Which iPhone Should You Upgrade to in 2020?

Apple's newly introduced iPhone 11 may not be the best iPhone to buy this year.

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In what has become a time-honored September tradition, Apple unveiled a new line of iPhones a few weeks ago. Dubbed the iPhone 11 series, these new gadgets sport fancy tri-camera setups, improved battery life and a starting price tag that ranges from $699 to $1,099.

While it’s clear the iPhone 11 is a premium product, it’s far from the only iPhone on the market in 2020. On the contrary, it’s still pretty easy to buy new or refurbished versions of old models dating back to the iPhone 7. And frankly, not everyone is going to get their money’s worth out of Apple’s latest and greatest offering.

You may be thinking, “but the newest iPhone is the best one, right?” Technically speaking this is true, but if you’re spending hundreds of extra dollars to get features you won’t actually use, you’re definitely not getting a good deal.

What’s more, if you’re currently using an iPhone that’s more than a few years old, you can upgrade to a more recent (but still previous-gen) model for a fraction of what the iPhone 11 costs, and you’ll still feel like you brought home a piece of advanced tech.

As avid bargain hunters, we made it our goal to figure out which iPhone’s present the best bang for your buck in 2020. We broke down each model’s key features, reported post-launch issues and even determined who’d benefit most from picking one up.

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Is the iPhone 11 Worth it (for You)?

Before we dive into the analysis on the predecessors, it’s important to know what the new iPhone 11 has to offer.

iPhone 11

Starting Price: $699 for 64GB

Key Specs and Improvements:

  • Wide and ultra-wide lenses allow users to better crop and zoom photos
  • Night Mode comes on automatically to enhance pictures in low-light situations and reduce grain
  • Next-gen smart HDR with 4K video quality at 60 fps with slow-mo, time-lapse and expanded dynamic range
  • 12 MP front-facing camera with support for wide-angle selfies, as well as 4K videos
  • A13 Bionic chip that Apple boasts is the fastest processor ever

iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max

Starting Price: $999 for 64GB Pro / $1,099 for 64GB Pro Max

  • All the aforementioned improvements of the iPhone 11
  • Triple back-facing cameras with dual optical image stabilization
  • Dynamic zooming with 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out, and 10x digital zoom
  • Higher pixel density at 458ppi on a 5.8-inch OLED HDR display
  • Up to 18-hour battery life (or up to 20 for Pro Max), 1-3 hours more than the base iPhone 11
  • 800 nits max brightness to combat the sunniest of days

Shop iPhone 11 Models

Should You Upgrade to This Phone?

Anyone who’s using an iPhone 8 or older will be in for a treat with the iPhone 11. You’ll get to enjoy the nearly edgeless screen made popular by the iPhone X, and even at full price you’re paying $200 less than X adopters did two years ago. Phones have changed drastically since 2017, and its time you got to enjoy modern-day features like a beautiful liquid retina display and face ID technology.

That said, if you are already using an iPhone X, XR or XS, the basic iPhone 11 won’t feel like much of an improvement. What’s more, it’s difficult to think about trading in a more expensive device for one that’s cheaper. If you are a die-hard Apple fan who upgrades every year, we recommend going for the Pro or Pro Max version, especially with all the trade-in incentives currently available.

Older iPhone Models to Consider

While many of the iPhone 11’s improvements put a sparkle in the eyes of photo enthusiasts, most of the included hardware is pretty similar to its recent predecessors. Here’s a look back at the key specs of past iPhones, and our take on whether they’re worth upgrading to based on the phone you’re currently using.

iPhone XS Max

Lowest Current Price: $999 for 64GB

Key Specs:

  • 6.5-inch Super Retina HD OLED display with 458ppi
  • Apple A12 chipset
  • Dual 12MP wide and ultra-wide lens with 4K video recording up to 60 fps
  • 7MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording
  • 3D Touch

Shop the iPhone XS Max

Reported Issues:

  1. A few users found the camera’s skin-smoothing effect too aggressive.
  2. Some owners reported the phone would not charge unless the screen was on.
  3. Complaints about Wi-Fi connection issues and slow LTE speeds.

Should You Upgrade to This Phone?

As Apple’s flagship phone for 2018, the XS Max is only a sliver behind the new iPhone 11 Pro Max. Besides the new chipset, slight camera improvements and iOS 13, the two devices are nearly identical.

Since Apple has discontinued this model, there haven’t been many discounts for the XS Max. The price has generally held firm at $999, which is only $100 less than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. If you’re not super concerned about your phone, it might be worth it to go with the XS Max and save a little money. However, if you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll probably still want to opt for the iPhone 11 (if only for future-proofing reasons).

If you’re using an iPhone 8 or older, you’ll definitely appreciate upgrading to the XS Max, and it’s honestly hard to say whether you’d be that much more impressed by the 11.


iPhone XR

Lowest Price Currently: $499 for 64GB

Key Specs:

  • 6.1-inch Liquid Retina HD LCD display with 326ppi
  • Apple A12 chipset
  • Single 12MP wide lens with 4K video recording up to 60 fps
  • 7MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording
  • Haptic touch

Shop the iPhone XR

Reported Issues:

  1. Some users have had problems activating the phone.
  2. Owners have reported the XR sometimes gets stuck while updating iCloud settings.
  3. Complaints about Bluetooth connectivity.

Should You Upgrade to This Phone?

Much like the XS Max and the 11 Pro Max, the iPhone XR and the iPhone 11 are extremely similar. However, at $200 cheaper, the XR is quite enticing, as the camera is the main difference between the two. If you can live with slightly less good (but still high quality) selfies and videos, the iPhone XR is a great choice to upgrade to if you are using an iPhone 8 or older.


iPhone X

Lowest Price Currently: $899 for 64GB

Key Specs

  • 5.8-Inch Super Retina OLED Display with 458ppi
  • Apple A11 chipset
  • Dual 12MP wide and telephoto cameras with 4K video recording up to 60 fps
  • 7MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording
  • 3D touch

Shop the iPhone X

Reported Issues

  1. Face ID doesn’t work properly all the time.
  2. Screenshots can be easily triggered inside your pocket.
  3. Screen issues, including screen burn, color shift and green lines.

Should You Upgrade to This Phone?

The iPhone X was Apple’s biggest cellular advancement since the iPhone 6; it paved the way for what we consider to be modern smartphone design today. Unfortunately, the X was discontinued last year following the announcements of the XS and XR. Despite the end to its manufacturing, we haven’t seen significant price drops for this once-revolutionary smartphone. Ultimately, the XR and iPhone 11 are better bangs for your buck if you have an older iPhone.


iPhone 8

Lowest Price Currently: $449 for 64GB

Key Specs

  • 4.7-inch Retina HD display with 326ppi
  • Apple A11 chipset
  • Single 12MP wide camera with 4K video recording up to 60 fps
  • 7MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording
  • 3D touch

Shop the iPhone 8

Reported Issues

  1. Owners have complained the Wi-Fi frequently drops out.
  2. Problems with the battery draining quickly.
  3. Some users have reported a glitch wherein the App Store constantly refreshes.

Should You Upgrade to this Phone?

When the iPhone 8 first released, it had the same $699 price tag as the new iPhone 11. Although it lacks the fancy screen of the newer models, the 8 is almost the same as the iPhone X under the hood. So if you prefer to go with brawn over beauty, the iPhone 8 is a very capable device for a relatively affordable price. But if you’re drawn to the updated design of the iPhone X and newer, the XR is the next best option.


iPhone 7

Lowest Price Currently: $399 for 32GB

Key Specs

  • 4.7-Inch Retina HD display with 326ppi
  • Apple A10 chipset
  • Single 12MP wide camera with 4K video recording at 30 fps
  • 7MP front-facing camera with 1080p HD video recording
  • 3D touch

Shop the iPhone 7

Reported Issues

  1. Phone freezes from time to time.
  2. Users have noticed heating issues with the phone.
  3. Some users complain about the phone not charging.

Should You Upgrade to this Phone?

Succeeding the iPhone 6, the 7 came with quite a few improvements. Both the front-facing and back-facing camera saw an increase in quality. And despite the age of the iPhone 7, it is still a feasible option in today’s tech world.

Unfortunately, the debut of iPhone 11 has also put the 7 on the extinction list. Still, as of now you can get one via the Apple Online Clearance Store for $399. At this price, the iPhone 7 is great for the budget-minded Apple fan, and it’s definitely worth upgrading from a 6 or older.


Combing through the specs, it’s clear there is very little variation between generations of iPhones, with exceptions for the 7 and the X. If you’re using the iPhone 7 or older, we recommend you check out the iPhone 8 or iPhone XR (depending on how fancy you want to get). 

However, if you’re currently on an iPhone released after 2017, it may be wise to hold out for the next big thing, as you probably won’t feel much of a difference in your day to day use patterns. Who knows, it could be an iPhone 12 or lucky number 13 — we will just have to wait and see.

With the debut of the 11, all sorts of deals for different generations of iPhones may pop up from various carriers and retailers. If you want to keep an eye on these sales and discounts, make sure to set up your Deal Alerts to get notifications sent to you instantly.

You also might want to check out this hot smartphone deal from our Frontpage:

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Quan Tsang

Quan Tsang is a creative writer, serial entrepreneur and motorcycle enthusiast based in Southern California who aims to conquer the world one smile at a time. He has a propensity of taking in stray cats and experimenting with culinary creations. Those two things are separate and have no relation to each other. Quan is not a monster — he just loves cats and food. With his lovely wife, Zina, Quan has two sons by the names of Quantas and Quanelius.

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