2018 iPhone Buyer’s guide – Which iPhone should I buy?

“What iPhone do you think I should get?”

As the tech guy in the family, I get asked this question more times than I can remember.  So if you have friends and family asking you this question, or if you’re in the market for a new iPhone, I thought I’d put together a guide to help out.

What are my options?

Unlike the complicate Mac line up, Apple has cut and reduced the iPhone line up greatly.  That doesn’t make it any easier to pick a phone right now, but it does make it easier than picking a Mac.

Apple currently sells 4 iPhones:

2018 iPhone Line up
All iPhone currenly being made
  • iPhone XS and XS Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

All iPhones still come in multiple capacities and colors so your usage might vary.


Capacity is how many files, photos, videos, and apps that you can store on your device.  The bigger the space the more expensive the phone.

To best pick how much storage you might need, check how much you are currently using.  If you are currently getting a message that you are running out of storage, you should probably try to go up a size.  The smallest space that Apple is currently selling is 32 GB. Coming from an iPhone 7 or older, this will most likely be a step up for you no matter what.

To check how much storage you currently have/using go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage.

If you plan on taking lots of photos or videos, downloading games or movies, or really using a ton of apps – look at upgrading the baseline storage; if you barely use your phone and take a few photos you can probably get away with staying at the base.

iPhone XS and XS Max

iPhone xsiPhone XS and Max

The iPhone XS and XS Max are Apple’s top of the line phones.  They feature an A12 bionic chip, OLED display, wireless charging, and have the best cameras in the iPhone line.

If you’re looking for the absolute best phone that your money can buy you, this is that phone.  It has the best screen, best cameras, and has finer details like the stainless steel band that runs around the phone.

It also has FaceID and no home button.  Coming from an older phone, you might have an adjustment period getting used to this setup, but it really adds security without getting in your way.

The iPhone XS Max contains the biggest screen that Apple makes on a phone as well.  If you’re used to Apple’s Plus sized phones, you’ll be used to the size of the Max, if not, you might try to handle one before you buy it.

Not to mention, the XS is now the best small phone that Apple makes.

Prices on the XS start $999 for 64 GB, $1149 for 256 GB, and $1349 for 512 GB.

The prices on the XS Max are a little higher: $1099 for 64 GB, $1249 for 256 GB, and $512 GB.

Who should get the XS and the XS Max

Get the XS if you want:

  • The top of the line in a smaller form factor.
  • Take lots of pictures and want the best quality and options.
  • a fast phone and you like finer things.
  • Great screen
  • What a smaller phone

Get the XS Max if you want:

  • The biggest phone that Apple Makes
  • A bigger battery
  • more screen space for videos

I currently use the iPhone XS Max as my daily driver.  You can check out my review of the iPhone XS Max here, or my piece where I touch back on the Max after using it for a month

iPhone XR

XRThe iPhone XR

The iPhone XR is the only phone on this list that I haven’t owned, but it’s a phone I think is probably the best for most people.

To begin with, the insides of the iPhone XR are almost the same as the iPhone XS.  The only real difference is the screen, camera, materials, and battery.

The screen 6.1 inches, in a spot between the XS and XS Max.  If you are used to bigger phones, this one will feel small; if you’re used to smaller phones this one will feel large.

The iPhone XR is the only phone that comes in colors other than black, white, and gold.  If you like the pop of colors, you should get your hands on these phones.  They look so good.

So what’s wrong with it?

The short answer is nothing.

Apple used an LCD panel, which is older technology compared to the OLED screens in the XS. The blacks on this screen won’t be as black because these screens require a backlight.  An OLED can light up individual pixels so it can leave the dots off if it is supposed to show a black.

The resolution of the screen is also a little lower than most phones coming out today.  This has many angry and claiming that the screen is bad.  However, in a blind test, it got chosen every time.

One the back side of the phone, it only has a single camera.  This camera is the same as the wide angle lens in the XS.  It shoots great wide angle photos, but it loses some clarity when you try to zoom in.  You can still take portrait photos of people with it though, and it even takes brighter photos when in the dark.

The XR is also missing 3D Touch.  The technology that Apple developed that allows you to press harder on the screen to get shortcuts, peek and pop windows, and other things is missing on this phone.  I suspect that Apple was trying to keep the size and cost of the phone down.  If you use 3D touch now and you use it often, you’ll probably want to skip this model.

For most people, this won’t be a major problem.

The XR starts at $749 for 64 GB, $799 for 128 GB, and $899 for 256 GB.

Who should get the iPhone XR

If you want

  • The newest specs but don’t want to spend $1000 on a phone you should check out this phone
  • A pop of color on your phone
  • FaceID within a reasonable price range
  • A great camera, but you don’t zoom in often
  • Want a phone that will last you a few years, but won’t cost too much.

The XR is probably the best phone for most people.  I’ve recommended this phone to many people already.

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

iPhone 8
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are phones that came out last year.  They feature the last ten years of iPhone and not the future.

That’s not a bad thing, the iPhone 8 is still a capable phone in all rights.  It has very similar specs to the iPhone X that came out last year.  They feature the same CPU, have a similar camera, and can be charged wirelessly.

The iPhone 8 is one of the smaller phones that you can get now.  It is the nearly the same size as the iPhone XS, but because of the bezels, it only has a 4.7-inch screen on the smaller model.  The larger model is the same size as the iPhone XS Max but has a smaller 5.5-inch display.

The iPhone 8 starts at $599 for 64 GB and can be upgraded to 256 GB for $749.

The iPhone 8 Plus starts at $699 for 64GB and goes up to $849 for 256GB.

Who should get the iPhone 8 and Plus

Get the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus if you want:

  • Good technology for lower prices
  • TouchID instead of FaceID
  • Prefer the older form factor.

If you are stepping up your storage or planning to buy the Plus version I would highly recommend that you look at the iPhone XR.  It’s a better phone for not much more money at that point. The XR will last you longer down the road as well.  I’d only stay with the 8 if you prefer touchID honestly.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

iPhone 7The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

The last phones that Apple sells are a couple of years old now.  They feature older CPUs and cameras.  They don’t offer wireless charging either.

The best thing that the 7’s have going for them is the price.  If you are looking for the cheapest phone this is your best option.

iPhone 7 starts at $449 for 32 GB and jumps up to $549 for 128 GB.  The 7 Plus starts at $569 for 32 and $669 for 128 GB.

Apple has done a great job of making things work for older phones but these phones are already a couple of years old.  Price is the main reason to get this phone, but if you also want Rose Gold on your phone, this is the only option for it as well.

Still, I don’t think color is a great reason to pick a phone, but to each their own.

Wrap up

Apple has a variety of phones at different price points.  While I wouldn’t recommend the iPhone 7 to anyone, it is still a good phone.  It’s just older.

I think most people should really give the iPhone XR a look.  For the price, I think it’s the best phone.  If you love having the top of the line technology the XS or Max will do if you can afford them.

If you are just wanting to get in the ecosystem but are hard on cash, the iPhones 8 are still great phones, but I think stepping up to the XR would be a better move for most.

Please feel free to direct your friends asking you which they should get to this site.  I want nothing more to help.

Make sure you check out our iPad Buyer’s guide for 2018,  the MacBook Buyers Guide, or the Gift Guide as well!


Do you have any other advice that I haven’t given?  Would you recommend something else? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

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