I’ve been playing with the iPhone 8 for a week or two, and in that time I’ve only found a handful of reasons to actually upgrade beyond the iPhone 6s and 7. That’s not to say it’s a bad phone, but it’s not a particularly compelling upgrade.
If the iPhone 8 falls flat for you and you’re still looking for a way to put a dent in your wallet, you’re better off waiting for the upcoming iPhone X instead.
So let’s explore your options, and consider the alternatives.
1. Your iPhone Is Old
When I say old, I mean “iPhone 6 old” — a three-year old device. If you’re coming from an A8 processor, slow Touch ID scanner, tinny speakers, no weather or dust proofing, and a paltry amount of storage, the iPhone 8 is a great buy. It’s a refined version of last year’s iPhone 7 and you’ll notice a huge leap in performance.
An aging device is the number one reason for upgrading this time around. The iPhone 6s is still a serviceable phone, and it doesn’t lack any huge features not present on the iPhone 8. You’ve got 3D Touch, hands-free Siri, a decent fingerprint scanner, and a solid A9 system-on-a-chip. You even get a real headphone port!
If you’re noticing a serious slowdown, tabs and apps falling out of memory all the time, and disappointing battery life then a new iPhone will fix that. But if you’ve been getting along just fine or are willing to invest in a USB battery or charging case, you’re better off waiting another year and seeing what Apple brings to the table in 2018.
Alternatively: Your iPhone 6s or 7 still performs well and holds a charge.
2. 4K Video at 60 FPS and Better Stills
The Panasonic GH5 does 60 frames per second in glorious 4K, but it costs $2000 without any lenses. Sony’s impressively small a6500 doesn’t support the feature at all, instead capping out at 4K 30 frames, and costs $1,400 without a lens.
The fact that the iPhone 8 manages full 4K video at 60 frames per second is amazing, and a testament to the power of Apple’s new A11 Bionic system-on-chip. Granted, you’re not going to get Panasonic or Sony-level images, the footage will be noisier, you can’t change lenses, and depth of field is crushed by the proximity of the lens to the sensor.
But this is still a huge achievement. If you work with video or are a keen hobbyist, the iPhone 8 could be an invaluable tool in capturing additional B-roll. A frame rate of 60 frames per second will allow you to play the footage back at half-speed, for smoother pans and some degree of slow-motion.
And you don’t need to publish in 4K to appreciate the format. Merely downsampling a 4K image to 2K or 1080p can provide better-looking footage than native 1080p capture. You can also crop your footage, apply a Ken Burns effect, or take decent-quality stills. If you can shoot in 4K, you should shoot in 4K.
Alternatively: You don’t give two hoots about 4K video, let alone 60 frames per second, like most people.
3. You’re Ready for Wireless Charging
Wireless charging is great, provided you’re ready for it. That means you have a few charging pads around the house, specifically Qi chargers that are compatible with the iPhone 8 and upcoming X. For many of us, wired chargers are just fine. For others, wireless charging is a big deal.
Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t include any sort of wireless charging pad in the box, and their first party AirPad won’t be released until some time in 2018. That means you’ll have to buy additional third-party hardware to take advantage of the hardware.
If you hate looking for chargers or are constantly fraying cables, the expense may be worth it. Some Qi chargers cost less than a high-quality Lightning cable, but they’re also less practical and can’t be used to transfer data or back up with iTunes.
But if you’re ready for the wireless future, so is the iPhone 8.
Alternatively: You’re not ready for wireless charging until Apple puts something in the box.
4. You Charge Your Phone Multiple Times a Day
The iPhone 8 gets roughly the same battery life as the iPhone 7, so the new model isn’t going to last any longer. One thing it does do is support fast charging, which promises to get you up to 50 percent battery within 30 minutes. This could be the difference between leaving your iPhone plugged in for hours or a few quick bursts throughout the day.
Just like Qi charging, the iPhone 8 doesn’t come with a fast charger in the box. Apple recommends you pair its $50 29w USB adapter with a $25 USB-C to Lightning power cable in order to take advantage of the feature. You can also use third party adapters, but look for the “Made for iPhone” standard and be mindful of cheap fire hazards, especially since we’re talking about higher voltage.
The other option would be to replace your old phone’s battery with a new one for like-new performance, buy a USB battery charger, or upgrade to a chunky battery case. None of those solutions are as elegant, and they all require some sort of expenditure, which doesn’t make the $75 worth of first party accessories seem so bad.
Alternatively: You bought a Plus-sized iPhone for this reason, or you never leave the house without a USB battery.
5. The iPhone X Is Expensive and Scary
Assuming you’ve decided that 2017 is your “year of the upgrade” then you’ve got two main choices: the iPhone 8 or the upcoming iPhone X. You can add a third choice and settle for last year’s iPhone 7 for $150 less, or the 7 Plus with its dual-lens camera and superior battery life.
But if you find yourself reluctant to spend $1000 on a smartphone, the iPhone 8 is your best choice. You’ll get the same raw power in the A11 Bionic system-on-a-chip, without the redesign and facial recognition features found in the X. You can charge it wirelessly and fast with the right hardware, and opt for the larger 256GB model and still have change.
In fact, you can buy an Apple Watch and a 64GB iPhone 8 for only $20 more than the base model iPhone X. If you’re stuck on Touch ID and don’t much fancy raising your phone to your face in order to unlock or authorize it, the iPhone 8 is the better buy.
We don’t even know how well facial recognition will work at this stage, and next year’s model is likely to improve on the technology in the same way that the iPhone 6 provided noticeable improvements over the 5s’ implementation of Touch ID.
Alternatively: What’s $300 for a taste of the future, man?
6. You Don’t Like Change
This might be your last chance to get an iPhone that looks like the three models that came before it. The beauty here is even though the design hasn’t changed very much, the technology within has improved dramatically.
Touch ID is fast and responsive now, and coupled with Apple’s “Raise to Wake” feature you don’t need to hit a button for your iPhone to come to life. When you do finally unlock your device, it’s not a physical button anymore but a touch-sensitive panel that simulates a click. That means no moving parts on what was a common point of weakness.
The simulated click is made possible by haptic feedback, which provides a more tactile experience with short buzzes and clicks, as well as more expressive alerts (and no vibrating motor inside). One area you might notice this is 3D Touch, a pressure-sensitive “third click” for your iPhone for accessing contextual menus and features.
Siri received the hands-free treatment as of iOS 9, with all iPhone 6s and later devices now able to use the “Hey, Siri” voice command to talk to the assistant without touching their device. And that’s before we look at the system-on-a-chip, camera optics, true stereo speakers, weather and dust proofing, and display enhancements (to name a few).
The iPhone 8 is arguably Apple’s most refined design, while still managing to make users coming from much older devices feel right at home.
Alternatively: You don’t want this year’s upgrade to feel just like the last three, for better or worse.
Will You Be Upgrading?
A boring upgrade isn’t necessarily a bad upgrade, particularly if you look how far the iPhone has come in the last few years. Ultimately it comes down to expectation and cost, assuming you even need an upgrade in the first place.
If you are thinking of parting with your cash we’d always recommend buying your next iPhone outright, since carrier deals are often much more expensive in the long run.
Let us know what you think of the new iPhone 8, and whether you’ll be buying one, in the comments below.