Most of us are on a budget. As much as we’d love the maxed out top-of-the-line latest iPhone, it’s usually not within our price range. The good news is Apple has reached out over the last few years to include options for people no matter what they can afford. Now you can not only but Apple’s latest and greatest tech but even older model phones directly from Apple. For example, Apple released the iPhone 8 in 2017 and is still selling it new on their websites (as of this writing). We’ll explore what determines the best iPhone for the money so you can choose the best phone for you.
Timeless iPhone Essentials
No matter when you read this article, certain iPhone essentials will always determine the best iPhone for the money. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve found an original iPhone on eBay or about throw down for the iPhone 25. Let’s take a look at these iPhone essentials:
A general guideline is that you should roughly double your storage with each upgrade cycle. This is because photos, videos, apps, operating systems all continue to expand in size as more features and higher definition is added.
Sure, more things are moving to the cloud, but you can’t beat having enough storage on your phone to always have access to your favourite games, music, and videos no matter where you are. When it comes to the best iPhone for the money, usually the middle storage option is the best balance between affordability and function.
Phones have gotten increasingly large over the years. For example, Apple’s flagship phone in 2014, the iPhone 6 measured 4.7 inches. 5 years later, Apple’s flagship phone, the iPhone 11 measured 6.1 inches. Some of this is design change including the edge to edge screen on the iPhone 11. Regardless, that’s a huge size jump over the years. For some people, that’s an upgrade, while others can find this inconvenient.
You need to find the phone that’s the right size for you. This is why Apple releasing phones in the “Max” and “SE” series so everybody can find a phone that is comfortable for them.
Just like in your computer, generally the more ram the better. It doesn’t matter if you’ve decked out a phone with the most storage if it takes forever for anything to load. For your iPhone to stay useful over at least two upgrade cycles, you want to make sure it has enough ram.
The iPhone 8 and the iPhone X were both released in the same year. However, the iPhone 8 contains 2 GB of RAM compared to the iPhone X’s 3 GB. This is going to the iPhone X up to speed—literally—much longer than the iPhone 8.
When weighing older options, you’re better off buying a phone with more ram and less storage space than the other way around.
5G is here. All of the major phone manufacturers either have 5G compatible phones on the market or they will soon be released. 5G is incredible technology, but you have to ask yourself whether it’s a deal-breaker or not.
Most early 5G phones aren’t going to contain much revolutionary technology. They’ll enjoy very fast download speeds, but if you have already had strong Gigabit Class LTE and Wi-Fi, this might not really matter to you.
Remember the early days of 4G implementation? Your phone likely switched back and forth between 3G and 4G during those early days. 5G will be the same. You might be better off getting Apple’s top iPhone from the year before and saving the big upgrade for when the technology is more widespread.
New vs. Used
This is a difficult question to answer. iPhones are the best phones on the market. A used 2017 iPhone is going to function better than a new Redmi or OnePlus. Used is also an extremely broad term. There’s a major difference between your friend’s used iPhone and an Apple certified refurbished project. Like any electronic, you’ll need to think carefully about buying a used iPhone.
It’s possible to find a really good deal on used iPhone that may have nothing wrong with them. On the other hand, you have no idea whether there’s a problem with internal components if things seem to function properly on the service. Finally, even Apple makes mistakes. They’ve had recalls, defective iPhones, and other issues.
So what’s the best strategy here? If you can find a used iPhone at a good price with a warranty then take it. This is particularly true if you’re buying from Apple or any other certified retailer. Without a warranty, it’s definitely buyer beware. You can run diagnostics on the battery life, check the LCI indicator for water damage, and assess the seller. If it’s a deal you simply can’t pass up then go for it!
Lease vs. Own
Nowadays, everybody has gotten into the iPhone leasing game. It’s not just telecom carriers, but big retailers, and even Apple. Apple’s leasing program is pretty unbeatable. Instead of paying the full cost of the iPhone, it’s broken down into monthly payments. And, unlike when you lease to own other products, it’s the same total cost as if you had just bought the phone outright.
However, you do need to have a contract with one of the big 4 carriers to be able to participate in the leasing program. The advantage here though is that it doesn’t lock you into a lengthy new contract with your phone company. You also own the phone when the contract finishes so you can keep using it or sell it an upgrade to the latest and greatest in Apple tech.
Bottom Line: Leasing is an excellent option for people who don’t have the cash to buy a new phone outright. Apple’s leasing program is more flexible making it easier to finish telecom contracts and switch carriers. However, if you do have the money, it can be easier overall to simply buy the phone especially if you travel/live internationally or don’t want to be tied to one phone carrier over another.
The Best iPhone for the Money 2019
Now that you have everything you need to decide what is the best iPhone for the money any year, we’re going to dive into the best iPhone you can buy now. We’ve broken it down into four categories: best overall, most affordable, best long term investment, and which phones to avoid.
Best iPhone for the Money: The iPhone 11
So many people are waiting for the 2020 iPhones (although none of these rumours has been confirmed). For people needing to upgrade, you can’t beat the iPhone 11. Any users with an iPhone 8 or below, will greatly appreciate this leap into the future. It offers nearly identical features to the high-end iPhone 11 Pro at a highly affordable $699 starting price.
It’s a serious step up for most iPhone users with its incredible battery, bezel-less design, dual wide-angle cameras, FaceID, A13 Bionic Chip, and more. The iPhone 11 is the best phone Apple has released in years and though it’s not 5G compatibility features blisteringly fast Gigabyte LTE and plenty of great techs that will keep it up to date for years.
Our Choice: iPhone 11 128 GB with Applecare+Theft and Loss Protection.
Most Affordable: iPhone 8
The iPhone 8 is the last “classic iPhone.” In fact, it’s hard to tell the difference between it and the previous three generations of iPhones. However, the iPhone 8 is a solid, overall fantastic phone that rivals even the latest releases from most mid-tier smartphone manufacturers.
iPhone 8 features the A11 Bionic Chip (same as the iPhone X), dual cameras on the plus edition, large storage capacity, water-resistance and much more. And you can still buy it new directly from Apple. Starting at just $449 or $18.70 per month, this deal can’t be beaten.
Best Long Term Investment: iPhone 11 Pro
The iPhone 11 Pro features a revolutionary tri-camera system, huge battery life, easy to use with one hand functionality, and much more. The iPhone 11 Pro is in an awkward position. Similar to the iPhone 11, many users are holding out until the 2020 release. The iPhone 11 Pro is going to be very similar to the iPhone 8—the best of a classic and refined design that will hold its value and appeal for years. If you have the extra money, then go for the iPhone 11 Pro.
Which Phones to Avoid: Anything Below the iPhone 8
At this point, you should avoid any iPhones made before the iPhone 8. All of these phones are soon to be unsupported by Apple. This means security flaws, limited app updates, and other problems. Moreover, all of these phones don’t feature the added improvements of the iPhone 8 such as the enhanced camera, longer battery life, water and dust resistance, and more. Depending on your budget, check out one of the phones from above.
Think Twice About It: the iPhone XR
The iPhone XR was the best overall phone Apple released in 2018. It’s still a fantastic phone that Apple sells new. However, if you are deciding to upgrade your phone, you can purchase an iPhone 11 which features dual cameras, battery life, more ram, and a faster chip for not much more money. And, you’ll get another full year of iOS support to throw in along with it.
If You Find a Good Deal: Any Other iPhones Since 2017
There’s nothing wrong with the other iPhones Apple has released since 2017. All of them are great products Apple will continue to support for the next few years. However, you can’t buy any of them new from Apple so you’ll have to do your research about the seller and the price. For example, if you find an iPhone X for sale for under $500, then take it. Do a little research and find the best deal for you.
Bottom Line: What’s the Best iPhone for the Money?
The exact best iPhone for the money is going to vary from person to person and their budget. Instead focus on these four categories: storage capacity, device size, amount of ram, and network compatibility.
For many users on a budget, leasing a phone will be much more affordable and you can skip the long phone contracts and lease easily from Apple directly instead. Finally, you can find great deals on user phones, but remember to be careful. Ensure you are working with a trusted seller, inspect the phone thoroughly, and get a warranty if possible. Together, these strategies will help you get the best iPhone for the money no matter what year it is!
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