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I tried Apple’s new iPhone comparison tool, but it didn’t convince me to upgrade

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Smartphone sales have been on the slide in recent years, because they’ve simply become too good. Why upgrade your iPhone when it still feels perfectly functional, and there are refurbished bargains to be had? Well, Apple’s still hoping to convince you to upgrade with its new iPhone comparison tool – though the omission of one crucial detail means I’m still sticking with my iPhone 11 Pro (for now).

Apple’s new ‘Reasons to upgrade’ tool, spotted by 9to5Mac, is actually a pretty useful summary of the real-world differences between the iPhone 15 series and models going back to the iPhone 11. Rather than a sheet of specs, Apple’s tool visually spells out differences like camera resolution, storage differences and software features like Cinematic mode.

Clearly, it’s a promotional tool, so neglects to mention some of the downsides of upgrading – like the fact that the Apple Trade-In value of my iPhone 11 Pro is likely around $70 (about £55 / AU$105). Also, it’s a little galling to see USB-C touted as a reason to upgrade when Apple only belatedly added the feature on the iPhone 15 series after being strong-armed by the EU.

A close-up photo of a dog's eye taken on an iPhone

(Image credit: Apple)

But the tool’s visual examples are also way more useful than a spec sheet, particularly when it comes to the camera differences. For example, when comparing the iPhone 11 Pro to the iPhone 15 Pro (a move I have been considering), you get an example of the cropping potential of the latter’s 48MP sensor and a side-by-side of the stabilizing improvements delivered by Action mode for video. 

On the other hand, the tool would have more potential if it let you choose the areas you want to see compared. For example, it’d be useful to see the clear size differences between models or real-world examples of battery life. Also, one detail Apple naturally neglects to mention is that it launches new iPhones every September – which means “waiting six months could be your best bet” isn’t part of the guidance. 

Why I’m waiting

Two videos of a woman running to show the iPhone's action mode

(Image credit: Apple)

Despite owning a positively ancient iPhone 11 Pro, I decided to skip on the iPhone 15 Pro Max this year because I’m a photographer – and my ideal Apple smartphone is likely to be this year’s iPhone 16 Pro.

As the comparison tool tells me, upgrading to an iPhone 15 Pro Max now would give me Apple’s 5x telephoto camera. But I’d also have to get a 6.7-inch phone, which is just a bit too big for my liking – if the rumors are true, the iPhone 16 Pro could offer that same camera in a phone with a more manageable 6.3-inch screen.

Also, because the iPhone 15 Pro Max debuted Apple’s first 5x optical zoom, my feeling was that it could do with another year of software and hardware refinement before I’d take the leap. The 15 Pro Max is certainly still a great camera phone, which is why it won our Phone of the year award last year, but I always prefer to wait for the second-gen versions of new features.

The added twist this year are the growing rumors that iOS 18 is going to be the iPhone’s biggest software upgrade yet. This is expected to be largely due to some AI features across the likes of Siri, Messages and more – and while Apple doesn’t often restrict software features to newer models, I like the future-proofing potential of owning an iPhone that’s been announced with those new features in mind. This tallies with new rumors that the iPhone 16 Pro’s chipset could be designed with AI mind.

So while Apple’s new iPhone comparison tool has its uses – unless you’re looking at the iPhone 13 series, which is strangely omitted – I won’t be clicking Apple’s ‘buy’ button until later this year.

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