPhone XS
  • From $1,000
  • 2x 12Mp rear cameras
  • 7Mp front camera
  • 64GB, 128GB or 512GB storage
  • 5.8″ Super Retina HD display
  • iOS 12
  • Up to 30 minutes longer than iPhone X
  • Pre-order the iPhone XS

iPhone XR

Apple iPhone XR blue
  • From $749
  • 1x 12Mp rear cameras
  • 7Mp front camera
  • 64GB, 128GB or 512GB storage
  • 6.1″ Liquid Retina HD display
  • iOS 12
  • Up to 1.5 hours longer than iPhone X
  • Pre-order the iPhone XR

iPhone X

which iphone should i get thumbnail
  • From $1,000
  • 2x 12Mp rear cameras
  • 8Mp front camera
  • 64GB or 128GB storage
  • 5.8″ Super Retina HD display
  • iOS 11
  • Up to 2 hours longer than iPhone 7
  • Buy the iPhone X

iPhone XS Max vs iPhone XS

The two most expensive iPhones going head-to-head. Frankly, if you want the best iPhone experience, the XS Max is the phone for you. It’s screen is significantly larger, with a higher resolution but no loss of sharpness. You also get better battery life across the board – likely due to the XR’s larger case being able to accommodate a larger battery.

However, both phones feature the same camera tech, the same processor and the same software. So, is the XS Max’s bigger screen and longer battery life worth the extra $100? Well, lets put it this way, you’re already spending a grand on a phone – if price is an issue, should you really be looking at the XS? There are loads of good, cheap phones out there.

There is one more caveat, though. The iPhone XS Max is significantly larger than the XS. Dimensions of 6.2x.035×0.3 inches play 5.65×2.79×0.3 with the XS Max and XS, respectively. So, if you’ve got small hands the XS Max might a touch too large.

Verdict: Go big or go home. Get the XS Max.

iPhone X vs iPhone XR

The XR is Apple’s new budget iPhone, coming in at a surprisingly low $749. Given its similarities to controversially and extravagantly-priced iPhone X, one wonders whether the iPhone XR represents a bit of a bargain proposition.

The XR gives you a larger, but slightly less sharp screen than the X – although the XR’s screen would still be the envy of many non-iPhone users. The iPhone XR only has the one rear camera compared to the X’s wide-angle and telephoto combo, but you get the same 7Mp front camera with FaceID tech. However, as would be expected, the camera tech has been improved on the XR compared to the X, with improved bokeh and depth control features (this should help the foreground stand out in your pictures). You also get smart HDR (high dynamic range) on the XR, compared to the auto HDR on the X – this should, according to Apple bring more highlight and shadow detail to your photos.

Beyond that, there’s very little to separate the XR from the X and, consequently, the iPhone XR might be the better option for most people.

Verdict: The XR may not have a dual-camera, but this cheaper 2018 model just be better than the 2017 iPhone X

Which iPhone Has the Best Camera?

iPhones nearly always have good cameras so we’re pretty confident that whichever iPhone you get will be able to take decent pictures. However, might the introduction of two new dual camera models in the XS and XS Max, as well as the single camera XR have made the choice more difficult?

Rear cameras

On first glance the iPhone XS and XS Max seem to have pretty much the same camera hardware as the iPhone X. And, the iPhone XR seems to be a bit left behind with its single lens.

iPhone XS Max

Apple iPhone XS Max Rear camera which iPhone should I get
  • 2x 12Mp wide-angle and telephoto cameras
  • Wide-angle: f/1.8 aperture
  • Telephoto: f/2.4 aperture
  • Dual optical image stabilization
  • 2X optical zoom; 10X digital zoom

iPhone XR

iPhone XR Camera
  • 1x 12Mp wide-angle camera
  • Wide-angle: f/1.8 aperture
  • Single optical image stabilization
  • 5x digital zoom

iPhone X

iPhone X rear camera small
  • 2x 12Mp wide-angle and telephoto cameras
  • Wide-angle: f/1.8 aperture
  • Telephoto: f/2.4 aperture
  • Dual optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom; 10X digital zoom

However, the iPhone XS and XS Max have improved camera software than the iPhone X. This new tech works behind the scenes to give you better pictures all the time and, often without you knowing. The standout camera changes are the improved bokeh and depth control features. These will help the foreground of your images really stand out from the background, by sharpening the foreground and blurring the background – without looking unnatural.

There are also improvements to the HDR, or high dynamic range capabilities of the XS and XS Max’s cameras. The new Smart HDR, as Apple is calling it, improves on the Auto HDR offered on the iPhone X by bringing more highlight and shadow detail to your photos. This new tech applies to the iPhone XR as well as the iPhone X so, despite not having dual cameras, the XR is still able to produce top-notch photos.

Front cameras

The differences on the front cameras, though, are even less pronouced. On paper, all the models offer the same 7Mp resolution with the same f/2.2 aperture. Again, though, software improvements give the XS, XS Max and even the XR the edge over the X. The same smart HDR tech found on the rear cameras is present on the selfie snapper, and the XS, XS Max and XR get improvements to front-facing videos with cinematic video stabilization.

Which iPhone has a Dual Camera?

The dual rear camera was introduced in recent years to the iPhone line-up, but not all models have it.

Dual cameras:

  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6s Plus

Single cameras:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone 8
  • iPhone 7
  • iPhone 6s
  • iPhone SE

Which iPhone has the Best Battery Life?

iPhones normally get slandered for their battery life compared to leading Android models. Given that Apple recently landed itself in hot water for throttling processor speed to preserve dwindling battery life, it isn’t exactly surprising.

Having said that, iPhone battery life is far from bad. Each phone continues to improve, even slightly, on its predecessors. As battery life varies on how you use the phone it’s difficult to state which iPhone actually has the best battery life, however:

iPhone XS Max Claimed Battery Life

iPhone XS Max battery life
  • Lasts up to 1.5 hours longer than iPhone X
  • Battery size: TBC
  • Qi-certified wireless charging
  • Talk time: Up to 25 hours
  • Internet use: Up to 13 hours
  • Video playback: Up to 15 hours
  • Audio playback: Up to 65 hours

iPhone XS Claimed Battery Life

Apple iPhone XS
  • Lasts up to 30 minutes longer than iPhone X
  • Battery size: TBC
  • Qi-certified wireless charging
  • Talk time: Up to 20 hours
  • Internet use: Up to 12 hours
  • Video playback: Up to 14 hours
  • Audio playback: Up to 60 hours

iPhone XR Claimed Battery Life

Apple iPhone XR blue
  • Lasts up to 1.5 hours longer than iPhone 8 Plus
  • Battery size: TBC
  • Qi-certified wireless charging
  • Talk time: Up to 25 hours
  • Internet use: Up to 15 hours
  • Video playback: Up to 13 hours
  • Audio playback: Up to 65 hours

iPhone X Claimed Battery Life

which iphone should i get thumbnail
  • Lasts up to 2 hours longer than iPhone 7
  • Battery size: 2,716mAh
  • Qi-certified wireless charging
  • Talk time: Up to 21 hours
  • Internet use: Up to 12 hours
  • Video playback: Up to 13 hours
  • Audio playback: Up to 60 hours

Confusing, right?

The iPhone X has a longer talk time than the XS, but a shorter video playback time. This is probably due to the screen and processor tech, rather than the iPhone X having a better battery life.

However, the iPhone XR claims a longer battery life for talk time, internet use and audio playback than the supposedly superior iPhone XS. However, the XR has a larger battery than the XS but the XS’ smaller screen means that it lasts longer for video playback.

If battery life is the defining factor in your iPhone purchase, the XS Max (with its larger case and consequently larger battery) is your best bet. But should you not want to shell out nearly $1,100, the XR is a good option.

Which iPhone is the Best Value for Money?

If you want an iPhone and want to pay as little as possible, the aging iPhone SE, launched back in March 2016, is the way to go. The iPhone SE costs just $350. But, we would recommend going for one of the newer iPhones instead.

It’s hard to recommend the iPhone XS or XS Max on value-for-money, given their $1,000+ price tags. However, there’s a good chance that they’ll hold their value for longer, and depreciate slower than the 8 or 8 Plus – so if you come to sell your phone, you’ll have a bit more cash to play with when the next iPhone arrives on the scene.

The iPhone XR probably represents the best value iPhone from new for a while. Costing $749, which in the grand scheme of things is a lot, but in the scheme of iPhones isn’t very much, the XR is only $150 more expensive than the 8 and looks to be a much better device.

You get a sizeable 6.1-inch screen, a huge upgrade over the 4.7-inch display offered on the iPhone 7 or 8. You also get the new A12 processor, which promises to be speedier and smarter than the A11 unit in the 8, or the A10 unit in the 7. This should keep your phone running quickly for at least the next four years.

The iPhone 8 Plus has, frankly, been usurped by the XR. Only the 8 Plus’ dual-cameras prevent from becoming obsolete. But if iPhone cameras really matter to you, get the XS.

Verdict: All told, the XR is almost certainly the best value iPhone on sale today. However, you can still pick up the 8 and 8 Plus for less, so these are decent options if you’re looking to get an iPhone on the ‘cheap’.

Is a Refurbished iPhone Worth It?

The only iPhones currently available on Apple’s certified refurbished scheme are the 7 and 7 Plus, and they seem like pretty good value:

  • iPhone 7 32GB – $499
  • iPhone 7 128GB – $589
  • iPhone 7 256GB – $679
  • iPhone 7 Plus 32GB – $599
  • iPhone 7 Plus 128GB – $689
  • iPhone 7 Plus 256GB – $779

We’d steer clear of the 32GB variants of either the 7 or 7 Plus. It simply isn’t enough storage space by 2018 standards. iOS 11 requires nearly 10GB and the Facebook app, for example, takes up nearly 300MB, and that’s before it’s cached any data.

The 128GB 7 Plus is the pick of the bunch but, at that price, we’d get a new iPhone XR.

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Tom Fogden is a writer for Tech.Co covering everything from website builders to mobile phones. He also loves soccer, probably too much.

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