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Should You Upgrade to the iPhone 12?


2020 is a big year for the iPhone. It’s not only Apple’s first major upgrade since the iPhone X, the iPhone 12 also marks the company’s first lineup of 5G phones. With such a big change, you’re likely asking yourself if it’s time to upgrade. The answer is: It depends. We’ve put together a handy guide to help you figure out which old iPhones are worth upgrading, and which still have some life left in them.


iPhone SE: Don’t Upgrade

iPhone SE

The iPhone SE, released earlier this year, is a perfectly capable smartphone and Apple’s most affordable offering. If you own one, you probably either like getting a deal or you like the phone’s small form factor. Either way, there’s no reason to update just yet.  

If you simply can’t wait, however, we recommend the iPhone 12 mini, which will bring you 5G connectivity, an OLED display, all nice upgrades from what you get with the iPhone SE.   


iPhone 11/11 Pro: Don’t Upgrade

iPhone 11 Pro in front of iMac

If you purchased your iPhone in the past year, there’s no compelling reason to upgrade to the iPhone 12 lineup. The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro have snappy A13 Bionic chipsets, solid battery life, and excellent cameras. That’s not to say the iPhone 12 isn’t a solid upgrade—it is, but you can easily hold off at least another year. 

If you’re an avid smartphone photographer/videographer who simply must have the latest and greatest, we recommend the iPhone 12 Pro Max. It has all the bells and whistles like Apple’s new Dolby Vision video at 60fps, a telephoto lens with 12x zoom, and it supports the new Apple ProRAW format.


iPhone XS/XR: Don’t Upgrade

iPhone XS and XS Max side by side

If you own an iPhone XS or iPhone XR, there’s no rush to upgrade. Sure, the iPhone 12 offers 5G connectivity and a host of other new features, but Apple’s 2018 iPhones are still powerful enough to accomplish just about anything you throw their way. 

If you do decide to upgrade, the iPhone 12 will be a nice change for iPhone XS owners, and a huge leap for iPhone XR users. The iPhone 12 features the same processor and modem as the more expensive iPhone 12 Pro, without quite as many high-end camera features. Even so, you should still see a noticeable upgrade in image quality from your iPhone XS/XR.


iPhone X: Consider Upgrading

Side view of iPhone 8

Apple’s iPhone X felt revolutionary at the time. It’s was the company’s first phone with FaceID, as well as the first iPhone with an OLED display. And it still feels pretty current now, so casual iPhone X users can definitely hold off another year or so before upgrading.

If your iPhone X is starting to feel a little long in the tooth, however, go for the iPhone 12 or iPhone 12 mini. Both will get you 5G support and much faster processors. Once again, smartphone photographers and videographers will want to look at the iPhone 12 Pro.


iPhone 8: Consider Upgrading

iPhone 8 on a wireless charger

The iPhone 8 was Apple’s last model with TouchID, and has a relatively small 4.7-inch display. And while it was recently updated to iOS 14, there’s a chance it won’t get iOS 15. In addition to future software updates, there are some other reasons to consider an upgrade. The iPhone 8’s A11 Bionic processor and modem were snappy at the time, but in 2020, both feel a little sluggish. The 12MP camera has also started to show its age, especially in low light.  

That said, you should be able to get an extra year out of your iPhone 8, especially if you purchased it in the last 12 months or have recently replaced the battery. If you want to upgrade now, however, the iPhone 12 Mini is a nice, affordable option. 


iPhone 7 or Older: Upgrade

Image of iPhone 6 in front of window

If you’re sporting an iPhone from 2016 or earlier, it’s time to upgrade. You’ve managed to get several years out of your iPhone and it’s likely showing its age. Things are slowing down and your photos are probably just barely worthy of an Instagram post. 

The iPhone 12 mini or iPhone 12 will feel like they’re light years ahead of your old phone. In addition to much faster hardware, the entry-level iPhone 12s have much better camera sensors, Face ID, OLED displays, and 5G. Most people will also notice faster network and Wi-Fi speeds thanks to the iPhone 12’s support for Wi-Fi 6, as well as 7x carrier aggregation and 4×4 MIMO. 


For more on which iPhone is right for you, see our comparison of all four iPhone 12 models. And if you’re looking for which one takes the sharpest photos, check out our story on which iPhone 12 is best for photographers.

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