It can be tempting to splurge on a new iPhone when Apple releases updated models every year.
Of course, the latest features and top-of-the-line technology all seem incredible, but buying a new iPhone every time one comes out is definitely not the wisest financial decision.
The iPhone 14, which the company just unveiled, starts at $799 — and that’s for the cheapest model. Here are a dozen things to consider before springing for the upgrade.
The price tag
Brand new phones may come with incredible features, but those features (particularly because they’re new) will not come cheap.
The recently announced iPhone 14, for example, has longer battery life, new emergency features, and an improved camera (particularly for low-light photos), but the basic models start at $799 or $33.29 a month for 24 months.
The 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and Pro Max each tack on a few hundred more dollars. If you’re considering buying a new phone, going with the latest model is not the only — and definitely not the most financially savvy — choice unless you plan to hold on to it for years.
Last year’s models are great
Typically, Apple announces new iPhone models every year in or around September. With new technology coming out every year, the upgrades you’re going to get with the newest model may just not be worth the price.
Last year’s iPhone 13, for example, came with an excellent camera and a long battery life and was even available in standard 6.1-inch and mini 5.4-inch sizes.
New models will keep coming out
If Apple’s annual product release schedule continues to be the norm, then there will be new and improved iPhones available next year.
If you haven’t yet paid off your last phone and it still functions properly, saving your money instead of splurging on a new model can be a great way to boost your bank account this year.
Older phones have great cameras
If you bought a new iPhone within the last few years, you probably already have a pretty solid camera. There were some slight updates to the iPhone 14 which make the camera better equipped to shoot in dim lighting, but the camera on the basic model is basically the same.
If you have an iPhone 12 or 13 especially, you already have the ability to take great photos.
Older phones keep dropping in price
Like new cars, part of the allure of buying a new iPhone is that these products are just hitting the market. Apple knows this and prices its phones accordingly.
The company also tends to significantly drop the prices of old phones once new ones come out. So, if you have your heart set on this year’s new iPhone 14 but are just not sure if you can foot the bill, it will likely cost less next year.
Your current phone still works
We’re all guilty of being drawn to something that looks shiny and new, but if your current phone is still in excellent shape, there’s not a whole lot of benefit to buying the newest model.
Apple users may want to consider the new iPhone 14 if they’re due for a new phone anyway or their current phone is broken or seriously slowing down. But even in those cases, an older model or a refurbished phone could work just as well.
You can already access Apple services
Apple has a lot of great features embedded within its products, like FaceTime, iMessage, AirDrop, Find My iPhone, and so much more. But you don’t need the newest iPhone model to access these features.
It’s true the iPhone 14 has some new safety features — like an SOS system that can send out an emergency text over satellite if you have no service — but you likely already have the large majority of features that make Apple products great.
Buying used is better for the environment
Even users who trade in their old iPhones every year are contributing to a massive amount of electronic waste. About 57.4 million tons of electronics were tossed out in 2021 worldwide. The majority of that waste was not recycled and made its way into landfills.
The environmental toll of our need to keep upgrading our products is massive. Opting for a refurbished phone instead of a new one or holding onto your still-working phone for another year is one small way to make a difference.
You’ll get iOS upgrades on other iPhones
Some of the features that may draw you to the new phones are actually software updates that are available for most iPhones.
For example, the latest iOS 16 update from Apple brought changes to the lock screen, the ability to edit and collaborate in messages, new mail tools, and other interactive features. However, this update is available for older phones as far back as the iPhone 8.
Your phone is paid off
If you just paid off your last iPhone and are taking this as a sign to spring for the new one, think about what you could do with that extra cash each month instead. Just because you eliminated a monthly bill doesn’t mean you should immediately replace it with a new one.
Even if you haven’t yet finished paying off your last iPhone, you may still want to hold off on buying a new one. If you spring for the new phone, you could be looking at 24 more months of payments.
You can get a great refurbished phone
Did you know you can get a refurbished iPhone from Apple for just a few hundred bucks? This is another great option for anyone looking for cheaper options for replacing their phone.
Refurbished phones carried by Apple, phone carriers, or major retailers like Amazon generally have to be “certified.” This means the company has inspected the product and deemed it to be in good working condition.
You just don’t need it
You may want Apple’s latest model, but do you need it? Basic budgeting tells us that it’s unwise to spend when you don’t need to, and upgrading your iPhone every year is a prime example of this.
Think about what’s important to you. If the features on the latest iPhone — like the camera or the extra emergency security — mean a lot to you, the iPhone 14 may be worth splurging on. But that doesn’t mean you should upgrade your phone every year.
Over the past few years, iPhones have drastically improved in several areas, from their cameras and battery life to their messaging features. But financially speaking, it’s a good idea to resist buying every new model Apple releases.
When it’s time to replace your old phone because it’s broken, seriously slow, or simply missing the features you need, you can reduce your money stress by springing for an older model or looking into refurbished products.
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