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4 Questions To Help You Decide Which iPhone to Buy

How to make a decision between the iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11, or maybe even iPhone XR as your new iPhone.


Yesterday, Apple announced its new line of iPhones at the traditional fall event, unveiling the new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max for the first time. Fortunately, for prospective buyers, the differences between the various phones in the lineup are clearer than ever, so you might already have a pretty good idea of which phone is right for you. But if you’re still having a little bit of doubt thinking through the decision, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you pull the trigger when preorders start at 5 a.m. PT / 8 a.m. ET on Friday morning. For reference, as you consider your options, the iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999, the 11 Pro Max at $1,099, the iPhone 11 at $699, the iPhone XR at $599, and the iPhone 8 at $449.

Do I actually need a new iPhone?

It’s always smart to pump the brakes before a big purchase, but it’s a more important step than ever when it comes to the iPhone, for a few reasons. In the past five or so years, smartphones have achieved a pretty consistent base level of competence in terms of camera quality and processing power while, at the same time, the price of the most cutting edge models has risen. The result is that when you buy a new phone, you get much less for your money than you might have a few years ago. Accordingly, your older phone will go further than you might expect. So long as your phone is still qualifying for new software updates (phones as old as the 6S and SE will get iOS 13), it may make sense to consider investing in a battery replacement, backup, and factory reset to make an old iPhone feel fresh again at a much lower cost. Also, if you want a new phone but you’re not sure you want an iPhone, you’d be wise to hold out for Google’s almost certain Pixel 4 release next month.

Do I want or need a phone that’s trying to do battle with a DSLR?

Apple’s new Pro phones have a handful of advantages over the iPhone 11, including a sharper OLED screen versus the 11’s LCD, better water resistence, an included 18-watt fast charger, and slightly better battery life. But the only difference that’s significant enough to really drive your decision is the camera. The Pros’ photo and video tricks are impressive, with zoom capabilities from 0.5x wide shots to 2x telephoto and the ability, with apps like Filmic which was demoed on the big stage, record video from both the rear and front facing cameras at the same time. These are impressive, but somewhat niche capabilities, and ones that run a pretty serious risk of going unused if you don’t go in intending to use them. Are you stoked at the prospect of using your phone as a tool to create photo and video art? Do you do that on a regular basis already? The iPhone 11 Pro could be a big upgrade for you. Does it feel like the Pro is maybe a little too much? Trust your instincts and give it a pass.

How much do I care about the camera at all?

If you’ve ruled out the iPhone 11 Pro because its camera is overkill, it’s time to decide between the iPhone 11 and the still-pretty-solid iPhone XR. The difference between them, again, largely comes down to the camera. With its dual wide and ultrawide cameras and resulting optical zoom capability, the iPhone 11 gives you more shooting options than the single-lens iPhone XR, but both share the a 12 megapixel sensor. Aside from zoom options, and the iPhone 11’s additional software tricks like Night Mode, Smart HDR and extra Portrait Lighting effects, you can expect a reasonably similar performance when it comes to everyday photography. The iPhone 11 also has a superior front-facing camera, with a 12-megapixel sensor to the XR’s 7-megapixel option, which also gives the iPhone 11’s front-facer to shoot video in 4K. If any of those features strike you as worth $100, then the iPhone 11 is a good bet, but its other advantages over the XR (a slightly better processor, more significant waterproofing, moderately better battery life) are fairly minor and you probably won’t really notice them day to day.

Do I want to go the budget route?

If even the iPhone XR’s $699 starting price point feels rich for your blood, or you want to keep your options open for whatever next year may bring, Apple’s $450 deal on the iPhone 8 is a far from a bad buy. It means giving up all the tricks that debuted with the iPhone X and now feel fairly standard (a full screen, and Face-ID chief among them), but performance and camera are still very well competent. The one thing to note if you’re considering this route is that the iPhone 8’s A11 Bionic CPU is the oldest of all the phones currently in Apple’s lineup, which means the 8 will almost certainly lose out to future iOS updates sooner than any other phone currently on offer from Apple. That said, iOS 13 is still supporting the comparatively ancient A9 chip inside the iPhone 6S, so odds are you are in the clear for another two or three years.

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