Apple has revealed its 2018 class of iPhones, and they all have fancy top-to-bottom screens like last year’s iPhone X. The 5.8-inch iPhone XS and 6.5-inch XS Max both expand on what the X could do, with faster processors and more durable glass, better waterproofing, louder speakers, longer battery life, and “smart” HDR along with some other camera enhancements. Problem is, they start at $999.
Apple did introduce a more affordable third model, the $749 iPhone Xr, which comes in a bunch of alluring colors. It’s nearly identical to the Xs, but without the dual camera or gorgeous OLED screen. But $749 is $50 more expensive than the cheapest iPhone 8 a year ago (which was $50 more expensive than the iPhone 7). We’ve gone from a $649 entry price to $749 in two years. Apple also axed its last compact, truly affordable phone: the $399 iPhone SE.
So, none of the new iPhones in 2018 has a trusty home button (fingerprint sensor), and they’re all $749 or higher. There’s also no iPhone for people with smaller hands anymore.
Some of you are probably excited to get your hands on the new iPhones. Maybe Face ID looks convenient or the larger, edge-to-edge screen is enticing. It’s tough not to want the hot new phone, but in 2018, there’s no shame in sticking with a tried-and-true design. Luckily, Apple had kept two classic iPhones in its lineup, and both are worth considering if you need an upgrade.
We’ve recommended the iPhone 8 over the iPhone X for a year now. It doesn’t look as fresh and fabulous as the full-screen X iPhones or have Face ID or those wacky Animoji. There’s also absolutely no functional downsides to it: You get the reliable, straightforward home button with Touch ID, which still has some advantages over the newer facial recognition tech. The cameras remain fantastic, and the 8 Plus even has dual rear cameras with a Portrait Mode, and most of the camera features you’d get with an X.
Thanks to the home button, you can more easily enter the multitasking menu, open the control panel, and activate Reachability mode. Plus, unlike the brand-new phones, Apple still gives you a headphone adapter in the box. For anyone who likes using their phone one-handed, the iPhone 8 is your final great option. If you buy it new this year, it should remain powerful enough to suit you for years to come.
For most people, the iPhone 7 is still more than enough phone. It still runs plenty quick and is nearly indistinguishable from the iPhone 8 in most ways. The most visible difference is the back, which is aluminum, not glass. This means you can’t wirelessly charge the 7, but it’s far from a dealbreaker. Photo quality is also a bit lower than the 8, but still strong if you look at similarly-priced Android handsets. If you choose the Plus model, it has dual rear cameras with a second telephoto lens and Portrait mode.
Where the iPhone 7 comes up short is in the storage department—you get a pitiful 32 GB for your $449. Apple could easily bump it up to 64GB in the base model, but it’s an up-charge to get more. We recommend that you opt for the $549 128GB model unless you don’t use many apps and hardly touch your camera.
Last Year’s Apple Watch Series 3 is Also Still Great
The new Apple Watch Series 4 is impressive. It has a larger screen that you can pack with more widgets than ever, and a bevy of useful, potentially lifesaving, new heart monitoring features. It includes groundbreaking new EKG technology, and is FDA approved as a medical device. Sadly, it starts at $399.
The Apple Watch Series 3 now starts at $279. It’s only a year old, still plenty fast, and can do most everything the new watch can, save those fancy heart rate features. Apple has a pretty good visual comparison of the differences, here, but it still looks modern in either 38mm or 42mm sizes.
You Don’t Need the Latest
The average selling price of all iPhones (including old cheaper ones) recently rose to $724, up from $606 a year ago, and that number will only go up this year. We’re now paying around $250 more for a bottom-of-the-barrel new iPhone than we did when it first went on sale a decade ago. You may want to ask yourself if you need to pay more.
It no longer matters if you have the absolute latest smartphone. We’re at a point when some of last year’s phones are still fantastic, and there are a lot of cheap phones that work incredibly well, too. Even Apple is making its latest iOS 12 software work better on old devices, so it’s clear that these models will remain relevant for a while yet. If you need to upgrade, do yourself a favor—enjoy the money you save, and stick with the familiar home button for a few more years.
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