In the past, buying an iPhone was as easy as walking into the store, grabbing the newest model, and going on your way. Not this year.
For the first time in Apple’s history, it has a genuinely diverse iPhone line. It is selling an iPhone 5C, 5S, 6, and 6 Plus. And all four phones are very good.
This means consumers in the market for an iPhone have a tough decision to make when it comes to which phone to purchase.
Since preorders start Friday, I decided to put together this guide to help anyone in the market for a new phone.
Before digging into the current phones, let’s talk about you. How rich are you? If money is no object, then you can skip the following section and just read about the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. If money is an object, then read on.
WHAT PHONE DO YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW?
Do you have an iPhone 4S or earlier? If the answer is yes, then you should definitely get a new iPhone.
If you have an iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S, and the phone is in good condition, you may not need to upgrade. The iPhone 5S is an excellent phone. The only drawback is that it has a smaller screen. If a bigger screen is really important to you, then you should upgrade. But if you’re happy with the 5S, then you should hold out for another year. Next year’s iPhone 6S will be better than the iPhone 6.
If you have an iPhone 5 and you’re on a contract and you’re eligible for an upgrade, then you should probably get a new phone. You can sell your iPhone 5 on Craigslist, or eBay, for ~$200, which effectively makes the cost of upgrading $US0.
If you’re not on a contract, then it’s a bit more complicated. The iPhone 5 is a good phone that should still be working fine. If you don’t yearn for a bigger screen, then you can probably squeeze another year out of the phone. (And, again, next year’s iPhone is going to be better.)
What if you — gasp — have an Android phone? Apple CEO Tim Cook says you’ll have “a better life” if you get an iPhone. That’s a bit strong, but you will get a better selection of apps. A friend of mine who owns an Android phone was pestering me over Labour Day to write a story about how Android owners don’t get new features for apps until long after iPhone owners.
I like the iPhone and iOS better than Android. But, it’s a matter of taste. If you’re happy with Android, then stick with it. If you hate Android, then now is a good time to bail since Apple has bigger phones with better features.
With that out of the way, let’s explore the iPhone options. One thing to note: I have not used these phones. I have used every iPhone design since it was released and they have all been pretty good. I have tested all sorts of Android phones at various screen sizes, so I have a good idea about what you’ll be getting from Apple.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE IPHONE 6 PLUS?
The iPhone 6 Plus is the most expensive phone in the lineup. The entry level model is $US299 on a two-year contract.
It’s also the biggest with a 5.5-inch screen. It has the highest-resolution screen too. Apple is using the large screen to offer unique software options like a keyboard that has dedicated keys for copy and paste and new display options for content. It also has a bigger battery and slightly longer battery life than other iPhones.
The iPhone 6 Plus is the phone I plan to buy. A few years ago I got a Samsung Note II at a Samsung event. It has a 5.5-inch screen. At first, I was inclined to dismiss the phone as too big and goofy. But the more I used it, the more I fell in love with the big screen.
If you’re the sort of person that lives on your phone, then you should get the iPhone 6 Plus. I use my phone from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. I check email and Twitter on it constantly. I do a lot of reading on my phone. My iPhone is a mini-computer and so I want a big screen. I currently have an iPad Mini, and I think I’m going to sell the iPad Mini and go all-in on the big iPhone.
When you hold the phone to your head to make a call you might look funny, but so what? How many calls do you really make? Personally, I use headphones half the time I make calls, so this isn’t that big of a deal.
Two other concerns people have about the big phone: Is it too big for my hands, and is too big for my pockets? Let’s tackle those in reverse order.
The phone fits in your pocket, no problem. Because this is Apple, the phone is thinner than thin, so it won’t be too bulky. However, it is going to be a bit large. Personally, my phone is often out of my pockets. If I’m at work, I have it on my desk. If I am on the train, I am holding it, using. If I am in a car, I use it for maps and directions. If I am at home on the couch, I usually have it out to surf the web while watching TV. If this sounds like you, then it’s no biggie. But, if you keep your phone in your pocket all the time, it might be a problem. My colleague Steve Kovach tested the iPhone 6 Plus at the Apple event on Tuesday and said it fit in his jeans pocket perfectly.
As for hand size… that could be a problem! There is no question that a bigger phone is going to be harder to manoeuvre. If you’re really worried about this, go to the Apple Store when the phones are out and try picking up the 6 Plus. If it’s too much, it’s too much. I’m over 6 feet tall, and I guess, have hands that correspond with that size. I don’t think the bigger phone is much of a problem. Sometimes it will be clunky, but life is a series of trade offs, I think it’s the bigger screen is worth it.
Both new iPhones also have a special one-handed mode that pops the top portion of the screen down so you can reach it with your thumb. You just lightly tap the home button twice to do it:
Bottom line: Buy the iPhone 6 Plus if you live on your phone. It’s a great size, and it’s better than owning a tablet. Don’t buy it if you have small hands, and you don’t live and die with your iPhone.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE IPHONE 6?
The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch screen, which is probably the best screen size for most people. It’s not too big, and it’s not too small. The entry-level iPhone 6 costs $US199 with a two-year contract. If you’re due for an upgrade, and you want the next model of the iPhone, this probably the phone you should buy.
The iPhone 6 has a new A8 chip, which Apple says is faster than last year’s A7 chip. It has an M8 chip, which tracks your motion to keep track of steps. It also has a barometer, so it can tell how high you’ve gone, counting stairs you’ve climbed. The camera is also upgraded, likely making it the best smartphone camera on the market. Of course, all of this is on the iPhone 6 Plus, too.
There’s two reasons to go with the iPhone 6 over the 6 Plus — price and screen size. If you want to save a little money, and you don’t want the bigger screen, then this is the phone for you.
The only other difference between the 6 or 6 Plus besides screen size is the camera. The iPhone 6 Plus camera has better video stabilisation than the iPhone 6. It’s a minor feature that most people won’t really notice or care about, but probably something you should know if you plan to shoot a lot of video.
Bottom line: The iPhone 6 is the replacement for the iPhone 5S. If you just want the latest greatest iPhone, with no compromises, then this is the phone for you. Don’t buy it if you want a giant screen, or if you like the current size of the iPhone.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE IPHONE 5S?
What if you don’t want a really big screen? What if you like the current 4-inch screen? You’re in luck.
Apple will be selling the iPhone 5S for $US99 with a two-year contract. The iPhone 5S is a great phone. Unlike in year’s past, it doesn’t feel like the 5S is significantly worse than the phone that’s replacing it. The 5S has a fingerprint scanner and a motion tracker, just like the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 is slightly faster, and its motion tracker is slightly better, but it doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal. The camera on the iPhone 6 is slightly better, but not significantly so.
If you don’t want a big screen, and you’d like to save some money, the iPhone 5S is the phone for you. It’s a really good phone, and if you use a 5S for the next 2-3 years, you won’t be let down.
Bottom line: Buy the iPhone 5S if you don’t want a big screen. Don’t buy it if you do want the big screen.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE IPHONE 5C?
The iPhone 5C is a very good entry-level phone. It has a 4-inch screen. It doesn’t have any of the bells or whistles of the other models. If you are on a limited budget, you want a small screen, or you like colours, then this is the phone for you. It’s $US0 with a two-year contract, and it works pretty well.
The risk is that it’s going to be obsolete in a few years. If you plan to have the phone for the next 2-3 years, then it’s worth paying $US100-$200 for a better phone. If you don’t use your phone much, or your just want a hold over for a year or two, then get the 5C. In yellow. Be bold!
Bottom line: If you don’t have much money, or don’t care about screen sizes, or you don’t care about the latest features, get this one.
WHAT COLOUR AND WHAT LEVEL OF STORAGE?
By now, you’ve decided which phone is for you.
What colour should you get? It’s up to you, really. But if you want me to make a decision for you, here’s my advice:
- iPhone 6 Plus in Black/Space Grey
- iPhone 6 in White/Silver
- 5S in white/gold
- iPhone 5C in yellow
As for storage, I recommend getting the mid-tier, which is 64 GB for the 6 and 6 Plus. If you’re getting a 5S or a 5C, then that’s 32 GB. These things are great for taking photos and video. Unfortunately that stuff takes up a lot of storage space, so it’s worth paying the extra $US100 to get the space.
If you have questions, ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
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