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Should You Buy or Upgrade to One of the New X Series iPhones?

As the dust settles on yesterday’s Apple event, it’s time to take a closer look at the new iPhones. This is the most dramatic change we’ve seen from Apple in years, so there’s a lot to talk about.

When a new device is announced, it’s really easy to get caught up in the hype and feel like you need to buy one. But if you’re already an iPhone user—and especially if you’re using a relatively new handset—it may be best to save yourself from the hype machine and put your wallet away.

So, What’s New?

If you’re out of the loop, here’s a quick rundown of the new stuff.

  • iPhone XSThis year’s flagship phone and replacement for last year’s iPhone X. Same size and form factor as its predecessor. Pronounced “Ten Ess.” Starting price of $999 for 64GBs.
  • iPhone XS Max: A bigger flagship—even bigger than the Plus model of previous years—with a massive 6.5-inch display. Starts at $1,099 for the 64GB model.
  • iPhone XR: The budget model of the X series phones. With a 6.1-inch LCD panel, it’s larger than the XS, but smaller than the XS Max. It’s also lacking some of the higher-end features found on the other two phones. Starts at $749 for 64GBs.

That’s a quick and dirty look at what these new phones are all about—if you’re looking for more info, we talked about them in detail yesterday, so check that out.

Now to talk about the question you’re already asking: should you buy one? Before we get into that, here’s a price breakdown for each model:

  • iPhone XS 64GB: $999
  • iPhone XS 256GB: $1,149
  • iPhone XS 512GB: $1,349
  • iPhone XS Max 64GB: $1,099
  • iPhone XS Max 256GB: $1,249
  • iPhone XS Max 512GB: $1,449
  • iPhone XR 64GB: $749
  • iPhone XR 128GB: $799
  • iPhone XR 256GB: $899

If You Have an iPhone X

This one is a quick answer: probably not. If you already have an iPhone X, there isn’t much of a reason to buy an XS—the added value just isn’t really there yet.

That said, if your X feels too small, you may want to consider the XS Max. At $1,099 for the starting price it’s a steep price just some additional screen, so you’ll have to weigh the cost benefits here. Maybe it would be worth it to you.

Otherwise, you’re not going to get a lot of benefit out of the XS. Sure, it has a faster processor and some unique camera features, but it’s probably nothing you can’t live without. The original X is still an absolutely fantastic piece of hardware that will easily last you another year till the next generation of X phones.

If You Have an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus

So here’s where things start to get a little trickier. The 8 phones are still fantastic devices, but with the hot new look of the X series they already sort of feel long in the tooth. I know, it’s mostly vanity, but there’s still a mental barrier that comes along with that sort of thing. It’s much easier to convince yourself that you need the new iPhone because of how it looks than almost anything else.

From a technological standpoint, there again isn’t a ton of reason to upgrade from an 8 or 8 Plus to any of the new devices. The XR, while more powerful than the 8 thanks to the new A12 Bionic processor, is still just a marginal upgrade over its predecessor (for all intents and purposes, the XR is the replacement for the 8).

The XS and XS Max present more of a reason to upgrade from the 8, though the upgrades are again marginal. The XS and Max have more oomph than the XR, sure, but it’s still nearly a lateral move from the 8 to anything from the X series.

What you will get, however, is a cleaner overall experience. I’ve heard it likened to the difference between driving a Honda Civic and a Lexus RX—the Civic is a perfectly serviceable car and will likely do what you need. But the RX is a luxury car that does everything you need with style and pizzazz. In other words, it’s just more enjoyable to drive.

The X series phones are pretty much the same thing—the 8 is a great phone that works, but the X series phones (especially the XS/Max) simply offers a more elegant experience. That may make the upgrade worthwhile.

If You Have an iPhone 7 (Or Older)

If you’re on a two (or more) generation old phone, you’re most likely to benefit from an upgrade. So the question for you may not be should you upgrade, but to which model? That in itself is a tough call, as all of the phones in the new X series look fantastic.

If you’re looking to save a bit of coin, the XR is a great way to go. It’s the most affordable of all the new X models, with the top-end handset with 256GB of storage still comes in cheaper than the entry-level XS ($899 vs  $999). It offers most of the benefits of the XS models—even the new camera features like adjustable depth of field—a great size and form factor, and an absolutely gorgeous aesthetic. Plus, it’s the only model that comes in funky colors like blue and red.

If you want to go premium right out of the gate, then by all means climb aboard that XS train. These are Apple’s new flagships and with one year of the design under their belt with the original X are sure to be excellent phones for the foreseeable future.

If you’re currently sporting a Plus model iPhone, then you’ll probably want to take a closer look at the XS Max. The screen is an inch larger, but the overall footprint remains the same. That’s a massive upgrade in the screen department thanks to the XS’ edge-to-edge panel and ultra-slim bezels.

But again, even if you’re coming from a Plus phone, don’t underestimate the XR. It’s bigger than the XS and is a very comparable size to the former Plus models (just a bit smaller). It’s 95 percent of the XS and Max at 75 percent of the cost. It’s easily the best value you’ll get in an iPhone today.

What if You’re Coming from Another Platform?

We talk a lot about upgrading from one iPhone to a new one because, well, if you’re already using an iPhone you’re pretty likely to upgrade to the new one. But if you’re coming from another phone the decision to completely change platforms can be much harder to offer a simple answer.

As a user of both Android and iPhone on the daily (I currently carry a Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone 8 every day), I can say that both platforms are fantastic and switching isn’t that challenging. That said, you’ll need to consider the exclusive features on the platform you currently use (I’m just going to assume it’s Android at this point) and decide whether or not you can live without them.

But that’s also the biggest issue: many features aren’t completely obvious until you don’t have them. And the only way to have that realization is to use another platform—in other words, switching platforms can be quite the pickle.

So, unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer on this one. The new iPhone X series looks great and I can absolutely see why it’s appealing to both Android and current iOS users. But if you’re looking to ditch your current Android phone and jump on the iOS train, I suggested doing your due diligence and spending a lot of time researching things you may be overlooking, lest you spend nearly a thousand dollars only to find out you’re missing a key feature. Godspeed.

The iPhone XS and XS Max will be available for pre-order beginning on September 14th with release on the 21st. The iPhone XR will be available for pre-order beginning on October 19th with availability on the 26th.

Cameron Summerson Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson is Review Geek's former Editor in Cheif and first started writing for LifeSavvy Media in 2016. Cam's been covering technology for nearly a decade and has written over 4,000 articles and hundreds of product reviews in that time. He’s been published in print magazines and quoted as a smartphone expert in the New York Times. In 2021, Cam stepped away from Review Geek to join Esper as a managing Editor. Read Full Bio »