Should You Upgrade to Apple’s IPhone XS or IPhone XR?

A sizable chunk of Apple’s audience is already setting fire to their bank accounts in anticipation of the neat new hardware they might start pre-ordering this week. It is, and this is partly why Apple can afford to build sprawling $ 200 buildings in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Regardless of price or specs, a lot of people are going to order one of the new iPhones: the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max – a naming convention that Apple hasn’t completely borrowed from this other company .

You are, however, a prudent Lifehacker reader who is not afraid to pay big bucks for cute, interesting gear, but only if it provides more value and experience than the ones you already have. In other words, you don’t buy based on hype, and you don’t need an update just because it’s new; you need an upgrade if it’s really worth buying.

Should you buy a new iPhone? Let’s explore:

iPhone: XR, XS and XS Max

Main characteristics

  • iPhone XR : 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD 64 GB, 128 GB or 256 GB of storage; red, yellow, white, coral, black and blue colors; A12 Bionic chip; 12MP wide-angle camera; 7MP TrueDepth front camera. $ 749 to $ 899.
  • iPhone XS : 5.8-inch OLED display 64 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB of memory; finishes in gold, space gray and silver; A12 Bionic chip; 12MP wide-angle and telephoto lenses; 7MP TrueDepth front camera. $ 999 to $ 1349.
  • iPhone XS Max : 6.5-inch OLED display Everything else is in the iPhone XS. From $ 1099 to $ 1449.

If you have an iPhone X …

Congratulations: your expensive smartphone lasted less than the iPhone 8, as your relic can no longer be bought from Apple … but the iPhone 8 (and even the iPhone 7) is still there. This makes sense, of course, as there is absolutely no reason to buy an iPhone X when Apple ditches three new iPhones (two XS and XR), which basically take all the good things about the iPhone X and reconfigure them in different ways.

When upgrading, and I don’t think it makes sense to upgrade – you don’t get all that much hardware-wise. This is not to say that the A12 Bionic chip in the iPhone XS is not faster: Apple claims a performance improvement of 15 percent for the two “productive” cores; 50 percent faster speed over Apple GPU and a big, juicy brain , an octa-core neural engine that can do 5 trillion operations per second (more than eight times the “meager” 600 billion operations per second of your device).

Let’s go outside the spec for a second. In day to day use, your iPhone X is probably fast enough for everything you need. You probably don’t use augmented reality very often. I’m sure your smartphone camera and photo processing looks pretty fast. You might be a gamer, but even an iPhone at its best won’t look as good as one of the many (cheaper) gaming devices like Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 2DS or 3DS, etc. etc.

No matter how much Apple wants you to sweat with Kayla or run Pokemon Go (or any of its many clones), a device with more processing power than your current iPhone X won’t give you the best app experience except for the most extreme cases. Or, to put it another way, I’m still using the iPhone 8 Plus ( I know, I know ) and I have yet to use an app that makes me think, “Damn it, I probably need a faster iPhone. It’s horrible.”

If you’re the big photo freak – and Apple loves you, if so – the iPhone XS and XS Max won’t come out the gate with insanely high megapixels for wide-angle or telephoto cameras. There’s a new, larger sensor and improved TrueTone flash, but that’s probably not as monumental as the devices’ Smart HDR mode and, most importantly, the ability to edit the depth of field of a photo after you’ve taken it.

Can I spend $ 1,000 on this after I already paid (at least) $ 1,000 for an iPhone X last year? No. Are the other iPhone XS improvements worth the $ 1000 upgrade? No. But you can probably sell your iPhone X for at least $ 500 right now at one of the many exchange offices (or eBay), so that will help soften the blow a little. All in all, though, I would wait until next year’s iPhone update – a cycle without the “s” – to really get your money back.

If you have an iPhone 8/8 Plus …

This one gets a little tricky. I really like my home button and would love to take selfies in portrait mode. And while Apple has allowed other devices ( cough, cough “budget” iPhone XR ) to have a software solution for portrait mode using one camera, the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus is apparently too dumb to make it work. Or Apple wants to give users every possible reason to upgrade. I suspect the latter.

As before, my performance argument still holds true – I haven’t had enough bad app experience yet to make me yearn for a new iPhone. However, my iPhone 8 Plus is a full year old. The battery is fine, but the value of my iPhone will soon reach a point where I get almost nothing for the exchange. I’d rather hit while the iron isn’t warm, and at least get something sensible for my device. I can still.

I love the dimensions of the iPhone XS: The regular iPhone XS offers more screen real estate than the iPhone 8 Plus (5.8 to 5.5 inches) in a smaller form factor. That sounds interesting. And if you want to stick with the giant size of the iPhone 8 Plus, you get 6.5 inches of screen on the iPhone XS Max. This is great and I definitely want to upgrade. Plus, you get a much better looking OLED screen, higher pixel density, and all the photographic improvements mentioned earlier, as well as optical image stabilization for your telephoto lens, and a slightly faster lens (/ 2.4 versus ƒ / 2.8 ). And don’t forget about the animoji. There must be this talking turd.

I’ll probably upgrade to a new iPhone because it seems like a reasonable upgrade, but I could make an equally compelling case for keeping my device. If you’re using an iPhone 8, I’d recommend buying at least the iPhone XR – the camera features are interesting enough to warrant their attempts, although the iPhone itself will be larger than what you’ve been using. to use (and you may not like it). This gives you reasonable access to performance, security, and speed improvements without forcing you to lose the four-figure price tag for a new iPhone.

The iPhone XS is even more energized (obviously), but if you weren’t influenced by last year’s iPhone X, you probably won’t be as convinced to pay that much to improve it over the iPhone XR: OLED “True Tone” display; second, telephoto lens; slightly smaller form factor; 3D Touch (take it while you can!); and other portrait lighting effects, just to name a few.

If you’re using an iPhone 8 Plus like me, you probably want to use at least the iPhone XS. The iPhone XR seems like a small step back from the iPhone 8 Plus, given the loss of the telephoto lens and multiple portrait mode effects. The iPhone XS, by contrast, gives you a slightly larger (OLED) screen in a much smaller form factor, which seems like a more noticeable upgrade for its (admittedly higher) price tag.

This is in addition to all the other improvements that all three iPhones have: a faster A12 chip, dual SIM capabilities ( if your carriers support it ), animoji, depth control (changing the depth of field of a photo after the fact), slightly more battery life. for your device (+1.5 hours for the iPhone XR versus the iPhone 8 Plus and an additional half hour to one and a half hours for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max versus the iPhone X).

If you have an old iPhone …

For some reason, you haven’t updated your iPhone for a long time. And that’s okay! You don’t have to buy a new iPhone every year. You don’t even need to buy a new iPhone every two years.

I’m going to suggest that there is some special reason why you are not updating – it might be too expensive. While I usually suggest buying the very best device you can get (iPhone XS or XS Max) to keep you protected for a few years, that starting $ 1,000 price tag is tricky to look at. The iPhone XR is a great alternative for all the reasons I mentioned earlier – it feels like the best budget device Apple currently has.

However, Apple still offers both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 (regular and Plus versions). I wouldn’t buy an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus because they seem incredibly ancient (even if they’re cheap, they now start at just $ 449 for the iPhone 7 or $ 569 for the iPhone 7 Plus). The iPhone 8 strikes me as a sweet spot: $ 599 for the iPhone 8 or $ 699 for the iPhone 8 Plus. You get wireless charging, prettier glass back, 64GB of storage for the cheapest version of the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, prettier True Tone display, 3D Touch (as long as it lasts), lighting effects Portrait (on iPhone 8 Plus ), support for 4K video at 30 and 60 fps, as well as slow-motion video at higher resolutions.

I realize that some of these features are not the most important, but I think wireless charging and additional storage are worth a slight price increase on their own. At the very least, I’d prefer the 64GB iPhone 8 over the 128GB iPhone 7, especially with a $ 50 gap between the two. In my experience, the 32GB iPhone 7 won’t be enough for your apps, photos and movies, while the 64GB iPhone 8 seems like the best option.

If you don’t have an iPhone at all …

The cheapest iPhone XS (64GB) costs $ 140 more than the 256GB Samsung Galaxy S9 +, $ 350 more than the Google Pixel 2 (64GB), $ 370 more than the most feature-packed OnePlus 6 you have. you can get (256GB) and $ 200 more than the Razer Phone (64GB). Welcome to the Apple ecosystem, Android fans. I can’t compare every device to Apple’s latest offerings, but I know you’ll probably pay a lot more if you want the very best (or average best) that Apple has to offer.

If you are used to top-notch smartphones from major Android manufacturers, I guess you will want to at least opt ​​for the iPhone XS – because of its screen size, OLED display, camera, overall performance, and so on. The iPhone XR is more like the “budget” version of Apple’s latest offerings, but I doubt you’d want to try it, either on the iPhone 8 or iPhone 7 if you’re used to the latest and greatest.

The iPhone XR is a good temporary phone if you need to upgrade to something much better than your old device and don’t want to spend $ 1,000 on it. Otherwise, if you’re using something like the Samsung Galaxy S9 – you spend money on it it’s iPhone XS (or iPhone XS Max).


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