From the iPhone 6 onwards, I’ve owned every single iteration. I love tech and so I always want the newest model available, even if I have no real reason to replace my phone. And so, I have gotten a new iPhone every single year. More recently, I’ve traded my phone in, and the price has not been so prohibitive.
However, that may soon change. A year ago, my iPhone 12 Pro Max was stolen. Unfortunately, I had been careless enough not to get iPhone insurance that covers theft, even though adding it to my renters insurance would have been so very easy. Since I no longer had my most recent iPhones, I went all the way back to my iPhone 8 Plus.
For context, the iPhone 8 Plus came out in 2017. It was the first iPhone to feature Portrait Mode and the last iPhone not to feature facial recognition. In other words, it seems ancient.
But to my surprise, I didn’t really miss my iPhone 12 Pro Max. The fact is that, aside from facial recognition, my 8 Plus could do just about everything a new iPhone could. With iOS not being able to recognize faces behind masks at that point, being able to use Apple Pay with my fingerprint was actually a win.
So, do you really need to upgrade your iPhone with every new model (or even every second model)?
Apple will talk up the differences between each and every iPhone. But the fact is that since the iPhone X, the differences have been iterative. In fact, the main difference between my iPhone 8 Plus and my current iPhone 13 Pro Max in terms of features is facial recognition. Every other feature is pretty much the same.
My new phone is obviously faster than the old one, but iPhones have been more than fast enough for at least the past five years. There is also the fact that my old iPhone somehow only came with 64GB which is not nearly enough (although Apple does have great features to optimize space by offloading apps and photos), but I could have gotten more space even in the heady days of 2017.
Since Memoji stickers are available on all iPhones now, even if you don’t have facial recognition, at least one of the features specific to iPhone X and above is not much of a draw.
So what is different and when is it worth upgrading your iPhone?
Camera and screen
The biggest difference that most iPhone users will notice is the camera. Every year, Apple does a great job at making the iPhone camera better and even adding features. If you compare photos on an iPhone X Max with an iPhone 13 Pro Max, you will see a significant difference. Videos are also getting way better.
With recent iPhones, you can also use nifty features like Night Mode and Ultra Width that are not available a couple of iterations back. The addition of a third camera was a real turning point when the iPhone 11 came out.
The screen is also significantly better on new iPhones. This is due to the high refresh rate possible with the latest hardware. You may notice the screen’s quality more than you would the speed with which new iPhones load apps.
The new chips in iPhones are also likely to make a bigger difference with future iOS updates. Apple’s biggest advancements over the past few years have involved the hardware that makes your devices run, and the difference will begin to show once software starts using these capabilities to their full potential.
Should I upgrade?
If you’re wondering whether you should upgrade, the answer depends on your personal experience. If you bought an iPhone within the past four years, you probably won’t notice too many new features in an upgrade. Unless your phone’s speed is frustrating you or it no longer has much battery life, your new phone won’t make that much of a difference.
That being said, if you love having the newest device, nothing is going to stop you. While I no longer see the need of actually replacing my phone yearly, I’ll probably still do it. The fear of missing out is real.