The Great Upgrade Debate

Note: In this post I’m sharing my thoughts and commentary on the new iPhones that were announced on Tuesday. I’m also addressing the big things to consider as you decide whether to upgrade or not, and walking you through how to pre-order the new phones. If you want a breakdown of the technical specs and pricing, check out my post from Wednesday!

To upgrade or not, that is the question. And this year it’s not just WHETHER to upgrade or not, but which phone to upgrade TO. As you can probably guess, I’m the quintessential early adopter. While that approach has certainly cost me a lot of money over the years, it has also been a lot of fun. I enjoy the challenge of learning how to use something new, as well as the chance to teach what I’ve learned to other people. Hence, a big reason for writing this blog. I think you get that by now.

After watching Apple’s event online and reading dozens of articles over the past couple of days, I’ve decided that my feelings on the new iPhones (and specifically the iPhone X) are mixed. While I was admittedly a LITTLE underwhelmed by the upgrades, at the same time I am not sure what else I expected them to announce. Technology in 2017 has limitations, and if you’ve paid attention to the progression of mobile technology at all, you know what those limitations are when it comes to smartphones. Phones aren’t going to cook you dinner or put your kids to bed. Yet. But they WILL do some pretty cool things that can make your life easier and more fun. So I’m going to embrace the upgrades, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and preorder this bad boy on October 27th. You undoubtedly have some of the same questions that I’ve been pondering over the past couple of days, so I’ve tried my best to address the big ones below. And if you want to ensure that you get one of the new phones as soon as they’re available (because they will sell out quickly) but the whole pre-order process is confusing or overwhelming, I’ve outlined that at the bottom of this post as well. Here we go.

What are the main differences between the iPhone 8/8+ and the iPhone X (10)?

Apologies if the endless bullet points in my last post made your eyes glaze over. First, the similarities. All three phones will be equally as fast, all are water and dust resistant, all come in the same storage sizes, all have excellent photo and video capabilities, and all can be charged wirelessly. Additionally, all will be compatible with Apple’s latest mobile software (iOS 11) that will be released on September 19.

But what you really care about are the differences:

    • The iPhone X has the biggest screen of the three phones, but physically it sits in between the 8 and the 8+. Keep in mind that the iPhone 8’s are exactly the same size as the current iPhone 7 models. The X is a little taller than the iPhone 8, but a little narrower than the iPhone 8+. Personally, I think the size is just about perfect. I have the 7 and crave the screen size of the 7+ — but have small-ish hands and don’t like how physically large the 7+ is.
    • The iPhone X has an OLED screen and the 8/8+ has an LCD screen (same one as the current iPhones). The average user won’t notice the difference, but there are some that will argue that an OLED screen provides better contrast, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line is, they’ll both look nice.
    • For all of you fancies out there, the X only comes in silver and black (both have a black front), and the 8/8+ comes in black, silver, and gold. New colors could always come later.
    • The camera on all three phones will be superb, but only the iPhone 8+ and the iPhone X will have the dual cameras. The dual camera allows for zooming via a telephoto lens-like feature (vs. the digital zoom created by pinching the screen with your fingers), and it also gives you Portrait Mode. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Portrait Mode, the photos created using this shooting mode are simply stunning. It’s a “depth of field” feature that blurs the background of your photo and brings the foreground subject into crisp focus. Scroll to the bottom of this post for an example. After seeing the final product, it’s worth getting the 8+ or the X for this feature alone. PLUS, the iPhone X will allow you to take SELFIES in Portrait Mode. Man, my selfies are going to be SO on point! The 8+ and the X also offer Portrait Lighting as part of Portrait Mode. This is a new feature that does real-time analysis of the light on your subject’s face, and supposedly auto adjusts to give you the best quality photo possible. Cool stuff.
    • Face ID vs Touch ID. This is one difference that could sway some people one way or the other. The iPhone X will NOT have a home button (the button near the bottom of the face of your current phone that you use to unlock it and return to your phone’s home screen when you’re reading an email or are inside of an app). No home button means no fingerprint unlocking. Instead, you’ll use your face. There IS still the option to unlock with a numeric or alphanumeric passcode but kiss the fingerprint unlocking goodbye. Conversely, the 8/8+ will still utilize Touch ID (fingerprint unlock) and will not scan your mug to open your phone. This feature will either be amazing or totally annoying, but my guess is we’ll all get used to it. And we’d better because this is where smartphone technology is headed whether we like it or not.

Is the iPhone X worth $1,200?

As I touched on in Wednesday’s post, my feeling is if you’re going to upgrade your phone this time around, and you’re going to drop > $600, you might as well pony up for the latest and greatest model. I do realize that cost is an issue for some people, and I am a big proponent of living within your means. So if you can’t afford it at the moment, then, by all means, hang on to your old phone and you can always upgrade at some point over the next year. Some people are also just fundamentally against spending this kind of money on a phone. Sometimes I wish I WAS that kind of person. Sigh. Finally, there are also people (Hi Mom) that simply won’t care about the bells and whistles of the iPhone X, and may even be annoyed or confused by the upgrades/changes. If you’re on the fence, don’t let fear stop you. That’s what I’m here for, and we’ll tackle the learning curve together! If you only use your phone for texting and calling, and the idea of staring at your phone to unlock it gives you extreme anxiety — then the 8 (or a flip phone) might be the way to go.

Great, an all glass phone. How long before I smash it into a thousand pieces?

I walk a strange line. On one hand, I have such incredible OCD that in 10 years of owning iPhones I’ve only had one disaster. Definitely jinxed myself by saying that. Anyways, on the way to the gym one morning I stopped in my bathroom to throw something in the trash and as I leaned over the toilet to reach the trash can my phone slipped out of the front pocket of my hoodie and landed straight in the (clean) bowl. Water damage is no joke. And in case you’re wondering, in most cases that whole “throw it in a bag of rice” is just a way to waste perfectly good rice. On the other hand, I think cases are ugly and bulky, so I’ve always kept my phone naked. Some may call that living on the edge. But I didn’t have an iPhone in college, I’m not a huge drinker, and I don’t have any children, so I’ve knocked out three major culprits that contribute to the demise of many an iPhone screen. So all that said, I’m not that worried about breaking my phone no matter WHAT it is made out of, but I can see how this makes accident prone people nervous. Rest assured, Apple claims this is the “most durable glass ever.” Hmmm. I think concrete floors all over the world are ready to step up to that challenge. As usual, Twitter had a priceless reaction. #MoreToSmash. Love it. P.S. Apple made the back out of glass to enable wireless charging capabilities. Keep that in mind when you’re picking shards of glass out of your ear in three months.

What is this Face ID thing all about?

Phone security has evolved over time. First, it was the four-digit numeric passcode, then there was the option to create a longer alphanumeric passcode, then there was the fingerprint scanner, and now there’s facial recognition. This is probably the new iPhone X’s most talked about feature because it’s completely new, and a big change from what we do today. I don’t know much more about it than you do, or how well it will work (or not work). If it DOES work, it will be a neat futuristic addition to an already neat gadget. If it doesn’t work, it will be supremely frustrating. Only time will tell. Apple says that it should work in any lighting condition (yes, even in the dark); that it will recognize you with a beard, a hat, and even with sunglasses on (most types at least); that you cannot trick it with a photo; and that it can adjust to your changing “look” over time. I also read an interesting article today about what Apple says you can do if you were in a situation where you wanted to disable Face ID. Interesting stuff. But again, we’ll see how well it actually works.

Who is going to buy the iPhone 8/8+?

Probably more people than I think. When I saw Apple announce the iPhone 8, and then 10 minutes later announce the “future of the smartphone”, the iPhone X, I was scratching my head. As an aforementioned early adopter, I didn’t see any reason why ANYONE would buy a phone that was literally made obsolete in the blink of an eye. However, after thinking about it for a couple of days, I did warm up to the idea. Not for myself of course, but I did realize there likely IS an audience for the iPhone 8. Here’s a few I came up with:

    • Someone with exactly zero patience. There are definitely people out there that think waiting a month to get the iPhone X is just too damn long. So these folks will either buy the 8 and then sell it to buy the X a month later (and lose money!), or they’ll be satisfied with the 8 for the short-term and wait for Apple to work out any potential kinks with the X and buy it later down the road
    • A cost conscious buyer. Now, it’s hard to call anyone dropping $700-950 on a phone COST CONSCIOUS, but it’s not dropping $1,150-1,400. If someone is really stretching their budget at the “lower” price point (or already sold their liver or first-born child to buy a previous iPhone model), they may truly not want to or be able to spend the extra couple hundred dollars. Perfectly understandable. In this category might also be people who don’t upgrade every year (like I do), and are rocking an older model that is on its last leg.
    • Someone who likes shiny new things, but doesn’t want to be a beta tester for Apple’s newest features. While many of us are pumped about using our face to unlock our phones, at the same time we hope that Apple has tested, tested, and then tested again to make sure all the bugs are worked out. But despite the fact that it’s Apple, there’s certainly a chance that something could go horribly wrong out of the gate. Apple has taken a big leap forward with the iPhone X, and there’s always a risk that they went too far, or rushed something to market that wasn’t quite ready. I don’t THINK this will be the case, but some people may want to wait it out and see how the X actually performs in the wild before making the jump.
Example of Portrait Mode: photo on the left is the normal version (notice how the background is crisp and clear); photo on the right applies the “depth effect” and blurs the background while focusing on the subject in the foreground. It’s super slick.

 

PRE-ORDER GUIDE

If you’re contemplating pre-ordering something, it’s usually because what you’re ordering is in high demand and you want to make sure you get one. I’ve gone through pre-order processes that were easy and smooth, and I’ve gone through some that were a total nightmare. The good news is that Apple’s USUALLY fall into the former category. Here are my tips to ensure success on September 15th (tonight!) or October 27th:

    • Determine which model you want. This includes color, storage size, carrier, and if you want to pay in installments or all at once — this will save you time when the clock is ticking.
    • Speaking of how you’re going to pay. I always buy my phones outright — meaning I pay the full cost upfront. I know you can pay smaller amounts monthly, but I don’t mess with that. Since I budget for my gadgets well in advance, I’m prepared to take the hit. However, I know many people like this option. If you go this route, make sure you don’t have a balance on your current device, or are comfortable paying that off immediately as you place your pre-order. There is also the Apple Upgrade Program that I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about. It allows you to upgrade to a new iPhone every year by paying your monthly installments directly to Apple (or a bank that they partner with). For those of you that are currently enrolled in that program, or are interested in it now, check out this article.
    • Make sure you are eligible for an upgrade. This can be a little tricky these days because carriers don’t do the straightforward “upgrade every two years” deal anymore. You can check ahead of time on your carrier’s site, or by calling them. You can also check on Apple’s website or mobile app when you’re going through the pre-order process. This part can trip you up, so it’s best to know ahead of time where you stand.
    • Wake up/set your alarm. The iPhone 8/8+ goes on sale at 12:01 am Pacific Time on Friday, September 15. The iPhone X goes on sale 12:01 am Pacific Time on Friday, October 27. That’s 1:01 am Mountain Time, 2:01 am Central Time, and 3:01 am Eastern Time. If you live outside the U.S. use this site instead of relying on my poor conversion skills!
    • Pre-order on Apple’s Website or the Apple Store mobile app. I have ONLY pre- ordered using these sites, and have never had any issues. Obviously, I’ve just jinxed myself again. But seriously, while you CAN pre-order through your carrier, my theory is that it’s always best to go straight to the source. Plus, Apple does not charge you a restocking fee if you decide to return your phone for any reason within the 14-day return window. The carriers do. That’s reason enough to go through Apple. Of the two, I actually recommend the mobile app. It’s clean and easy to use, doesn’t have all the clutter of the website, and is less likely to crash during the flurry of orders. And remember, one phone per mobile #.
    • Know your carrier billing details. As you go through the pre-order process, Apple’s system will redirect you through a couple of screens operated by your mobile carrier. To verify your eligibility and complete the order you’ll need your billing zip code and any billing password that you may have on your account.

Hopefully everything goes smoothly for you, but if you get tripped up let me know so I can update this page for the iPhone X pre-orders in October. Unfortunately, Apple is currently updating its website in preparation for tonight’s pre-orders so I can’t walk through the process to take screenshots. Fingers crossed for anyone taking the plunge tonight. Good luck!

***Updated Friday, September 15 at 2:03 pm:

I was able to walk through the pre-order process for the iPhone 8 today. Even at 10:00 am this morning, none of the models were sold out. I recommend using the Apple Store app (and that’s where the screenshots below come from). Sure enough, I did run into an issue when attempting to “order” a phone. When I got to the part of the process where my carrier details were being confirmed, I got an error message about my Verizon account PIN. This feature is completely broken, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had problems with it over the past couple of years. A rant for another day. I WAS able to fix the issue though, and I explain that below as well. Hope these help.

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Open the Apple Store iPhone app and this is the first screen that should pop up. If it doesn’t, tap on “Shop” at the bottom. Then tap on “Pre-order”.
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Here’s where you choose the model you want (at time of writing the only ones available are the iPhone 8’s). If you are enrolled in the iPhone Upgrade Program (or are interested in enrolling), you can click on the link at the top of the page.
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The app should automatically recognize your wireless carrier. The number listed should be your current wireless #. If you are buying the phone for YOUR line, choose the first box. If you’re buying a phone for someone else (like I will be doing for my Mom), choose the second option.

 

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Choose the color you want (choices are Silver, Space Gray [looks black to me], and Gold). As of this afternoon, they were all still in stock.
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Choose your storage size. The only options this year are 64GB and 256GB.
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Here’s where your choices get interesting. You can pay three different ways. 1) Apple’s Upgrade Program – a monthly payment with Apple Care included, 2) Your carrier’s payment plan – another monthly payment; 3) Pay full retail upfront (see screenshot below).

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The next screen is where you can choose too add Apple Care. Keep in mind that Apple Care is no longer a flat fee across all models. Now, the more expensive your phone is, the more you’ll pay for Apple Care. I know it stinks to have an additional upfront cost, but I do think it’s worth it if you think there’s even a CHANCE you might damage your device over the next year or two.

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Here’s where things got sticky for me. Apple tries to be helpful by remembering your wireless carrier information. The app auto-filled my billing zip code and the last 4-digits of my SS#. But it also immediately started to process the eligibility check without allowing me to edit anything. The problem is that my information (specifically my account PIN) changed since I last ordered an iPhone, and on top of that I couldn’t remember what I changed to. So I knew I was headed for an error message.
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Boom. Sure enough, there it was. Ugh. Calling Verizon was a maddening exercise. I needed the account PIN to even get through to a representative. The Verizon robot lady attempted to help me reset it on the phone through an automated menu. Huge fail. In the end, I went ahead and reset it on Verizon’s website. This is the route I recommend if you run into a similar issue. There are some instructions at the bottom of the screen above that explain what happens if you don’t HAVE an account PIN. So you can follow these steps if that applies to you. I apologize that I don’t know the process for other carriers. There’s just no way for me to test it and be 100% certain I’m giving you accurate info. I’d recommend Googling articles or calling your carrier before 10/27 to avoid any issues.
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After I changed my Verizon account PIN, I started to do a little troubleshooting. I realized that I needed the Apple Store app to FORGET my old information. So I started tapping through the various menu options to see if there was a way to reset everything. I found what I was looking for in the app under Account > Account Settings > Remember Me. I toggled that OFF (see next screenshot). I also went ahead and deleted the Apple Store app and reinstalled it just in case it needed an extra reboot to forget all of the old settings.

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I started the whole pre-order process over and this time when I got to the Verizon carrier screen, nothing was auto-filled. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I manually entered my billing zip code and the last 4-digits of my SS# and made sure to keep the “Remember Me” setting toggled OFF. It only takes a few seconds to re-enter this if I have to, and it will save me the hassle if this happens again.
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This time, a pop-up appeared and asked me for my (new) account PIN. I entered it with no issue and moved on to the next step.
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The goal is to get this confirmation screen! Tap continue and you’ll be taken to your shopping cart where you can check out.
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Double check everything, enter your payment information (if you’re paying upfront), and you should be good to go!

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “The Great Upgrade Debate

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