First Click: Can you wait three years to upgrade your iPhone?

July 8th, 2016


I’ve been on a two-year iPhone upgrade cycle ever since I bought my first iPhone, the iPhone 3G in 2008. Since then I’ve owned the 4, 5, and 6 Plus, skipping the speedier and higher specced “S” models that shared the same industrial design. This approach worked out well with my two-year contracts, allowing me to switch carriers twice without penalty over the years. Now, I’m faced with a dilemma. My phone is almost two-years old and the 2016 iPhones are said to be relatively unchanged. Apple's flagship refresh is now rumored for 2017, thus breaking the traditional two-year tick-tock release cycle.

These rumors have been around for awhile, of course, but they’ve received a shot of credibility recently after the Wall Street Journal’s “people familiar with the matter” said Apple would “make only subtle changes” to this year’s iPhone, making it 1-mm thinner, more water resistant, and removing the headphone jack. The bigger changes are coming in 2017 with the 10th anniversary iPhone. The most notable feature, according to the WSJ, is the elimination of the home button, with the fingerprint sensor integrated directly into the edge-to-edge OLED display. That’s the phone I want, but I don’t want to buy a phone in 2016 and 2017. Question is: can I and others like me wait three years to upgrade?

Normally, I’d say no. For one thing, the battery becomes an issue after two years. But, I just went to Apple and had mine swapped out because it was behaving erratically. I paid Apple €79 (the out-of-warranty cost) to replace it in the hour I waited instead of taking the free warranty option that would have subjected me to weeks of hassle with my carrier (my time is worth more than €79). Now I’m back to having 25+ percent battery remaining at the end of each day.

I’m also not at the point of needing a better CPU/GPU.  I don’t play games on my phone and I don’t edit any movies locally, either. I take lots of photos and video which are then subjected to lots of filters later because I’m a terrible person. My iPhone 6 Plus is also compatible with iOS 10 and I can't see iMessage's new stickers or Siri's new apps overwhelming my A8 SoC. And although 3D Touch is improved in iOS 10 (and not available on my iPhone 6 Plus) it hasn’t exactly revolutionized user interface design yet. I’m sure I can get by for another year.

And finally, there’s that whole headphone jack thing. I’m genuinely excited about the rumored truly-wireless earbuds Apple will presumably promote as part of its iPhone launch this year. Thing is, my phone already supports Bluetooth headsets like the Braggi Dash. I’m also pretty fond of my wired headphones and, as a single-port MacBook owner, I’d like to carry fewer dongles, not more.

Having written this, I think I’ve convinced myself to wait until 2017 to upgrade. (But all bets are off if Apple brings its annual upgrade program to Europe.) Unfortunately, it’s a decision built upon a foundation of rumors and what-ifs. Nevertheless, knowing what we know today, could you also wait three years to upgrade your iPhone?

Can you wait three years to upgrade your iPhone?
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