The Best Time to Buy a New iPhone

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Stephen Lam/ Getty Images

Unless you’ve always bought your iPhones right after a new model was announced, you’re probably pretty familiar with the conundrum of figuring out when to buy a new iPhone. If it’s almost January, for instance, should you buy the model that was announced in September? And if it’s already halfway through spring, is it pretty much a foregone conclusion that you should just wait out the summer before upgrading to a new iPhone?

The schedule on which Apple announces and releases new iPhones is pretty dependable, as is the collective of Apple blogs and analysts who are constantly working to figure out what great new things Apple is planning for the next iPhone or, in some cases, the phone that’s still two models away. So how do you figure out when you should buy the latest iPhone, and when you’re better off waiting out the months until the next model’s release?

It’s a problem that many Apple fans are turning over as they try to decide between the current iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, the new iPhone SE, or the as-yet-theoretical iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. While the iPhone 6s packs in new features like 3D Touch, a 12MP camera, the faster A9 chip, and an upgraded TouchID fingerprint sensor, we’re undoubtedly going to see newer, better features on the iPhone 7 release date — a more advanced camera and a redesigned body, possibly without a home button, for starters.

Add in the possibility of a bigger screen — one that doesn’t increase the overall size of the phone but simply makes better use of the existing space — the prospect of a more capable 3D Touch screen and interface, or the potential for a more waterproof iPhone, and you’ll quickly realize that the argument that you should just wait until September can sound pretty convincing.

Further complicating the question is your preferred size of iPhone. If you didn’t mind upgrading to the larger size of the iPhone 6 or the iPhone 6s, then this may be a moot point. But if you’re one of the many users who liked the smaller size of, say, the iPhone 5s, and didn’t want it to change, then purchasing a new iPhone can be a difficult proposition. Even the rumored iPhone 6c, which is supposed to retain the smaller size of older iPhone models and be released early in 2016, likely won’t entirely clear up the problem for Apple fans who want a new iPhone in a smaller size.

If it really materializes as bloggers and analysts expect it to, the iPhone 6c won’t compete with Apple’s latest iPhones in terms of its specifications and components. Instead of integrating the latest parts and features, the phone would be positioned as an upgrade from the iPhone 5s, the phone that small-screen-preferring iPhone users are most likely to have held onto. If having a smaller iPhone is more important to you than having the latest features and high-end hardware, then waiting until Apple releases the iPhone 6c may be the way to go.

But what about if you don’t mind the size of the iPhone 6s, or even the iPhone 6s Plus? What’s your move? That will depend on how strongly you feel about having the latest hardware and features, and how much longer you can envision using your current iPhone. If it’s important to you to have the latest features, and you’re already thinking about the iPhone 7, then you probably shouldn’t purchase an iPhone 6s now. But if your current iPhone is on its last legs, and you won’t be too bothered when Apple releases some exciting new developments with the iPhone 7 in September, then maybe it’s time to start looking around for the best price and plan for the iPhone 6s.

When you know that Apple’s going to release a new phone every year, there’s always a new iPhone on the horizon. (Even when that iPhone is an “S” model, which bring more incremental updates instead of major new features.) Figuring out when to purchase a new iPhone necessitates thinking about how soon you need to upgrade, and how upset you’ll be if you have a six-month old iPhone and Apple comes out with an exciting new feature you could envision yourself enjoying.

But it’s also important to keep in mind that iPhones, and smartphones in general, are advanced enough that Apple is unlikely to unveil a new iPhone that’s significantly faster, longer-lasting, or more usable than the one you have in your hand. Year to year, Apple unveils new features and upgraded hardware, but even with major releases, all of those upgrades are by nature incremental.

Sure, newer chips perform better and more advanced cameras produce sharper photos. But if you simply want a phone that runs your favorite apps well, helps you keep in touch with friends and loved ones, and enables you to take photos that you can share on your social media accounts, then this year’s iPhone is probably just as good as next year’s. So if your screen is shattered, your iPhone bent, or your current model truly outdated, you’ll probably be happier upgrading sooner rather than waiting more than half a year to buy a new iPhone.

Ultimately, six months may be a good cutoff to keep in mind if you’re questioning when to purchase a new iPhone. If a new iPhone is six months away — and you feel comfortable waiting that long — then just wait it out and get the newest phone. But if a new iPhone model is more than six months away and you really need a new iPhone sooner rather than later, it’s probably worth it to go ahead and upgrade. Just be mentally prepared for the announcement of an even newer iPhone — something that will always be on the horizon with Apple’s annual iPhone releases and the constant, Internet-enabled state of speculation about what the next one will bring.

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