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Phones

iPhone 8: Should you upgrade?

If you've got a previous iPhone, are the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus worth your money?

James Martin/CNET

On Sept. 22, you'll be able to buy the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus in stores. (You can already preorder them today.) That means you've got a choice to make. Do you buy, or do you wait? 

We know it's tough to keep track of every single new iPhone feature, so we created this guide. No matter which iPhone you own, we'll tell you what you get -- and what you'll lose -- if you opt for a new phone.

Just scroll down until you see the phone you own, and we'll give you our best advice. 

(This guide is for people considering the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. If you're interested in the new iPhone X -- coming this November with a new design and even fancier features -- click here for our iPhone 8 vs. iPhone X comparison.)


iPhone 7 to iPhone 8

septus-16.jpg

The iPhone 7 was the first with water resistance, a jet-black finish... and no headphone jack.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you've already got an iPhone 7, the iPhone 8 isn't a tremendous upgrade. Think of it more like an iPhone 7S, instead of a brand-new design. But if you've got a need for speed, want the latest camera improvements, crave more storage, or want to charge your phone without plugging in a cable -- those are the main reasons to take the plunge.

What you get with the iPhone 8

  • Qi-compatible wireless inductive charging
  • Improved 12-megapixel camera sensor (slightly better color, autofocus, low-light performance)
  • True Tone display (adjusts screen colors based on ambient light)
  • Glass back cover
  • Slightly faster A11 Bionic processor (25 percent faster CPU, 30 percent faster graphics)
  • 64GB of storage by default (compared to 32GB)
  • New video recording modes (4K/24, 4K/60, 1080p at 240fps slow-mo)
  • Slow-sync camera flash
  • Improved stereo speakers (25 percent louder, more bass)
  • Fast-charge option (requires USB-C power adapter and cable)

What's the same

  • Overall design
  • Screen size and resolution
  • Rough dimensions and weight (iPhone 8 is 0.2mm taller and wider, 0.35 ounces (10 grams) heavier)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Battery life
  • Water resistance
  • Rear camera resolution and optical stablization
  • Front-facing camera
  • ARKit support
  • Apple Pay
  • No headphone jack

What you lose upgrading to iPhone 8

  • Unibody aluminum frame
  • Jet black, matte black and a truly gold color option (rose gold is the new gold)
  • No 128GB option

iPhone 7 Plus to iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 7 Plus vs. iPhone 8 Plus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

We called the iPhone 7 Plus "the photographer's phone," and the iPhone 8 Plus is admirably carrying the torch. (Wow, look at these photos.) But if you've already got a 7 Plus, you're looking at modest upgrades. The kind of person who shells out for the best cameraphone each year -- or, say, the biggest and best screen -- should probably wait for the $1,000 iPhone X in November.

Or, if your heart's set on Plus simply because you like large phones (and fingerprint sensors), maybe wait until the 8 Plus's price comes down.

What you get with the iPhone 8 Plus

  • Qi-compatible wireless inductive charging
  • Improved dual 12-megapixel cameras (slightly better color, autofocus, low-light performance)
  • True Tone display (adjusts screen colors based on ambient light)
  • Glass back cover
  • Slightly faster A11 Bionic processor (25 percent faster CPU, 30 percent faster graphics)
  • 64GB of storage by default (compared to 32GB)
  • Improved Portrait Mode photos and new Portrait Lighting mode (8 Plus, X only)  
  • New video recording modes (4K/24, 4K/60, 1080p at 240fps slow-mo)
  • Slow-sync camera flash
  • Improved stereo speakers (25 percent louder, more bass)
  • Fast-charge option (requires USB-C power adapter and cable)

What's the same

  • Overall design
  • Screen size and resolution
  • Rough dimensions and weight (iPhone 8 Plus is 0.2mm taller, wider and thicker, 0.5 ounces (14 grams) heavier)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Battery life
  • Water resistance
  • Resolution of rear cameras, and single-cam optical stablization
  • Front-facing camera
  • ARKit support
  • Apple Pay
  • No headphone jack

What you lose upgrading to iPhone 8

  • Unibody aluminum frame
  • Jet black, matte black and a truly gold color option
  • No 128GB option

iPhone 7... to iPhone 8 Plus?

iPhone 8 Plus

Maybe it's time for a bigger iPhone?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Before we move on to older phones, there's one more intriging possibility: Is it time for a bigger phone? Perhaps you're an iPhone 7 owner who's been greedily watching friends and family take killer photos with the Plus's telephoto lens and Portrait Mode. You get those, a bigger screen, better battery life, plus all of this year's improvements in one fell swoop. (Just remember that the iPhone X is right around the corner.)

What you get with the iPhone 8 Plus

  • Larger 5.5-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel screen
  • Longer battery life (approx. 1 extra hour of internet use)
  • Dual camera with wide-angle and telephoto (2x zoom) lens
  • Improved camera sensors (slightly better color, autofocus, low-light performance)
  • Qi-compatible wireless inductive charging
  • True Tone display (adjusts screen colors based on ambient light)
  • Glass back cover
  • Slightly faster A11 Bionic processor (25 percent faster CPU, 30 percent faster GPU)
  • 64GB of storage by default (compared to 32GB)
  • Portrait Mode photos and new Portrait Lighting mode (8 Plus, X only)  
  • New video recording modes (4K/24, 4K/60, 1080p at 240fps slow-mo)
  • Slow-sync camera flash
  • Improved stereo speakers (25 percent louder, more bass)
  • Fast-charge option (requires USB-C power adapter and cable)

What's the same

  • Overall design
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Pixel density (text and images should look just as crisp)
  • Water resistance
  • Optical stablization on primary camera
  • Front-facing camera
  • ARKit support
  • Apple Pay
  • No headphone jack

What you lose upgrading to iPhone 8 Plus

  • Smaller 4.7-inch screen
  • Much smaller phone size (iPhone 8 Plus is 0.8 inches (20mm) taller and 0.43 inches (11mm) wider)
  • Lighter weight (iPhone 8 Plus is 2.26 ounces (64 grams) heavier)
  • Unibody aluminum frame
  • Jet black, matte black and a truly gold color option
  • No 128GB option

The iPhone 6S.

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 6S to iPhone 8

For iPhone 6S owners, an iPhone 8 upgrade is starting to make sense. You'll notice a difference in speed, camera performance (particularly in low light) and storage, and you'll get a host of new features including water resistance, wireless charging and stereo speakers. 

As long as you're willing to give up the headphone jack and clicky home button, that is.

What you get with the iPhone 8

  • Notably improved 12-megapixel camera (optical stabilization, low-light performance, autofocus, color)
  • Water resistance
  • Qi-compatible wireless inductive charging
  • Stereo speakers
  • Slightly better battery life
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • True Tone display (adjusts screen colors based on ambient light)
  • Glass back cover
  • Notably faster A11 Bionic processor
  • 64GB of storage by default and up to 256GB (compared to 16GB/128GB)  
  • New video recording modes (4K/24, 4K/60, 1080p at 240fps slow-mo)
  • Quad-LED slow-sync camera flash
  • Fast-charge option (requires USB-C power adapter and cable)
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations

What's the same

  • Screen size and most body dimensions
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • ARKit support
  • Apple Pay

What you lose upgrading to iPhone 8

  • Headphone jack and clickable home button
  • Unibody aluminum frame
  • Some color options
  • No 128GB option

The iPhone SE.

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone SE to iPhone 8

Apple is still selling the throwback iPhone SE, and it's a better budget pick than ever at $349, £349 and AU$549. It's a smaller, squarer phone than any other iPhone available today, with a pocket-friendly 4-inch screen. 

If those things are important to you, stick with it -- the camera and processor are just as potent as the iPhone 6S above -- but know that today's new iPhones are mostly better equipped. 

What you get with the iPhone 8

  • Larger 4.7-inch, pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen
  • Notably improved 12-megapixel camera (optical stabilization, low-light performance, autofocus, color)
  • Water resistance
  • Qi-compatible wireless inductive charging
  • Stereo speakers
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera (compared to 1.2-megapixel)
  • True Tone display (adjusts screen colors based on ambient light)
  • Notably faster A11 Bionic processor
  • 64GB of storage by default and up to 256GB (compared to 16GB/128GB)  
  • New video recording modes (4K/24, 4K/60, 1080p at 240fps slow-mo)
  • Quad-LED slow-sync camera flash
  • Fast-charge option (requires USB-C power adapter and cable)
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations

What's the same

  • Pixel density (text and images should look just as crisp)
  • Battery life
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • ARKit support
  • Apple Pay

What you lose upgrading to iPhone 8

  • Headphone jack and clickable home button
  • Much smaller, thinner, lighter design
  • A rear camera that's flush with the surface 
  • No 128GB option
  • Savings; this is considered a budget iPhone

The iPhone 6.

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 6 to iPhone 8

Unless you need a headphone jack (there are arguments for and against), we're entering upgrade territory. The iPhone 6 is still a fine phone, speedy enough to be your daily driver, and Apple is still supporting the phone with software updates like iOS 11 -- which just so happens to be available today. That said, the iPhone 6 is definitely behind the curve.

If you're holding onto it for financial reasons, maybe save some money by picking up an iPhone 7. (It's $150, £150 or AU$230 cheaper than the iPhone 8.) But if you're ready for the latest and greatest:

What you get with the iPhone 8

  • Greatly improved camera (More megapixels, optical stablization and much more) 
  • Water resistance
  • Qi-compatible wireless inductive charging
  • Stereo speakers
  • Better battery life
  • Pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display
  • True Tone display (adjusts screen colors based on ambient light)
  • Glass back cover
  • Notably faster A11 Bionic processor 
  • 64GB of storage by default and up to 256GB (compared to 16GB/128GB)  
  • 4K video recording
  • 1080p slow-mo video recording
  • Live Photos
  • Much better camera flash
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Fast-charge option (requires USB-C power adapter and cable)
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations
  • ARKit support

What's the same

  • Screen size and most body dimensions (iPhone 8 is 0.4mm thicker)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Apple Pay

What you lose upgrading to iPhone 8

  • Headphone jack and clickable home button
  • Unibody aluminum frame
  • No 128GB option

The iPhone 5S.

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 5S to iPhone 8

The iPhone 5S has been totally outclassed -- and not just by the iPhone 8. Even the iPhone SE, which shares the same pocket-friendly form factor and 4-inch screen, has a faster processor and notably better camera than this aging handset. Yes, it does have that Touch ID fingerprint sensor, but it can't use Apple Pay

You can still barely squeak by, but it's probably time to upgrade.

What you get with the iPhone 8

  • Larger 4.7-inch, pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen
  • Greatly improved camera (More megapixels, optical stablization, and much more) 
  • Water resistance
  • Qi-compatible wireless inductive charging
  • Stereo speakers
  • Better battery life
  • True Tone display (adjusts screen colors based on ambient light)
  • Far faster A11 Bionic processor 
  • 64GB of storage by default and up to 256GB (compared to 16GB/64GB)  
  • 4K video recording
  • 1080p slow-mo video recording
  • Live Photos
  • Much better camera flash
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Apple Pay
  • Fast-charge option (requires USB-C power adapter and cable)
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations
  • ARKit support

What's the same

  • Pixel density (text and images should look just as crisp)
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor

What you lose upgrading to iPhone 8

  • Headphone jack and clickable home button
  • Much smaller, thinner, lighter design
  • A rear camera that's flush with the surface

iPhone 5 and earlier

If you're happy with your phone, we're not going to talk you out of it. Enjoy! But the new iPhone 8, 7 or SE offer far faster, smoother experiences, more battery life and cameras that make it way easier to take beautiful photos wherever you go. Some add creature comforts like water resistance and wireless charging, too. 

It's probably time to upgrade.