A large chunk of Apple’s audience is already lighting their bank accounts on fire in anticipation of all the neat new gear they can start preordering this week. That’s just the way it is, and partly why Apple can afford to do things like build sprawling, $200 buildings in the heart of Silicon Valley.
No matter the price, or specifications, 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 Apple totally didn’t borrow from that other company.
You, however, are a reasonable Lifehacker reader who isn’t afraid to pay big bucks for sweet, geeky gear, but only if it provides a value and experience that’s greater than that which you already have. In other words, you don’t buy based on hype, and you don’t need an upgrade just because it’s new; you need an upgrade if it’s actually worth buying.
iPhone XR: 6.1-inch “Liquid Retina” LCD display; 64GB, 128GB, or 256GB storage; red, yellow, white, coral, black, and blue finishes; A12 Bionic chip; 12MP wide-angle camera; 7MP front-facing “TrueDepth” camera. Ranging from $749 to $899.
iPhone XS: 5.8-inch OLED display; 64GB, 256GB or 512GB storage; gold, space gray, and silver finishes; A12 Bionic chip; 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras; 7MP front-facing “TrueDepth” camera. Ranging from $999 to $1,349.
iPhone XS Max: 6.5-inch OLED display. Everything else the iPhone XS has. Ranging from $1,099 to $1,449.
If you own an iPhone X, congratulations! Your expensive smartphone lasted less time than the iPhone 8, as your relic is no longer purchasable from Apple… but the iPhone 8 (and even the iPhone 7) are still there. This makes sense, of course, since there’s absolutely no reason to buy an iPhone X with Apple dropping three new iPhones (two XSs and an XR) that basically take all the good things about the iPhone X and reconfigure them in different ways.
If you upgrade—and I don’t think it makes sense to upgrade—you’re not getting all that much, hardware-wise. That’s not to say the A12 Bionic chip in the iPhone XS isn’t faster: Apple claims performance boosts of 15 percent for its two “performance” cores; a speed boost of 50 percent from its apple-design GPU; and a big, juicy brain an eight-core neural engine that can reach 5 trillion operations per second (more than eight times your device’s “meager” 600 billion operations per second).
If you’re a big photography nut—and Apple loves you, if so—the iPhone XS and XS Max aren’t coming out of the gate with a crazy-higher megapixel count for the wide-angle camera 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, the big improvement, the ability to edit a photo’s depth of field after you’ve taken it.
Would I drop $1,000 on that after already paying (at least) $1,000 for an iPhone X last year? No. Are the iPhone XS’ other improvements worth an expensive $1,000 upgrade? No. But you can probably sell your iPhone X for at least $500 or so right now from one of the many trade-in places (or eBay), so that helps soften the blow a bit. Generally speaking, though, I’d wait for next year’s iPhone upgrade—the non-”s” cycle—to really get your money’s worth.