Why You Should Buy a Used iPhone, Now More Than Ever

Why You Should Buy a Used iPhone, Now More Than Ever
Photo: Hadrian, Shutterstock

I’m a big believer in old tech. I think we could all stand to update our devices less, and push the things we do have to their limits. Of course, nothing lasts forever: Eventually, there will come a day where, whether you want to or not, you have to get a new iPhone. When that day arrives, however, rather than walking into an Apple Store or Best Buy, I think you should buy something used.

While I’m wary of making tech predictions, the news doesn’t look great for the price of the iPhone 14 Pro. While the basic 14 should be in-line with the iPhone 13 price point, rumour has it Apple will increase the price for the Pros by around $140. While the iPhone 13 Pro starts at $1,699, the iPhone 14 Pro could start at $1,999. Of course, you’re getting something new for your money: If speculation holds true, the 14 Pro will come with a less intrusive front camera cutout design to replace the notch, a next-gen Apple chipset, and an always-on display, like you find on recent Apple Watch models (and plenty of Android devices).

And, well, that’s about it: A few fun new features that make this phone stand out from the 13 Pro from last year, for $140 more. I’m not trying to knock the hypothetical device itself: I’m sure, like each new iPhone, it’ll be the fastest, most feature-filled model yet. If you buy one, you’ll be able to take advantage of everything Apple has to offer on iOS (at least until next year), so if you want one, more power to you.

But, at this point, I’m not seeing the value in buying the latest and greatest anymore. $1,699 is a lot of money for a phone, money you don’t need to spend to thoroughly enjoy the iPhone experience. This idea isn’t speculation, either: With the announcement of iOS 16, Apple confirmed not only which iPhones would be compatible with the new software, the company also detailed which of those iPhones would be compatible with which features.

Sure, if you still have an iPhone 8, or even a X, you’ll receive the new update along with the newest iPhones, but you’ll be missing a lot of features. You can’t use your iPhone as your Mac’s webcam with Continuity Camera; you can’t instantly cutout a subject from a photo with just a long-press; you can’t use Dictation and type at the same time; and you won’t be able to hang up a call with Siri.

All those features, however, are available on the generation of iPhone after those A11 devices: the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR. There are 12 confirmed features available on these devices that aren’t compatible with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, or X, and seeing as there are a host of hidden iOS 16 features Apple never talked about, there could be more exclusives, as well.

Back in September, I called the XS the best used iPhone on the market. For the price of a pair of AirPods Pro, you can snag an iPhone that can keep up with many of the features with iOS 16, and is almost guaranteed to support at least iOS 17, as well.

Of course, these A12 iPhones don’t support all of iOS 16’s new features, just most of them. If you’re interested in features like live captions (including live captions during FaceTime calls), as well as Centre Stage and desk view with Continuity Camera, you’ll need at least an iPhone 11.

Still, you can buy an 11 Pro with its incredible display, excellent cameras, and still-powerful A13 chip for less than the third-gen iPhone SE, which sports an outdated 750p IPS display, a single (decent) rear camera, with the same design language Apple first introduced in 2014.

As you keep climbing the feature ladder, though, you start seeing less and less return. You’ll need at least an iPhone 12 to take advantage of Studio Light with Continuity Camera, an iPhone 12 Pro to detect objects in Magnifier, and a 13 Pro for blurring the foreground in Portrait mode. For the money, though, you’re probably better off with the XS or 11 line, since most of the best iOS 16 features will be available on these platforms.

Don’t totally ignore the A11 series, either: While they’re missing features to be sure, they’re still compatible with some of the biggest new features in iOS 16, including customisable Lock Screens, editing and undoing messages, and Passkeys, Apple’s password replacement. If someone presents you with a great deal on an iPhone X, know you’ll get quite a lot of iPhone for very little investment.

The point is, the value of a used iPhone is pretty unbeatable: An iPhone 11 Pro might not be able to do everything the iPhone 14 Pro can, but will the latter’s newest features be worth more than $1000? I don’t think so. After all, a battery replacement is sometimes all an older, supported iPhone needs to feel brand new, and I have a feeling that’s all most of us iPhone owners really need.

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