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Phones

iPhone 7: Should you upgrade?

Wondering if you should give your current iPhone the heave-ho and get one of Apple's new models? Follow this guide!

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Apple's iPhone 7
and 7 Plus hit shelves on Friday, September 16 (they're on preorder now), and you have a decision to make: stick with your phone for now or buy one of the new ones. Remember that the iPhone 7 Plus has the larger screen, second camera and slightly longer battery life. (For more details, here are all the differences between the two.) The new iPhones also ship with iOS 10, and many phones will upgrade to the new software starting September 13 -- here's the full list.

So what do you really gain or lose by taking the plunge to the iPhone 7? Now, we haven't had a chance to fully review the devices yet, so we can't firmly tell you yet if you should stay or you should you go, now. But we can tell you what's different on paper. (We'll update this when the full iPhone 7 and 7 Plus reviews are in.)

Scroll down to find your phone. If it isn't on this list, it's ancient by phone standards, and you'll almost definitely see performance and feature gains by upgrading. Ready? Here we go!


Apple iPhone 6S

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 6S to iPhone 7

The iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 are the most similar, so switching between the two is more of a toss-up. If you're part of Apple's yearly upgrade program, you won't have to decide, you automatically get this year's phone. Waterproofing, camera improvements and increased storage are the main reasons to make the jump.

What you get with the iPhone 7

  • Jet- and matte-black color options
  • Waterproofing
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations
  • Optical image stabilization for 12-megapixel camera
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • 32GB base storage up from 16GB (and up to 256GB)
  • Slightly faster A10 Fusion processor and longer battery life

What's the same

  • Screen size and most body dimensions
  • Siri voice assistant integration
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Apple Pay

What you're losing when upgrading to iPhone 7

  • Headphone jack and clickable home button

Apple iPhone SE

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone SE to iPhone 7

The pocket-friendly iPhone SE has a 4-inch screen and smaller, squarer body. It's a likable, fluid device to be sure, and is a budget phone by Apple standards, initially $399/£359/AU$679 for the 16GB version. Now, Apple's dropped the 64GB version to $449/£UK /AU$749. It's hard to imagine that the iPhone 7 won't outperform the SE in every way, but if a compact body's important to you, the SE may still be your best bet.

What you get with the iPhone 7

  • Pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen
  • Jet- and matte-black color options
  • Waterproofing
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations
  • Optical image stabilization for 12-megapixel camera
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • 32GB base storage up from 16GB (and up to 256GB)
  • Slightly faster A10 Fusion processor

What's the same

  • Pixel density (text and images should look just as crisp)
  • Battery life, potentially. Our review unit lasted 13 hours in our battery drain test.
  • Siri voice-assistant integration
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Apple Pay

What you're losing when upgrading to iPhone 7

  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Much smaller, thinner, lighter design
  • Savings; this is considered a budget iPhone

Apple iPhone 6

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 6 to iPhone 7

If you need the latest and greatest Apple hardware, or you absolutely need to step up your photography game, you may consider upgrading from the iPhone 6. If those aren't essential to you, however, hold off updating until the next iteration. The jump to the iPhone 7 is too incremental and not worth the trouble.

What you get with the iPhone 7

  • Pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen
  • Jet-black and rose-gold color options
  • Waterproofing
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations
  • Optical image stabilization for 12-megapixel camera and 4K video recording
  • Better flash and Live Photos
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Faster A10 Fusion processor and longer battery life
  • 32GB base storage up from 16GB (and up to 256GB)

What's the same

  • Screen size and pixel density (text and images should look just as crisp)
  • Weight/size
  • Siri voice-assistant integration
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Apple Pay

What you're losing when upgrading to iPhone 7

  • 3.5mm headphone jack

Apple iPhone 5S

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 5S to iPhone 7

With a bigger display, a way better camera and a faster processor, you should get the iPhone 7 if you own an iPhone 5S. True, it wouldn't be the end of the world if you stuck with the 5S, but going to the iPhone 7 will definitely satisfy all your modern phone needs.

What you get with the iPhone 7

  • Pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen
  • Jet-black and rose-gold color options
  • Waterproofing
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations
  • Optical image stabilization for 12-megapixel camera and 4K video recording
  • Better flash and Live Photos
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Much faster A10 Fusion processor and longer battery life
  • A 128GB and 256GB capacity
  • Sleeker, smoother design
  • Bigger display
  • 32GB base storage up from 16GB (and up to 256GB)
  • Apple Pay

What's the same

  • Pixel density (text and images should look just as crisp)
  • Siri voice-assistant integration
  • Fingerprint sensor

What you're losing when upgrading to iPhone 7

  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • More pocketable, 4-inch display
  • A rear camera that's flush with the surface

Apple iPhone 5

Sarah Tew/CNET

iPhone 5 to iPhone 7

Having a three-year-old phone like the iPhone 5 isn't the worst thing in the world, but if you're thinking about upgrading to the iPhone 7, do so. Its advanced processor, camera and design will be worth taking the plunge, and hey -- now that it's waterproof you won't have to sweat it in case it takes a dive underwater.

What you get with the iPhone 7

  • Pressure-sensitive 3D Touch screen
  • Jet-black, gold and rose-gold color options
  • Waterproofing
  • Home button's "taptic" vibrations
  • Optical image stabilization for 12-megapixel camera and 4K video recording
  • Better flash and Live Photos
  • 7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Stereo speakers
  • Vastly faster A10 Fusion processor and longer battery life
  • 32GB base storage up from 16GB (and up to 256GB)
  • Sleeker, smoother design
  • Bigger display
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Apple Pay

What's the same

  • Pixel density (text and images should look just as crisp)
  • Siri voice-assistant integration

What you're losing when upgrading to iPhone 7

  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • More pocketable, 4-inch display
  • A rear camera that's flush with the surface

iPhone 4S and earlier

If you're happy with your phone, enjoy it. But we think you'll find the iPhone 7, 6S and SE will deliver a far faster and smoother experience. You should seriously consider an upgrade.