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If you must upgrade from the iPhone X, the iPhone XR is the most interesting option

This is an iPhone XS, but you probably won't be able to tell it apart from the iPhone X.
This is an iPhone XS, but you probably won't be able to tell it apart from the iPhone X.
Image: Pete Pachal/Mashable

Apple’s event on Wednesday brought us three new flagship smartphones. When you consider that the phones come in three variants each, potential buyers now have a wide and nuanced (you could also call it confusing) array of options. 

But the obvious upgrade path — from the iPhone X to its direct successor, the iPhone XS, doesn’t make a lot of sense. You should look into some of the other options, though.

I know: Someone says this every other year. Apple has a tick-tock schedule of phone updates; one year you get a different look and shiny new features, and one year —- the “S” year, which is this year — you get an iterative upgrade of last year’s devices. 

But you can always find a few clear reasons to upgrade from last year’s iPhone. The iPhone 6S had an entirely new feature — 3D Touch — and a significantly better camera than its predecessor, the iPhone 6. And the iPhone 8, which succeeded the iPhone 7 (I know, the “S” got lost there) had wireless charging — not much, but better than nothing. 

This year, upgrading is perhaps a bigger dilemma than it’s ever been. 

You don’t need that extra ‘S’

If you have the iPhone X, the XS has very little to offer. The dimensions are the same, but the XS is a little heavier. The display is a little better, but it has the same size and resolution. The camera is still a dual, 12-megapixel one, but it has a lot of small upgrades: Larger pixels, Smart HDR and Depth Control bokeh. The dust- and water-resistance is a little better: IP68 vs. IP67. Face ID is supposed to be a bit faster.

The trend, as you’ve probably noticed is “a little better.” There are no significant new features here; all of the improvements are minor and/or incremental. 

Now, if you’ve been disappointed with the way your iPhone X performs, an upgrade might make sense. But honestly, my iPhone X has been working quite well. The phone itself is one of the fastest on the market. Face ID sometimes doesn’t work, but when it works, it’s pretty fast. Its camera takes 4K video, just like the one on the iPhone XS, and takes great photos at 1x or 2x zoom — again, just like the one on the iPhone XS. 

If you’re in it for the looks, forget about it. The iPhone X and the iPhone XS look pretty much identical, unless you opt for the new, gold color. 

There are a few things we don’t know about the iPhone XS yet. We don’t know how much RAM memory it has (the iPhone X has 3GB). Also, Apple says its battery should last 30 minutes longer than the one on the iPhone X — that’s a pretty small difference, but we’ll have to test it in real life to see how it performs. 

Generally, it’s hard to give a verdict on whether the upgrade is worth it until we test the iPhone XS. But judging on specs alone, the iPhone XS is a $ 1,000 upgrade you don’t really need. 

What about the other iPhones?

Don't need that dual camera, but want a yellow iPhone? The iPhone XR might be just up your alley.

Don’t need that dual camera, but want a yellow iPhone? The iPhone XR might be just up your alley.

Image: Pete Pachal/Mashable

Of course, iPhone X owners have two other options to consider and, surprisingly, the  iPhone XR is the interesting one. It has the new, A12 Bionic processor and a bigger (notched) screen, and, potentially, a longer-lasting battery (Apple says it lasts an hour and a half than the one on the iPhone 8 Plus). Its screen is inferior — LCD vs. the iPhone X’s OLED — and it only has a single camera on the back, though Apple claims it can do the same tricks as the dual camera seen on the other models. 

Perhaps most interestingly, the iPhone XR comes in 128GB variant, which costs $ 799. If you can get a good price for your iPhone X, the damage might not be that bad. 

Generally, I’d say upgrading from the X to the XR is not worth it, as it’s just as much a downgrade as it is an upgrade. But in some cases, it could be a good move. If you’ve got a 64GB iPhone X and need more storage, or if you’re dissatisfied with your iPhone X’s battery life, or need more performance, the iPhone XR improves all that, at a fairly affordable price. Don’t forget: With the iPhone XR, you also get a bigger, 6.1-inch screen and you get to choose one of six colors. 

Finally, there’s the iPhone XS Max. Its hefty price tag aside, it’s basically the same as the iPhone XS, and will be interesting to those users who have found the iPhone X to be too small. 

All in all, if you’re happy with your iPhone X, there’s no need to upgrade to any of the new iPhones; none of them offer any essential new features. But if you have some specific qualms with it, the XR is the one you should be looking at. 

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