For the last few years, Apple has released new iPhones in the fall. That means, every fall, many of us start wondering about upgrading. For some of us, it's not even a question. Come the first Friday it's available, we're either waiting in line outside an Apple Store, or waiting for UPS to show up.
For others, it depends on finances. Have lots of free cash? Get jet black. It's a must. Watching your budget? Save your shekels, as they say, until your current phone is not longer usable.
What about everyone else, though? What about the undecided?
The lure of new finishes, faster fusion processors, improved cameras, and the ability to survive dunks every so often, is strong. iPhone 7 is the best smartphone on the market for just about anyone. For everyone else, there's the iPhone 7 plus. You're simply not going to do bette than these devices, at least at the time of this writing.
While all the features I just listed are cool, the biggest jump for me are the new cameras. iPhone 7 now has optical image stabilization, which helps fix those shaky shots, and a brighter f/1.8 lens that really shines in low light.
iPhone 7 Plus adds a second lens for a true 2x zoom, and nifty depth-of-field portrait effect that makes pictures pop like high-end cameras. It's really great, but comes at a cost of size. That trade off is totally in the eye of beholder.
So, here's my advice:
If you went iPhone SE for the size or the price, there's still no place else to go. The only caveat I have is the capacity. iPhone SE tops out at 64gb. That's enough for many, but in the age of 4K video, HD games, and synchronized photo and music libraries, 64 GB is not nearly as spacious as it once was.
iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus
Industrial psychology has a term called the "just noticeable difference". What that means is, if something has upgraded specs, but none of those specs make a real difference to you, then those upgrades don't matter. For example, in casual shooting with both iPhone 6s and iPhone 7, most people I showed couldn't tell one from the other. Rene and Serenity will point out the low-light differences, and the aforementioned zoom and portrait features on iPhone 7 Plus.
Cameras are absolutely upgrade drivers, but if you're fine with the far-from-obsolute cameras on iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, there's no need to rush out and upgrade.
iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are still great phones, even if they're starting to show their age. The camera isn't as good as either iPhone 6s or iPhone 7, and the processor is past its prime, but if you're not feeling any photo or performance pressure, you're fine to stick with them. If you are feeling that pressure, though, the new cameras are really nice and the A10 is fast.
If you're still on an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, or iPhone 5s, unless you're on a really tight budget, iPhone 7 is a great upgrade. If you're looking to run iOS 10 smoothly, if you want to get the most out of apps and games, if you want a much better camera, if you want Apple Pay and all the bells and whistles, then you want iPhone 7.
Unless, of course, you want to stay with the iPhone 5 form-factor. In which case, iPhone SE.
Should you upgrade?
There will always be better, faster, thinner, sharper, smarter, and just plain better technology for the same price or less. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of iPhone. Maybe it'll be an even better upgrade than usual, maybe it'll be business as usual. Keep that in mind when you decide.
Unless you're currently using an Android phone. Then, seriously, what are you waiting for?
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