How to Decide Which New iPhone to Get

And is the iPhone X worth $1,000 -- $300 more than the iPhone 8?

Last week, Apple announced three new iPhone models: the iPhone 8, the iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone X. (The “X” is pronounced “Ten,” in commemoration of the iPhone’s 10-year anniversary, but probably only “I in X” people will pronounce it correctly.) My first reaction to the X was this well-thought-out response: “I want.” I still do. But I’ve stopped drooling long enough to ask myself the question: is the iPhone X worth its $1,000 price tag? More specifically, is it worth $300 more than the also brand new iPhone 8? At least one person on Twitter thinks maybe not:

Funny picture suggests the iPhone X will cost one human life

In this post I’ll compare the three new iPhone models. My aim is to help any of you looking to get one of them to decide how best to spend your money.

Comparison of iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X

I’ve waded through the particulars on the phones. Here’s what I think is important in terms of aesthetics and tech specs.

New iPhone Aesthetics

Here’s what the three iPhones look like:

Images of iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X

It’s tough to argue that the iPhone X isn’t the most attractive of the three.

Tech Specs that are Identical Across all 3 Phones

An examination of the tech specs reveals that the three phones are more alike one another than they are different.

I counted 63 tech specs that are identical across the three phones. Highlights from that list include:

  • Chip: All three phones have the new A11 Bionic chip with 64-bit architecture and the embedded M11 motion coprocessor. (Try saying that three times fast.)
  • Capacity: Each phone offers 64GB or 256GB capacity.
  • Splash, Water and Dust Resistant
  • Power and Battery: All three versions support wireless charging.

Given such substantial overlap between the three phones, what differentiates them?

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Tech Specs that are Different Between the 3 Phones

I put together the following chart which presents—to the best of my knowledge—a comprehensive list of the 33 differences between the three new iPhones.

I’ve highlighted the best tech specs in green, the worst in pink, and those in-between in yellow:

Differences in tech specs between the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X

Analysis of Which iPhone to Get

With so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to decide which iPhone to get. Following is a 3-step thought-process you can use to help you decide.

1. Any “Deal-breakers” or “Must-haves”?

Are any of the differentiating specs “deal-breakers” or “must-haves” for you? If so, your decision may be much easier. Consider, for instance, these examples:

  • If you need a phone before October 27, then the iPhone X isn’t for you.
  • If, on the other hand, you “must have” the best possible camera, then the iPhone X is the winner.
  • Alternatively, if you only have $699 to spend on an iPhone, then the 64GB version of the iPhone 8 is your phone.

None of the specs are “deal-breakers” or “must-haves” for me. If you’re in the same boat, then you should proceed to the following consideration:

2. Consider the Factors that are Relevant to You

Ask yourself which of the above-mentioned features actually matter to you. For me, for instance, the differences in cameras don’t matter to me. The camera on my current iPhone is already plenty good for my needs.

In addition to the iPhone’s aesthetics, the features I care about are price, display, size & weight, battery, and cost.

I don’t love the size of the iPhone 8 Plus. So the decision for me is between the 8 and the X.

Here’s what I’d say about the aspects of those phones that I care about:

  • Aesthetics. I find the X significantly more attractive than the 8.
  • Display. I imagine the X’s display will pop in comparison to the 8’s. That said, I’m happy with the display on my current iPhone. The bigger deal, for me, is the extra screen real-estate afforded by the X.
  • Size & Weight. The X is slightly smaller than the 8 but slightly heavier. So this factor is a wash. And at any rate, we’re talking about differences that might not be perceptible.
  • Battery. The X has superior battery life. Longer battery life is always helpful. That said, I rarely find myself wishing my phone’s battery lasted longer.
  • Cost. The iPhone 8 is $300 less expensive than the X.

3. Make a Value Judgment

At the end of the day, the iPhone X is the best phone. The question is: is it worth the extra cost? In my case, specifically, is the iPhone X worth $300 more than the iPhone 8?

To spend $300 additional, after-tax dollars, on the iPhone X, one will have to earn—for the sake of argument—$400 additional pre-tax dollars.

To keep the math simple, let’s say you make $80,000/year. As I discussed in this post, that’s the equivalent of earning $40/hour. To earn $400 pre-tax dollars, you have to work 10 hours. Is what the iPhone X gives you over and above what the iPhone 8 gives you worth 10 hours of work? (The math changes, of course, based on how much you actually make. If you earn $40k/year, it will take 20 hours of work to pay off the difference in price between the iPhone X and the iPhone 8.)

Or consider this. You can buy an iPad for under $300. Would you rather have an iPhone X or both an iPhone 8 and an iPad?

For me, the incremental benefits of the iPhone X over those of the iPhone 8 are not worth $300. I want the iPhone X. I do. But I’m going to get the iPhone 8.

Conclusion

This post isn’t about whether one should buy an iPhone vs. another kind of phone. Nor is it about whether the new iPhones are worth the increased price over the previous generation of iPhones.

This post is about helping those set on getting a new iPhone decide which one to get.

I’ve decided on the iPhone 8. You might choose a more expensive iPhone if any of the following is true:

  • Certain features are “deal-breakers” or “must-haves” for you.
  • Certain features weigh more heavily for you than they do for me.
  • You make more money than I do.
  • You have less self-control than I do. 🙂

Ha! Enjoy whatever you get. I’d love to hear your thoughts on which model you are getting and why. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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4 thoughts on “How to Decide Which New iPhone to Get

  1. Brian, with the new pricing/purchasing structure of cell phones (monthly payments vs full purchase) what is the best way to buy a new phone and sell your current one to create the smallest margin of cost?

    • Steve,

      I did a pretty robust analysis (shocker, I know) of that very question two years ago.

      Every two years, I used to sell my old iPhones on Amazon. I did it that way because I could make more profit selling it on Amazon then selling it back to “middle-men” like Gazelle.

      The result of my robust analysis was that selling the phone that way would save me $100/year vs. leasing it. (But if you lease, you get the latest phone every year.)

      When selling on Amazon, you do have to pay a commission to Amazon. And, the possibility (which happened to me) of someone returning the phone (for no good reason) exists.

      I would *guess* that you could sell it for more on Craigslist and not have to worry about unjustified returns.

      Or you can pay the extra $100/year to avoid all of that hassle and get the latest phone every year. But in *that* case, you do have to deal with transferring all of your data from the old to the new phone every year. (Though Apple makes that fairly easy these days.)