With three new iPhone models to pick from, Apple fans have more choice than ever before when shopping for a new phone. But that can also make the buying decision all the more confusing.
All of Apple’s latest iPhones have some traits in common: A glass back panel that supports wireless charging, a water-resistant design, the new A11 Bionic processor, and TrueTone display technology for adjusting the screen’s white balance based on the surrounding lighting. In other words: whether you choose the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X, you won’t be missing out on performance or certain core features like wireless charging and water resistance.
But there are important ways in which the three phones differ, and that’s reflected in their prices. Here’s a breakdown to help guide you through your decision.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of money…
While factors like battery life, screen size, and camera quality are all important, your budget and how much you’re willing to spend on improvements like a larger screen or better camera will likely dictate your decision. The iPhone 8 starts at $699, or $34.50 per month with Apple’s early upgrade program. Meanwhile, choosing the iPhone 8 Plus will tack on an extra $100 and hikes up the monthly price to $39.50. The iPhone X is Apple’s most expensive iPhone yet, starting at $999, or $49.91 per month.
Those prices don’t even include the expenses that come with your data plan, taxes, and the access fee your carrier may charge. If you’re really just looking to upgrade from an older iPhone and don’t care about having a larger screen or facial recognition, the iPhone 8 is probably your best bet.
If you love iPhone photography…
If taking excellent photos is your smartphone’s top job, consider the iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X. The iPhone 8’s camera is perfectly capable of taking crisp and clear photos, but Apple’s more expensive flagships have extra features for photographers. All three of Apple’s newest smartphones include 12-megapixel cameras, but the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus have two cameras, one wide-angle and one telephoto.
Having two cameras makes it possible for the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus to create portraits with a depth-of-field effect that slightly blurs the background so that the subject appears sharper. Their telephoto lens also makes the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus much better at zooming than the iPhone 8, which can be helpful at concerts and other events.
This dual-camera setup isn’t new to the iPhone: Apple debuted this functionality on last year’s iPhone 7 Plus. What differentiates the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, however, is a new feature called Portrait Lighting, which makes it possible to alter the lighting to produce photographs in different styles. Options include studio light, contour light, stage light (which shines a spotlight on the subject), and stage light mono (which does the same but in black and white). This lighting feature is only available on the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, not the iPhone 7 Plus.
Shoppers who choose the iPhone X over the iPhone 8 Plus will get a few other minor benefits when it comes to photography. Since the iPhone X has depth sensors on the front of the phone, Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting will also work when shooting with the selfie camera. The iPhone X’s telephoto lens also has a wider aperture than that of the iPhone 8 Plus, which allows it to absorb more light and can result in slightly better photos. Both the telephoto and wide-angle cameras on the iPhone X have optical image stabilization to reduce any blur from shaky hands, while the iPhone 8 Plus only includes this feature for one of its cameras.
If you want longer battery life…
Larger phones usually offer longer battery life, and that holds true when it comes to Apple’s new iPhones. But Apple’s claims sound a bit like a riddle: The company says the iPhone X lasts two hours longer than the iPhone 7, but the iPhone 8 Plus offers about the same battery life as the iPhone 7 Plus. So to really understand how the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus compare, you need to have an idea of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus’ battery life. That’s when things start to sound a bit like a math problem: If the iPhone X’s battery life is two hours longer than the iPhone 7’s, and the iPhone 8 Plus’ is equal to that of the iPhone 7 Plus’, but the iPhone 7 Plus has longer battery life than the iPhone 7, which iPhone has the longest battery life?
Unfortunately, there’s no formula for solving that equation, and the results will be a little different for everyone. Your iPhone’s battery life is determined by a variety of factors, including the size of the battery, your phone’s settings, the apps you run on it, and the various processes happening behind the scenes to optimize your iPhone’s software for power efficiency. But I can share what my experience has been like after using the phones regularly over the past couple of months, which should add some clarity.
I generally found that the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus will easily outlast the iPhone 8 on most days. I’m typically able to get through an entire day with a bit of juice left over in the morning when using the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, so long as I’m not running any power-intensive tasks that are out of the ordinary. That could come in handy if you’re away from home for a night and forget to pack your charger. The iPhone 8 offers plenty of power to get through the workday, but it just about reaches its limit as I’m about to get to sleep.
If you want something similar to your current iPhone…
If you’re not prepared for a slight learning curve, you might not want to get the iPhone X. Because the iPhone X doesn’t have a home button, you’ll have to learn a few new gestures to perform tasks like navigating back to the home screen, closing apps, and launching the Control Center, among other things. (You can read more about those gestures here.) None of these tasks are difficult or complicated on the iPhone X, but they do require a bit of learning and some time to get used to. If that idea deters you, then the iPhone X may not be for you.
Of course, the biggest changes will be in how you unlock your phone and use Apple Pay. The iPhone X’s nearly edge-to-edge display means that there isn’t any space for a home button, so Apple added a suite of sensors just above the screen to enable facial recognition instead. This means you’re able to unlock your iPhone and verify Apple Pay purchases just by looking at your phone rather than resting your finger on the home button. There are advantages and disadvantages to consider with both: The arrival of Face ID means you no longer have to type in your passcode every time your fingertips are too wet to register on the home button’s sensor. But you also can’t register more than one face, so if you often share your phone with a spouse or family member, they’ll have to type in a passcode each time.
Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus include the Touch ID-enabled home button, so the interface will feel exactly the same as that of the iPhone 7 and earlier. If that sounds more comfortable and appealing to you, go with either of those instead of the X.
If you need a bigger screen…
The most important reason to consider the iPhone 8 Plus or the iPhone X is simple: the iPhone 8’s 4.7-inch screen simply won’t cut it for you. Perhaps you use your iPhone for most of your work-related tasks, like sifting through email or editing Google Docs when you’re away from a computer. Or maybe you’re always reading or watching TV shows on your phone during your commute to work. In those cases, you might find yourself struggling to get by with a 4.7-inch screen and may want to consider the 8 Plus or X.
If you already know you want a bigger screen, there are a few things to consider when choosing between the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus. If you love the size of the Plus’ screen but not the size of the Plus, think about going for the iPhone X instead. Because the iPhone X has barely any borders around its display, the phone is significantly smaller than the 8 Plus even though its screen is actually larger. The iPhone X also has an OLED screen rather than an LCD panel, which means colors look richer and pop just a bit more on the X versus the 8 Plus. But if this doesn’t matter much to you, you’re already comfortable using the Plus-sized iPhone, and would rather save $200, stick with the 8 Plus.
So which iPhone should you choose?
If you meet most of the following criteria, you’re probably better off choosing the cheaper iPhone 8: You have an iPhone 6s or older and just want an iPhone that feels faster with longer battery life. You want a phone that takes great photos, but don’t necessarily care about having all the bells and whistles. You’re uncomfortable with the size of the iPhone 8 Plus and want a new phone that won’t require much getting used to.
If you don’t mind spending $1,000 on a new phone — after all, you do use it for literally everything — consider the X. Apple’s top-of-the-line iPhone may be the right choice if the following description sounds like you: You need a larger screen but often struggle with the size of the Plus model. Having the latest and greatest features like facial recognition is important to you. You’re tired of Touch ID failing when your fingers are slightly wet, and you don’t want to miss out on new apps that are using Face ID to tailor the experience to you specifically (like Warby Parker, for example). You want to be able to take the best possible photos with your phone, particularly when it comes to portraits, and you need a battery that can get you through an entire day (maybe even a little more). You don’t mind taking some time to get the hang of new features.
iPhone 8 Plus
If you’re looking for for something in the middle, the iPhone 8 Plus might be the right fit. If $1,000 is out of your budget but you still need a larger screen for doing work or watching movies, a camera that’s better at portraits and zoomed-in shots, and all day long battery life, try the iPhone 8 Plus. If you’re more comfortable using Touch ID and the home button than learning new swiping gestures and don’t mind the Plus’ larger size, it’s probably the right phone for you.