Which iPhone should you buy?

Apple has eight (!) iPhones on the market – let’s make your decision easier

16 November 2017
by Stuff Staff

Looking for the peak iPhone experience today? Well, the iPhone X is where it’s at… but the iPhone 8 Plus is also excellent. And the iPhone 8 is pretty good, too.

But that’s just the newest stuff: Apple still sells five other iPhone models from the last couple years, each offering a mostly-similar core experience with some key differences in size, power, camera quality, and other perks. Oh, and price: these super-phones range widely in terms of price. So yes, you’ll want to make an informed decision.

Luckily, we’re here to save you some of the hassle. We’ve reviewed and extensively used all of Apple’s current iPhones, and we can point you towards the right device for your wants, needs, and budget too.

IPHONE X (from US$1,115)

Here it is: Apple’s iPhone in its most ultimate form to date, and carrying the price tag to match.

At US$1,115 for the base 64GB model, or a wallet-torching US$1,290 for 256GB, buying an iPhone X is no small decision. But thankfully, it is one hell of a top-end smartphone, with a gorgeous, ultra-premium design, top-of-the-line performance, and some very cool new perks – like Face ID, which lets you unlock your phone and authorize purchases with a glance. And it works pretty well, too!

It’s all screen on the front, too, aside from that curious notch up top: that’s where the True Depth camera system resides, but it blocks a bit of display real estate that you might’ve expected. Still, the X houses the sharpest iPhone screen (5.8in and taller than normal) to date – and the first AMOLED panel on an Apple iPhone, delivering incredible contrast and deeper blacks.

Does anyone need a $1,000+ phone? Nope. You can find strong Android flagships for half the cost, or a much more affordable iPhone elsewhere in Apple’s lineup. But if you can afford the spend, this is the first iPhone in a long time that feels this fresh, innovative, and downright futuristic.

Buy the iPhone X if… you crave the cutting edge (and can afford it)

IPHONE 8 PLUS (FROM US$885)

Also released this autumn, Apple’s latest extra-large phone has been somewhat lost in the hype around the iPhone X, but it’s an another excellent revision – albeit one that lacks particularly huge advancements.

Still, the iPhone 8 Plus builds upon and refines the previous iPhone 7 Plus by packing in more power with the A11 Bionic processor, the same seen in the iPhone X, plus it improves the dual-camera system on the back. You’ll get better Portrait shots than before, plus you can magically tweak the surrounding lighting with the new Portrait Lighting feature in beta.

Elsewhere, it’s much the same: this is the same core design that Apple has used for its last few phones, and you still get a 1080p LCD panel at 5.5in, albeit now with True Tone tech that adjusts the colouring based on your ambient lighting conditions.

The iPhone 8 Plus is large and in charge, but not exactly setting any new trends either. If you want a big, powerful iPhone but don’t want to spend for the iPhone X or ditch the Touch ID sensor, this is still a fantastic option.

Buy the iPhone 8 Plus if… you want a big, yet familiar iPhone

IPHONE 8 (FROM US$775)

The former core of the iPhone family, the annual numbered edition, is now the third-best option on the market – a curious shift by Apple, but it’s definitely outmatched in some key ways by the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus.

Like the 8 Plus, the standard iPhone 8 again returns to Apple’s familiar design from the last few entries: minimal, effective, but lacking any real pop. Now you get glass on the back instead of aluminum, however (as on the 8 Plus), which also unlocks wireless charging capabilities. Nice.

The iPhone 8 is still at a nice one-handed size with its 4.7in display, although the iPhone X really isn’t much wider at this point. And with the iPhone 8, you get a lower-resolution screen than you’ll find on most flagship phones today, at 1134×750. It also has just one back camera, but it’s a pretty great one – albeit lacking the bonus tricks of the dual-camera iPhone 8 Plus.

Apple’s latest baseline phone is super powerful, super premium, and honestly a bit boring: it doesn’t make any big moves, but it’s still the best edition of this particular size and shape. If you have an older iPhone and want top-of-the-line speed in a still-fairly-compact package, this is your best option.

Buy the iPhone 8 if… you want power, not size or added perks

WHAT ABOUT THE IPHONE 7 AND 7 PLUS (FROM US$600/US$735)

Last year’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are pretty similar to the newer iPhone 8 and 8 Plus in a lot of ways, since Apple went for light iteration for its upgrades this year – but you can save a fair bit of money by going back a generation.

The iPhone 7 is very close to the iPhone 8 overall. By picking the 7, you’ll lose wireless charging and True Tone tech in the screen, plus the camera isn’t quite as excellent, but it’s darn close. Otherwise, these phones share dimensions, along with screen sizes and general quality, and the performance shouldn’t be too diminished on iOS 11.

It’s pretty much the same with the iPhone 7 Plus, too: most of the elements are nearly identical aside from minor performance enhancements. You’ll get a little more speed on the 8 Plus, you might see sharper photos here and there, and you’ll get Portrait Lighting too. But otherwise, the core experience is largely the same.

In both cases, we think it’s a fair compromise for the price savings. Don’t care about wireless charging or owning the latest and greatest? Consider the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus instead.

Buy the iPhone 7/7 Plus if… you want to save some cash over the iPhone 8 models

WHAT ABOUT THE IPHONE 6S AND 6S PLUS (FROM US$320/US$575)

Going back two generations is a bit riskier, because iOS 11 is sure to feel a bit slower on these two-year-old handsets. Not glacier-slow, we expect, but perhaps sludgier than you’d want for something you’re spending $300+ for. And it’ll get slower when iOS 12 comes out next year. Just keep that in mind.

Otherwise, this is Apple’s idea of a budget compromise: iPhones that were top-of-the-line excellent two years ago, but aren’t quite as cutting-edge with the passage of time. Most of the specs are pretty close to their iPhone 8 counterparts, though: they look about the same, they have 4.7in and 5.5in screens respectively (and at the same resolution), and the back camera is 12-megapixel on both.

We can vouch for the iPhone 6s, but we’d skip the iPhone 6s Plus at this point. Why? Well, the 6s Plus didn’t really make a strong argument for Apple’s pricier phone when it first released, aside from the larger screen and lightly improved battery life.

When the iPhone 7 Plus added the second back camera, it really clicked as an enhanced, pro-model iPhone. We’d point you towards that one instead, but it’s not like the 6s Plus is or was a bad phone at all.

Buy the iPhone 6s if… you want a more affordable, medium-sized iPhone

Buy the iPhone 6s Plus if… you want the cheapest XL iPhone you can get from Apple today

WHAT ABOUT THE IPHONE SE (FROM US$380)

Here it is: the cheapest iPhone you can still buy new from Apple today, and at about one-third of the price of the iPhone X. What’s the deal? Well, it’s tiny, it uses a years-old design, and it lacks the 3D Touch pressure-sensitive screen from every other phone on this listing.

And yet it has a purpose. For people with smaller hands, smartphones have grown enormously in recent years, even if it’s really just been a matter of inches. The iPhone SE brings back Apple’s 4in display and corresponding design from the iPhone 5 years, but packs in slightly newer tech: the same chips found in the iPhone 6s, actually.

So it’s still reasonably speedy and has a very solid 12-megapixel camera, but it feels great in one-handed usage. Thankfully, Apple has bumped up the starting storage to 32GB these days, or you can add £100 to bump that to 128GB.

The SE might look dinky compared to every other handset on this list, but that might be exactly what you want. And if so, this is still a perfectly good iPhone, albeit one that could sorely use a refresh in the very near future.

Buy the iPhone SE if… you want the smallest iPhone today, or the cheapest

 

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