Deciding Whether to Upgrade to the iPhone X

Last year, prior to Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 7, I had hoped for the “all-screen” design that was announced last week for the iPhone X. I was sure that would be my next phone. Now that it is here, one year later, I am not sure if I want it—at least not yet.

As an iPhone Upgrade Plan customer, I have three options at my disposal:

  1. Do nothing, upgrade to something new next year, keep my iPhone 7, and give it to one of my kids, put it in a drawer, or sell it for peanuts in 2018.
  2. Pre-order the iPhone 8 Plus, which would presumably be available soon, as the most rabid Apple fans will prefer to skip it and get the X. I would have to turn in the iPhone 7 around month 12 or 13 of my 24-month payment plan.
  3. Wait until next month and pre-order the iPhone X via the iPhone Upgrade Plan. I would likely have to wait a couple months for the phone to be available (probably January). I would have to turn in the iPhone 7 around month 15 of my 24-month payment plan.

Cost: the main reason to skip the iPhone X for me

The iPhone X starts at $999. The model with more storage that I would buy is $150 more, and AppleCare Plus costs about $200 on top of that. That represents a huge outlay for the phone. I don’t begrudge Apple for pricing the iPhone X so high, or other people for buying it without worrying about its cost. The high price is, however, a hint that the X may not be for me—at least not this year.

Additional switching costs of an early upgrade

While I love the idea of “renting” a smartphone with a fixed monthly cost (hardware as a service), it doesn’t really work that way. You actually have to buy the phone, and deal with the downsides that entails.

When I upgraded to the iPhone 7, I was surprised that I would have to pay 100% of the taxes on the new phone (about $100), plus a fee to activate it on my Verizon account (about $20). I had been thinking only about the difference in the monthly phone payment I would make, which was minuscule, and the expected cost to buy a new, compatible case. I was out over $100 for the new phone, and realized that I had already paid those costs one year earlier for the 7, and was giving up that hardware completely. On top of that, the case cost a lot, too (about $50). It is easy to forget about these costs when (1) the cost of the phone dwarfs them, and (2) the main cost of the phone is a relatively small monthly payment.

This year, wiser about the switching costs, I am just not sure if it is worth it to go from the 7 to the 8 Plus or X.

Other reasons why I am iffy on the X

Coming from the Plus, the iPhone X actually represents a step down in screen size (though it has a higher native resolution), lacks Touch ID, and has a smaller battery. I am not sure how my apps will look on the iPhone X screen. I bet developers will have to figure out how best to handle the notch and curved corners. (I am a little worried about my iOS app, SwiftoDo, too.) Face ID might be slower or less convenient than Touch ID. Battery life might not be as good as on my one-year old, heavily used iPhone 7 Plus, or even the new iPhone 8 Plus.

Considering these minor drawbacks and unknowns, it might be nice to sit out the period in which users and developers figure out the new hardware, and Apple fixes any iPhone X-related software bugs.

What about the iPhone 8 Plus?

The iPhone 8 Plus is actually pretty attractive, despite having the same old (but good!) case design as the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7. I’m sure demand for it will be rather low, by iPhone standards. I would actually be able to get one soon. It is at least $300 cheaper than the iPhone X. The model I want costs $949, which is really expensive, but my monthly iPhone Upgrade Plan payment would not change.

What to do?

If money were no object, I would buy the X outright sometime soon and never use the iPhone Upgrade Plan again. Because that is not the case, I am leaning most heavily towards skipping an upgrade this year. I will deal with decreasing battery life and knowing I don’t have the best camera or performance anymore, but I will not suffer much. Or, I may just order the iPhone 8 Plus and not worry about the X until next year. I will go to an Apple Store in the next few weeks to test my resolve.