Since Apple have positively and officially lost the plot when it comes to their iPhone Model Offerings, and with the “new iPhone” just around the corner, I thought I’d take a look at which iPhone model – in August 2018 – is the best one to buy.
I shudder to think what and how many other models our friends in Cupertino will announce in September, and which of the many models of iPhone currently available will be ditched from the lineup.
This article was inspired by a chat I had with a friend of mine the other day, and he asked me which iPhone he should buy. He’s an average user, by no means a fanboy or techie, but he’s been a long-time Apple user. He was genuinely confused by the current state of affairs in regards to the available iPhone models.
I agreed, and we both began to discuss the inevitable “has Apple lost the plot” aspects of iPhone developments. That aside, here’s the overall result of our discussion, strictly based my own opinion as both a hobby-developer and iPhone user.
At the time of writing, which is August 2018, we have the following lineup to choose from:
iPhone X (introduced in late 2017)
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus (late 2017)
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (late 2016)
iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus (late 2015)
iPhone SE (late 2015)
All these models come in various RAM and colour configurations. This is more variety than Apple has ever had on offer in the iPhone arsenal, which in and by itself suggests that they no longer know what consumers actually want. Otherwise, they’d do what they usually do: offer the latest model, and last year’s model for $100 less.
Not all of these models are going to be on offer forever, and this lineup is probably due to change in September, when traditionally new iPhone models are released.
But until then, let’s see which one is a sensible one to pick from the iPhone smorgasbord.
Futuristic vs Classic
Let’s start by discussing the latest introduction of iPhone model first: should you buy the futuristic iPhone X, or stick with a classic “tried-and-tested” iPhone 8/8Plus?
The way I see it, iPhone X is something of an experimental device. They’ve built this thing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the iPhone release. And good for them to bring out something special. The iPhone has truly changed the world, and I like the fact that this has been acknowledged by new hardware.
But it’s an experiment: Apple are trying out how users react to the removed Touch ID feature, and probably want some feedback on what we all think about Face ID.
So I’m thinking, if you have a spare $1000, and if you have a spare iPhone you can go back to at any time, consider this an “additional treat” if you will, and buy it as such if you’re interested to try out a new gadget. See if you like it.
That’s all I can suggest on the iPhone X topic. I would not recommend buying this as a serious replacement for a current iPhone you rely on in your daily life or business, simple as that. Instead I’d keep my eyes peeled and see how this X development pans out over the next few years.
I see this as a test device, a beta test, nothing more, and I would strongly recommend to stick with one of the “classic” designs instead.
Fragile (8) vs Rugged (7/6s)
You may have heard stories of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus being made completely out of glass, and that if you look at them funny, said glass is going to crack. According to many tests by a great many people, this appears to be quite true – despite of what our friends in Cupertino are telling us. Take a quick look on YouTube to see this for yourself.
Apparently “the strongest glass ever” is being used to make Jony Ive’s design dream come true. Be that as it may, glass is glass – no matter how strong. And therefore, it’s prone to crack. Period.
Should this happen, Apple are happy to repair to for you – at a slightly steep price tag of $500+ for a cracked screen and/or back replacement. They don’t differentiate: either front or back is cracked, it’ll cost’ya.
Based on those facts, I would NOT recommend buying an iPhone 8 or an iPhone 8 Plus at this time, unless you’re happy to buy a strong case to to with it from day one.
Although the iPhone 8 does have the latest hardware, I’d personally be living with the constant fear of it breaking – even if I handled it like a raw egg (which is just not possible in everyday life). In addition, it doesn’t have a headphone socket anymore either, the implications of which we’ll discuss in a moment.
And while the 8 has a slightly improved portrait camera, wireless charging, and the latest and fastest hardware (just like the iPhone X), I do not consider those factors good enough to warrant an upgrade from the previous (tried-and-tested) build quality.
Therefore, I’d highly recommend sticking with either the iPhone 7 / iPhone 7 Plus or even prior model like the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus.
The Headphone Socket Problem
With the introduction of the iPhone 7, Apple have removed the tried-and-tested standard 3.5mm TRRS headphone jack. All you now have at the bottom of the iPhone 7 (and 8 and X) is the Lightning Port.
That’s not an issue if you’re either using the earbuds that come with the new devices (they have a lightning connector, as well as an adaptor), or if you’re using wireless Bluetooth headphones.
But it’s a massive issue if you’re working in the audio or video industry and you casually use your iOS device for audio recording or playback, with the need to attach your device into an existing workflow. Besides, some have moaned, that it’s not easy to charge your phone anymore while listening when using headphones.
Arguably, everything can be done with the included or a specialised adaptor, and of course you can purchase additional Lighting to 3.5mm TRRS adaptors. But if you’re frequently using that 3.5mm jack, it’s an additional cost you could do without, not to mention the added bulk it adds to the device.
For example, I do multi-camera interviews using iOS devices. Each participant gets a dedicated microphone, and the less is attached to each devices, the better it is (not to mention the extra $80 I get to keep in my pocket).
Standard Size vs Plus Size vs Pocket Size
The next interesting option is always which physical size to buy. It’s a bit like the endless topic of “how much RAM should I buy”.
Right now we have the following sizes to choose from:
the small 4″ iPhone SE
the 4.7″ standard iPhone
and the 5.7″ Plus size
At the end of the day, this comes down to personal preference. Even though with RAM, more is always better than less, physical size is a different ballgame. It’s more difficult to make a decision if you’re thinking of changing from the size you currently have. Here are my two cents on this matter:
I found that the 4.7″ size (standard iPhone 6s/7/8/X) is pretty much just the right size for my hands and my trouser pockets, although weirdly, that’s not the one I use. My wife uses this, and whenever I get to play with it, I’m thinking it’s just right, and I’d probably recommend it.
I also own a 5.7″ Plus size iPhone, and I find myself using it lovingly in my home as a serious replacement for my iPad, which I haven’t replaced for years. It feels more like an iPad Mini, yet it’s small enough to fit in your pocket and it has all the benefits of an iPhone. I’d highly recommend a Plus size if you don’t have a tablet and you think the smaller screen size could just be that little bit bigger.
The Plus size is great for reading, browsing, writing, and anything that can be done for extended periods of time. However, whipping it out of my pocket every 4 seconds can get a little annoying due to its increased size, much like having it in your back pocket. I’ve tried it, and its just a bit too big for me to carry around on my bodyall the time. If I have a separate bag with me, no problem – but as an “always on-me” device, it might just be too big for some users.
For a small size “always on-me” device I would in fact recommend the iPhone SE, simply because it’s so tiny and it does indeed fit into any trouser pocket without being noticed much. It’s large enough to get the job done, however the small screen can get on my nerves with things I do for longer periods of time, like reading and typing. But for occasional use, and as a highly portable device or music player, the SE is just right.
So I would recommend sticking with the 4.7″ standard size, and if that’s still too large for your pockets, go with the smaller SE. If you fancy something larger, or if you don’t have a separate iPad type device, the Plus is the one to get.
Here’s what I told my friend: pick a size that you like, then see how important that 3.5mm headphone socket is for you.
If you like the 4″ form factor, go with the iPhone SE. It’s a small and (relatively) cheap powerhouse that has it all.
If you like the slightly larger 4.7″ form factor, and you want a headphone socket, go with the iPhone 6s before it’ll be taken off the shelves forever. After September, it may be gone for good.
If the headphone socket thing is not important to you, go with the iPhone 7 (not the 8, nor the X). Again, we don’t know if the iPhone 7 will be around after September at this time.
And if you like a really large almost iPad Mini sized iPhone, and you need that headphone socket, go for the 6s Plus. If the headphone socket isn’t that important to you, choose the iPhone 7 Plus (not the 8 Plus, nor the X).