The best iPhone to buy in 2018: from $350 to $1150

The best iPhone to buy in 2018: from $350 to $1150
Long gone are the times when Apple had just one iPhone model for sale. The company never truly got around to producing a "budget" iPhone line or an iPhone mini or any of that stuff, but at some point it started keeping some of its older models on its shelves, instead of immediately discontinuing them upon the arrival of the new one.

After the introduction of the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus late last year, the current Apple phone line-up looks like this:

It's quite the range, huh? And it may feel weird, but all of these phones are legit options in 2018. Depending on which one you buy, you're going to have a considerably different experience, and that's okay! If you go for the most inexpensive options, which are the iPhone 6s ($450) and iPhone SE ($350), you'll get a more laid-back performance and shorter battery life, but at least you won't have to sell the house. Which is good! House is good, don't sell house! But, if you do feel inclined to splurge on something like the iPhone X, obviously you'll be getting the very best in many ways, but you may also want to know that it won't necessarily be a fully non-compromise experience. So, you know, it's not as simple as "just get the X and be done with it."

There are three main roads you can take this year, depending on how much you're willing to spend, but your options are literally scattered across the range from $350 to $1150! Below, we'll try to suggest the best bang-for-the-buck options across the different categories, although it's undeniable that each of the iPhone models on sale has its own unique advantages.

The best or nothing: top high-end iPhone options

Expected spending: $700 - $1150

The best iPhone to buy in 2018: from $350 to $1150

So, there are exactly two ways you can go about purchasing a high-end, current-generation iPhone before September 2018 (that's when the new ones will come out): you can play it smart and considerate, or, you can go all-in and chew on that cardboard box until the next paycheck. That's it, those are your two options.

Smart and considerate: iPhone 8 Plus [$800]

Technically, Apple's high end starts at around $700 with the iPhone 8, but if you can stand bigger phones, we'd suggest that you look into the iPhone 8 Plus. The screen is in a whole different league, the battery life is way longer, and there is an extra gigabyte of system memory, which will be of benefit if you plan to hold onto the phone for more than 2 years. Plus, there's the dual-camera on the back that can make those in-your-face portrait shots. Do a couple of good ones, and you'll be on your way to getting a lot more of those swipe-rights on Tinder. The imposing size of the 8 Plus will be the one thing you'll have to learn to live with. However, here's a smart little trick you can do: whenever you feel annoyed that the weight of the 8 Plus (the impressive 7.13oz / 202g) is starting to pull your pants down again, remember that it may also be the weight of those $200 that would have been gone, had you decided to go the iPhone X route.

Going all-in: iPhone X [$1000]

So you've packed all your things and are ready to sell the house. Good! With half of the money from the sale, you'll be able to afford a gorgeous iPhone X in either Silver or Space Gray. The internals will be almost exactly the same as those found inside the iPhone 8 Plus, so the premium you'll pay will mostly go towards the exquisite new design.

In terms of actual viewing area, the iPhone X's display is about the same as the iPhone 8 Plus', although if you look at video or many apps or games out there, the 8 Plus will actually offer a larger useful canvass. Anyway, that bezel-less design truly is something to behold, plus the overall footprint of the iPhone X is way more pocket-friendly. In terms of features, the iPhone X's only advantage is found in the True Depth selfie camera, which makes taking those snazzy-looking portrait shots that much easier. Animoji? We wouldn't count that as a serious extra. Whether or not you like the new design enough will probably be the one thing that's going to influence your final decision the most.

A mid-range iPhone: best balance between performance & cost

Expected spending: $550 - $770

The best iPhone to buy in 2018: from $350 to $1150

This year, the mid-range of Apple's iPhone line-up is represented by the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Powered by a slightly older (and thus slower) processor, the 7 and 7 Plus aren't quite as instantaneous as the iPhone X and 8, but still feel more than responsive and effortless every step of the way. It's like comparing the new Lambo to the previous Lambo - you're getting a super-car either way.

The Jet Black iPhone 7 is the closest you can get to the all-around glossy phone that the iPhone X is.
The iPhone 7 Plus, in particular, is a rather smart investment at this point. It starts at $670, which is a great deal, although there's is a catch: that will only buy you 32 GB of storage. If you can live with that – great! If not, the $770 128 GB one shouldn't be out of the question. It gets dangerously close to the $800 of the iPhone 8 Plus, but the $800 8 Plus is for 64 GB of storage. So you have to think carefully about your preferences in terms of storage availability, processor speed, and also wireless charging, which is only present in the 8 Plus (but costs extra). Who said that buying an iPhone was an easy task?!

An important point we should make here is that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are available in the glossy Jet Black polished finish, which is the closest you can currently get to the feel of the iPhone X. And there's more: the Jet Black edition feels as smooth as glass, but is actually metal, which adds to the durability of the product. You may have heard of those scary iPhone X / 8 glass panel repairs, which essentially tend to render your wallet useless. With the 7 and 7 Plus, there's going to be less of that!

And now that we mentioned the compact iPhone 7 - it sure is a great deal at $550, but the same observations that we made about the 8 and 8 Plus are valid here. On the 7 Plus, the screen is considerably better, the battery life is way better, there's a dual camera for zooming and portraits, and there's an extra gigabyte of RAM for better long-term performance.

Favorite mid-range pick: iPhone 7 Plus [$670]

An affordable iPhone? There is such a thing!

Expected spending: $350 - $650

The S badge can be seen on the back of the 6s, proudly signifying that this is, in fact, not an iPhone 6.

Believe it or not, the iPhone 6s from late 2015 and the iPhone SE from early 2016 are still officially available to buy as new from Apple. This means the company is still supporting these phones and deems them capable enough to deliver the signature iPhone user experience.

And the iPhone SE is, like, 'no love for me?'
At first glance, the the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus don't differ too much from the iPhone 7 or even the 8 family, due to the almost identical design, but their age will be more apparent as you start using them. Again, most everyday tasks will be carried out without a problem, but it's normal for app loading times to be slightly longer, for scrolling in some areas to start showing subtle signs of lower frame-rates, and for the camera to not be as spot-on as its successors. And sadly, battery life also tends to get slightly shorter as you go back with each iPhone generation.

This entry-level point is interesting in that our top pick here won't be a Plus model, but the compact iPhone 6s. Take a look at a 6s and an 8 - there's hardly any important difference visually. However, you can get a brand new iPhone 6s for just $450, which is less than half of what the iPhone X costs. Performance and battery life won't be as good, but you'll still get a great iOS 11 experience, with almost the same feature set. The Plus model is, of course, once again not a bad option, but there is no dual camera in the 6s Plus, meaning that it loses one of its main advantages (the better screen and battery life still stand, though). And since the entry-level point is all about cutting down expenses, we'd say the iPhone 6s answers this need the most. What about the iPhone SE? Well, technically it's not a bad phone, but we have a feeling you'll be wanting to replace this little fellow with something bigger sooner rather than later, so maybe it's not worth all the trouble.

Favorite entry-level pick: iPhone 6s [$450]

What is the best iPhone deal this year?

This was our advice when it comes to purchasing a new iPhone prior to September 2018. In September, Apple is going to unveil some brand new iPhones, and those are expected to have the new design concept that we only have today in the iPhone X. Until then, however, tons of iPhones will be sold. Hopefully our advice will help future iPhone users pick the best match according to their specific needs. Now, what about you? How would you go about purchasing an iPhone in 2018? Let us know in the comments!

[VIDEO] iPhone X Review


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