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New iPhones: which one should I buy?

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Just yesterday Apple announced three brand new iPhones: the XS, the XS Max, and the XR. These new devices give customers more choice than ever when choosing a new iPhone, at the expense of a more confusing lineup.

With preorders for the new iPhones going live tomorrow (Sept. 14) and shipping a week later, we’ve decided to break down the selection in the simplest terms possible to help you decide which model is best for you – even if the answer turns out to be none of the above.

The latest devices

First up, let’s take a look at the three new devices announced this week. Bear in mind these starting prices can increase substantially if you opt for the storage upgrades, though we’d note that the base level will be plenty for most users.

iPhone XR from $749/£749

iPhone XS from $999/£999

iPhone XS Max from $1099/£1099

iPhone XR is bigger than the XS but smaller than the XS Max

The ‘X’ models on that list all share the latest stylings: edge-to-edge displays, no Home button, and a ‘notch’ at the top of the display. The notch makes them the only devices with Face ID, Animoji, and Memoji, while their 12MP cameras all feature Portrait mode as well as exclusive new features like Smart HDR and depth-of-field adjustments. And they all feature Apple’s brand new A12 Bionic chip, which means that apps and games will run lightning fast. All three are impressive, top-of-the-line smartphones.

If any of that appeals, you’ve got a secondary choice to make, which will mostly depend on how important screen size and cost are to you. Let’s start with size: the iPhone XS Max is identical to the iPhone XS, but an extra $100 will net you a much bigger display and an extra hour of battery life. This is the one to get if you want the biggest and best Apple has to offer.

Finally, the iPhone XR. This is Apple’s attempt to bring its ‘premium’ iPhones to the masses. Though it shares the same powerful chip as its brothers, it has a less impressive display, is made of cheaper materials, and lacks a telephoto lens on the back. These things certainly make a difference, but if they’re not dealbreakers you may want to take the opportunity to save some money. It won’t be released until the end of October, though.

One last thing: if colors are important to you, iPhone XR has one other trick up its sleeve, with a wider range of bright colors available than any other model. But it doesn’t come in a new flavor of gold that’s exclusive to iPhone XS and XS Max.

Older devices

If you’re on a budget, or not too fussed about nabbing the latest tech as soon as it comes out, you’ll be pleased to know that previous generations of iPhone have had their prices cut. iPhone X has been discontinued in the wake of its successors, and there’s no sign of an update to iPhone SE – but these older models should help Apple compete towards the lower end of the market. Here are your options if you’re avoiding the new iPhones.

iPhone 7 from $449/£449

iPhone 7 Plus from $569/£569

iPhone 8 from $599/£599

iPhone 8 Plus from $699/£699

Each of these devices uses the old-style design with large bezels around the display and a Home button at the bottom. As such, they use Touch ID instead of Face ID for authentication. These remain very capable devices and sport identical camera setups.

iPhone 7 is now the budget option, and lags behind a little in terms of its processing chip. If you only use your device for calls, texts, and web browsing, that won’t be an issue – but gamers, video editors, or those who like to use a lot of apps will notice the difference. iPhone 8 also adds wireless charging capabilities into the mix.

Both iPhone 7 and 8 are also available as ‘Plus’ versions, which not only offer much larger displays but also longer battery life and dual cameras. Both Plus models are compatible with Portrait photography.

So there you have it! There isn’t a bad iPhone in the lineup, but the best iPhone for you will vary depending on your personal priorities. Differences like design and screen size can only really be judged fairly in person, so we’d recommend dropping into an Apple Store to take a hands-on look at the variations yourself if you can.

Of course, you might not need an upgrade at all – iOS 12 is officially launched on Sept 17, and will actually speed up older devices. So maybe that aging iPhone 5S you’ve been holding onto will live another year after all!