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The ultimate “old iPhone” buying guide

It is that time of the year. When Apple has released new iPhones. And while the faithful have lined up for the latest and the greatest, the vast majority of consumers are actually wincing at the price tags and wondering how they can get some of Dat iPhone Magic without spending all Dem Dollars. The answer, generally, is to get an older iPhone. One of the charms of the iPhone is that its older generations, unlike those of its competitors, tend to age gracefully and receive software updates for quite a while. So you could invest in an older iPhone and still get a very decent iPhone experience. But then, with so many older iPhones around – thanks to the multiple versions of the Godphone that have been launched in recent times – which one should an iPhone lover/wanter on a relatively tight budget go for? Well, here is our very basic primer.

(Disclaimer: The prices are approximate and based on what we have seen at different portals and stores. They might differ from official price tags, and you might also get better deals at some places)

iPhone XR: Simply the best “older” iPhone around

Rs 49,000 (approx)

Apple iPhone XR

It started out as the grossly overpriced “affordable” iPhone when it was launched in late 2018, but a series of price cuts have made the iPhone XR perhaps the best option for anyone looking for an iPhone without cutting too many corners. Note that we say “too many.” For it would be naive to suggest that with the lower price of the iPhone XR do not come any compromises – the phone has a single rear camera, a HD (rather than full HD) LCD display (rather than an AMOLED one), and is made of materials that are a level below that of its successors. That said, it boasts terrific battery life, secure Face ID and most important of all, a very powerful A12 processor. And the display and cameras are quite good as well, even if they do not sound as snazzy as their newer avatars. Add stereo speakers, dust and water resistance and some very attractive colours to the mix, and well, you can see why we think is THE older iPhone to go for.

iPhone 8: For those wanting a smaller iPhone

Rs 36,000 (approx)

The last iPhone before iPhones got really big (more than half a foot long, in our book), the iPhone 8 remains quite a formidable performer even now. Its A11 processor is good enough to handle pretty much everything you can throw at it in the gaming and app department. The 4.7 inch display is not full HD, but looks gorgeous and well, the single single 12 megapixel camera on the back can still take some astonishing shots. There is wireless charging and water and dust resistance and well, thanks to that compact form factor, a very striking design too. Round that off with some very good sound through the stereo speakers and you will be more than ready to forgive the rather iffy battery life that was the bane of the smaller iPhones (until the iPhone XS came along, that is).

iPhone 7 Plus: The most affordable dual camera iPhone

Rs 32,999

It was the iPhone that saw Apple finally get on to the dual camera bandwagon. Until that time, iPhones had been stubbornly single camera affairs, but with the 7 Plus came dual cameras. And a new addition to phone camera jargon – Portrait Mode. More than three years after its launch, the device remains a smooth operator, thanks to the A10 processor which Apple is still using in its new iPads, and even the dual cameras still take decent enough shots. This being a Plus model, you also get a bigger battery, and well, in what was then an iPhone first, dust and water resistance.  We would advocate going for the glossy jet black one, which did pick up smudges, but was an eyeful by any standards. Actually, still is an eyeful. Just be warned – there is no headphone jack on this one! 

iPhone 6s: The most affordable iPhone. Period.

Rs 24,990 (approx)

You want an iPhone at the very barest minimum price? Well, the iPhone 6s is the option for you then. Yes, its A9 processor is getting a little long in the tooth, but it is perhaps the most affordable iPhone out there to be running iOS 13, and well, it does run it well. Mind you, it could miss out on the next update, but then those are the perils of grabbing budget options. What you do end up getting for Rs 24,990 is a surprisingly decent (even now) 12-megapixel camera capable of shooting 4K video, a decent enough 4.7-inch display and a design that remains very eye catching even today, simply because it is so incredibly compact. Mind you, you are going to have to put up with some abysmal battery life on it. On the flip side, it has something that even the new iPhones do not have – a 3.5 mm audio jack. Oh, and 3D touch! 

iPod touch: Simply for them really old iPhone feels

Rs 18,900

This is the real joker in the pack, you know. Because hey, this is not even a Phone at all. But it as Steve Jobs famously described it, “the iPhone without a phone.” Truth be told, we are not even sure what this is doing in this list, as the new iPod touch looks like a fish from a pond stuck in an ocean. It does not have a fingerprint scanner, and its 8-megapixel rear camera is basic (no 4K video even), while its front facing 1.2-megapixel camera is a selfie nightmare. So why is it here? Well, because it actually has a faster processor (A10) as compared to the more expensive iPhone 6s, which means it is pretty much on par with the new iPads in terms of performance, and will be a dab hand at handling videos and gaming, and will also get updates for a slightly longer period of time. It also has an audio jack, which some devices on this list lack. And well, that amazingly tiny form factor (just 88g) and 4-inch Retina display will trigger some sentimentality. But really, this is for the hardcore iOS and app lovers on a very tight budget.   

Wait, what about the iPhone X, XS and XS Max?

Just buy the iPhone 11!

There will be those who will wonder why there is no reference to the first three iPhones to bear the X moniker (and that infamous notch). Aren’t they too a little older, more affordable and still decent performers? Well, they are all those, but frankly, we feel they are all outgunned by the recently launched iPhone 11, which might not have the same AMOLED displays, but more than compensates with newer cameras and the latest processor, and of course, a price tag that is well below all of them. The iPhone 11 has basically made the older iPhones redundant in terms of value for money, in our opinion. And as the design of the new iPhones is very different, you cannot even buy the XS and XS Max and hope to pass them off as new iPhones (many bought the X and passed it off as the XS, believe you us). So yes, if your budget can be stretched to accommodate a XS or a XS Max (the X is hard to find and is believed to have been discontinued), then we would say: just go for the iPhone 11!

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Nimish Dubey

Nimish Dubey has been writing on technology since 1999. He has contributed to a number of publications and websites including The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Mint, Economic Times, Outlook, and India Today. He is currently the Editorial Mentor at TechPP.com and a regular contributor to Indian Express. When not writing, he loves to read and listen to classic rock.