Want an iPhone? Start the search with these

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - TECH - Eli Blu­men­thal

With the iPhone XR set to go on sale Fri­day, Ap­ple’s 2018 iPhone lineup is seem­ingly com­plete for the hol­i­days. Now comes the fun – or hard – part if you’re in need of a new iPhone: pick­ing out which one you should buy.

Ap­ple’s cur­rent list of phones ranges from the $449 32GB iPhone 7 to $1,449 for the 512GB iPhone XS Max, of­fer­ing a wide range of op­tions at a va­ri­ety of prices.

Here’s a guide to help you nav­i­gate through them.

Note: This guide fo­cuses on new iPhones and isn’t fac­tor­ing trade-ins that could bring the prices down de­pend­ing on your store or car­rier. We also aren’t talk­ing about An­droid de­vices, though there are plenty of great op­tions for that plat­form, too.

Like the home but­ton? Get an iPhone 8

If you like a home but­ton, your choices are sim­ple: an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus or an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus.

At $599, the iPhone 8 costs $150 more than the iPhone 7 (and the $699 8 Plus is $130 more than the 7 Plus). As far as fea­tures and de­sign, the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two lines are fairly mi­nor. The screens are the same sizes and res­o­lu­tions, the cam­era im­prove­ments on the 8 line aren’t ter­ri­bly sig­nif­i­cant, and all de­vices are water re­sis­tant and lack a tra­di­tional 3.5mm head­phone jack.

So why spend the ex­tra money? Two rea­sons: the faster pro­ces­sor and the im­proved stor­age ca­pac­i­ties.

To­day, peo­ple are hold­ing onto their phones for longer than the tra­di­tional two-year up­grade cy­cle of the past decade. With these purchases now stretch­ing fur­ther, it makes sense to get a de­vice that is bet­ter equipped. Whereas An­droid de­vices let you aug­ment stor­age with mem­ory cards, you can’t do that with iPhones (though iCloud and Google Pho­tos are good op­tions for back­ing things up to the cloud). You also can’t up­grade the pro­ces­sor.

This makes the price dif­fer­ence, which gets you 64GB of stor­age on a base 8 or 8 Plus as well as Ap­ple’s A11 pro­ces­sor, all the more worth­while in the long run.

Want a ‘new’ iPhone? Check out the XR

Ap­ple’s lat­est iPhones are a far depar­ture in de­sign from the home but­ton days of the orig­i­nal.

Suc­ces­sors to last year’s iPhone X, all three of Ap­ple’s lat­est iPhone’s – the XS, XS Max and newly re­leased XR – drop the home but­ton for larger edge-to-edge dis­plays, have much-im­proved cam­eras and run faster pro­ces­sors.

For many, the $749 iPhone XR will be the right iPhone to buy. Its LCD dis­play (Ap­ple calls it “Liq­uid Retina”) isn’t as sharp as the fancier OLED dis­plays on the XS and XS Max, and it lacks the sec­ond tele­photo cam­era on the back for im­proved por­trait pho­tos.

But that’s not to say the XR is a bad phone. The big­gest of the dif­fer­ences, the dis­play, is ac­tu­ally pretty good. So good, in fact, that USA TO­DAY’s Ed Baig in his review noted that “many of you would only no­tice the dis­play dis­crep­an­cies if you laid an XS or XS Max next to an XR, side by side, if even at that.”

At 6.1 inches, the dis­play is right in be­tween the XS’s 5.8-inch screen and the 6.5-inch dis­play of the XS Max. Size­wise, it’s slightly larger than a reg­u­lar iPhone 6-7-8 and slightly smaller than one of the Plus va­ri­eties.

It has the same pro­ces­sor, sim­i­lar stor­age ca­pac­i­ties and packs many of the fea­tures the XS mod­els have, in­clud­ing water re­sis­tance and wire­less charg­ing (though the XS is a bit stronger on the water-re­sis­tance side). Be­cause of its lower-res­o­lu­tion dis­play com­pared to the OLED mod­els, Ap­ple also says the XR will ac­tu­ally have bet­ter bat­tery life.

Over the course of a 24-month pay­ment plan, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the XR and XS is over $10 per month. For what for many might not be a ma­jor dif­fer­ence in screen and cam­era, you will likely be bet­ter off sav­ing your money and go­ing with the XR.

Want a big-screen phone? Get the XS Max

It makes the most sense to buy the XS if you want the largest dis­play you can get on an iPhone. At 6.5 inches, the XS Max packs one of the largest screens avail­able on a phone in the U.S. to­day.

Most im­pres­sive with the XS Max, how­ever, is that the mas­sive dis­play is ac­tu­ally quite com­pact. While the screen is an inch larger than the 8 Plus, the phones are roughly the same size be­cause of the re­moval of the home but­ton and top bezel.

At $1,099 for the 64GB ver­sion, the XS Max isn’t cheap. But if you want all the lat­est Ap­ple has to of­fer on the largest iPhone screen yet, you’ll be very happy with the XS Max.

What to avoid:

Buy­ing a new iPhone 7 or 7 Plus and the iPhone X

As men­tioned above, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are bad op­tions both for the smaller stor­age of­fered and their weaker pro­ces­sors. As­sum­ing you hold on to your phone for more than two years, you’ll re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate this then.

When Ap­ple’s new iPhones were an­nounced in Septem­ber, plenty of peo­ple asked about try­ing to buy an iPhone X on a dis­count from a car­rier.

For $899.99 for the 64GB X, buy­ing last year’s iPhone at a $100 dis­count isn’t much of a sav­ings. For the ex­tra $100, or just over $4 per month on a 24month pay­ment plan, you’d get the im­proved XS. For $150 less, you’d sac­ri­fice the OLED dis­play but get a faster phone in the XR.

As for Ap­ple’s smaller iPhone SE? While not of­fi­cially sold by Ap­ple, you can still find the phone at a num­ber of car­ri­ers and pre­paid providers. If you want a smaller iPhone or need a re­place­ment iPhone for cheap, the SE isn’t a bad choice, par­tic­u­larly if you find it for less than $200.

Just remember that the phone you are get­ting doesn’t just have a 4-inch dis­play; it runs a now roughly 3-year-old pro­ces­sor and specs.

Plus, a suc­ces­sor has been heav­ily ru­mored to be around the cor­ner, pos­si­bly in 2019.


The new iPhone XS Max, left – which goes for $1,499 for the 512GB ver­sion – and the XS.

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