By Emily Bary
Apple Inc.’s new iPhone models, now available in stores, have great cameras and battery life, but the key question remains whether consumers will deem them worth an upgrade.
That’s a complicated issue, according to the first reviews of the devices, which were published earlier this week. Reviewers say the phones offer significant enhancements over devices like the iPhone 6, which was released in 2014, but the changes are likely too incremental to justify trading up from newer models.
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Brian X. Chen of the New York Times said that the new phones underscored that the prior law of upgrades — get a new phone every two years — no longer holds.
“You should definitely upgrade if your current device is at least five years old,” he wrote . “The iPhone 11 models are all a significant step up from those introduced in 2014. But for everyone else with smartphones from 2015 or later, there is no rush to buy. Instead, there is more mileage and value to be had out of the excellent smartphone you already own.”
The iPhone 11 starts at $699, while the iPhone 11 Pro begins at $999 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $1,099.
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The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern highlighted her perceived dilemma for those who currently own the iPhone X, which Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL -0.10% debuted two years back: “You’ve got the most modern design but you’re now behind on battery life, Face ID improvements and camera tricks. Yet if you upgrade this go-round, you might miss out on next year’s expected big refresh with 5G and more.”
She advised keeping your current phone for another year “if you can live with” it, or else going for the base-model iPhone 11, which lacks the OLED screen and telephoto camera that the iPhone X has, but allows users to save some money, which could later be put toward the expected 5G phone out next year.
Nonetheless, the features that Apple chose to focus on among this year’s updates got fairly strong reviews from those who tried out the devices. “The iPhone 11 Pro cameras are an enormous improvement over the XS, and they beat the Pixel and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus in most of our side-by-side comparisons,” wrote Nilay Patel of the Verge . “In fact, I think the iPhone 11 Pro is the best smartphone camera on the market right now.”
He also praised the iPhone 11 Pro’s speakers, saying they’re “really loud and generally sound better than ever.”
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TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino had some compliments for the new ultrawide-angle camera, which is coming to all three devices announced this year. “In my testing of the wide angle, it showed off extremely well especially in bright conditions,” he wrote. “It allowed for great close up family shots, wide angle portraits that emphasized dynamism and vistas that really opened up possibilities for shooting that haven’t been on iPhone before.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Stern seemed especially pleased with the battery life on the three new phones, writing that talk of upgraded cameras, glass and colors was “mostly just smoke-and-mirrors marketing” but that the battery upgrades are for real.
The iPhone 11 family promises “one thing many of us have wanted all along: phones that are a bit heavier and thicker — but work when we damn well need them to,” according to Stern . “Yes, longer battery life.”
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Apple opened up preorders for the three devices late last week, and they officially become available this Friday.
Shares have gained 40% so far this year, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.07% has risen 16%.