Another September, another new iPhone. As a tech writer and unabashed iPhone fan, I’ve upgraded models every time Apple (AAPL) trotted out a new one.
Every time, that is, until this year.
See, about a year ago I ponied up a staggering $849 for the iPhone 6 Plus (with 64GB). The outlay hurt, but I was dying for a bigger screen and eager to free myself from the shackles of the two-year carrier contract. For $849 I would own the iPhone outright, and because it came unlocked, I could take it to whatever carrier was offering the best deal on service.
One year later, I remain a mostly happy iPhone 6 Plus owner. I love the big screen and battery life, love the cameras, and love the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. I don’t love the ridiculous placement of the power button—which is exactly opposite the volume buttons—and sometimes I wish Apple would stop adding to the already bloated iOS, but overall it’s good.
Along comes the iPhone 6s Plus, which would cost me another $849. Here’s a rundown of the new model’s key selling points, and why they’re not worth the upgrade.
The iPhone 6 Plus already had “the best camera we’ve ever made,” Apple CEO Tim Cook gushed in 2014, but the 6s Plus apparently has an even better one. It’s equipped with a 12-megapixel sensor that can shoot 4K video. Oh, and there’s that Live Photos thing that captures “animated photos,” an utterly pointless feature I suspect most users will try once and then never use.
Like most folks, I have zero need for 4K video, and my current camera does a terrific job.
I roll my eyes every time Apple talks about 2x-faster this and 70%-faster that. I don’t play a ton of games, so I don’t particularly care about GPU performance. And every iPhone I’ve owned in the past several years has seemed plenty fast. Never, ever have I remarked, “gee, this phone is slow” to friends or family.
I’m all for convenience, for faster ways of accomplishing repetitive tasks, but 3D Touch —the Apple Watch-like feature that responds to “light” and “deep” presses of the screen —sounds like work. It literally adds a third dimension to the OS, so instead of just tapping and swiping, now I have to remember which features require a light press and which need more force. Whoops, wrong one. Now I go back? And press again? Wait, which one did I do the first time? I feel like somewhere Steve Jobs is throwing a major tantrum over this.
The 6s Plus also employs something called 7000 Series aluminum—ostensibly to keep the phone from bending if you sit down on it—but I don’t keep my 6 Plus in my back pocket, so I’m good.
Make no mistake: I wouldn’t turn down any of these features. If someone handed me an iPhone 6s Plus free of charge, I’d squeal with nerdy delight. However, there’s no way I’d pay $849 for it, especially considering that a growing number of Android phones—such as the Moto X Pure and OnePlus Two—offer comparable hardware for half the price. There just aren’t enough compelling features in Apple’s new phone to warrant the upgrade.
It’s not worth the upgrade
The deeper argument, the one that undoubtedly keeps Apple, Samsung (SSNLF), and other companies’ execs up at night, is that no one really needs a new phone anymore. We’ve reached a tipping point, where most of us have phones that are fast enough and have large enough screens. That’s why the last few iterations of the iPhone, Galaxy, Moto and the like have delivered only incremental improvements; there’s nowhere left to go.
In fact, the only real reason to upgrade any smartphone is to get a new battery, because after the one-year mark, most rechargeables start to lose some capacity. By the time you hit two years, you’ll be lucky if your battery can give you a full day. Of course, iPhone batteries are famously non-replaceable, though the same is also true of a lot of Android phones. Frankly, that sucks, and anyone seeking to squeeze the maximum value from their smartphone investment should choose a model that has an easily replaced battery.
For now, I’m hanging onto my iPhone 6 Plus and my $849. No doubt there’s an iPhone 7 in the works for next September, and I can only hope that Apple manages something more exciting than a faster processor and better camera.
Find out why writer Jason Cipriani thinks users should upgrade their iPhone.
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