Screengrab via Youtube/Apple (CC-BY)
It doesn't matter if you're a current iPhone owner who wants to upgrade or an Android user who wants to make a transition; buying a new iPhone can be confusing. There are four different carrier plans to choose from and major big box retailers also offer their own separate deals and promotions. There's also the question of the iPhone 7 itself. How much storage do you get? Do you go locked or unlocked? And what's the deal with those new AirPods?
We'll answer all those questions in a bit. But first, here are the basics:
The new iPhone 7 is available for pre-order from all four carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint) on September 9, but will hit stores on September 16.
Pre-ordering your iPhone 7 from Apple's website or through the Apple Store app can save you the time and hassle of waiting in a potentially huge line at the Apple Store. If you pre-order your iPhone 7 through your carrier's website, you may have to wait a bit longer than September 9, depending on availability, but this is the recommended route if you're not eligible for an upgrade yet or weighing a switch to a different plan, and carriers may have trade-in offers or special deals. In any case, pre-ordering through Apple's online shopping portal allows you to either select your carrier or buy an unlocked iPhone through Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program.
Pre-ordering can also be a hassle in itself. You risk waiting potentially a lot longer if Apple underestimates the demand for a certain color or level of storage. Ditto if you wait a few days after the pre-order delivery day of September 9. You'll receive a delivery estimate after you pre-order. The advantage of getting in line at the Apple Store or visiting your carrier store early is that you'll actually have the phone in your hands on September 16 (unless they run out of your preferred color or some unanticipated snafu arises with your carrier.)
T-Mobile on Thursday offered customers a free iPhone 7 if you exchange your iPhone 6 or newer device. You'll have to agree to a 2-year contract and opt for the 32 GB, but it's overall not a bad deal.
How much does the iPhone 7 cost?
The iPhone 7 starts at $649 for a 32GB model and the iPhone 7 Plus is $769 for the 32GB model. You can also bump up to either 128GB for $100 more or 256GB of storage for $200 more. The new Jet Black color option aren't available in the cheaper 32GB model; they will start at a base storage of 128GB.
Should I get the iPhone 7 or the iPhone 7 Plus?
Unless you're someone who makes iPhone films for a living, you won't be missing out on much by opting for an iPhone 7 over an iPhone 7 Plus. The only noticeable difference between the two is that the iPhone 7 Plus is larger (6.23 x 3.07 inches, or the size of an iPhone 6 Plus) and has a dual-lens camera with some fancy features. Software-wise, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are virtually identical. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus both have the optical image stabilization software that was previously only available on the iPhone 6 S Plus.The iPhone 7 Plus has an all-new 12 MP camera that has both a wide angle and a telephoto lens. It can also perform optical zoom at 2x and digital zoom at up to 10x. The iPhone 7, on the other hand, can perform digital zoom of up to 5x (identical to older iPhone models such as the iPhone 6s and SE).
Bottom line: Are you sick of your iPhone's limited zoom capabilities? Has your iPhone 6s completely let you down the last time you went on a photo safari or tried to get a shot of the lunar eclipse? If so, spring for an iPhone 7 Plus. It's the only way you can get a peek at the new dual-lens camera, which we'll likely see included in future generations from here on out.
What color of iPhone should I get?You may scoff, but your iPhone's color is once again a buzz-worthy issue this year. Apple has once again gifted us with black iPhones (!), which many of us remember from the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3G days. The iPhone 7 is available in two black colors; one is a soft black with a matte finish, and the other has a glossy Jet Black sheen that harkens the older iPhones. Unlike the other colors, Jet Black is exclusively available in 128 GB and 256 GB.
Unfortunately, those who are coveting the Jet Black iPhone 7 should be aware of one thing. Apple is warning that the Jet Black finish is prone to scratches. Scratches? What is this, an iPhone 3G? Come on Apple, I thought we solved this problem with the iPhone 5. Stop disappointing us.
But if you're like most of us, you were probably going to throw your iPhone 7 in a case for most of its life anyway, regardless of its color.
How much storage should I get?Here's the deal with storage: A little used to go a long way, but that's no longer the case. You may find yourself running out of the 32GB of storage on your iPhone 7 a lot more quickly than you did in the past. Not only are apps getting bigger and more data-intensive, but we're taking a lot more photos. Sending a lot more GIFs and emoji, downloading a lot more podcasts and audiobooks, and playing a lot more Pokémon Go.
The iPhone 7 will also come equipped with iOS 10, Apple's newest operating system that will be its biggest update yet. And yes, it will take up a whole lot of space.
The iPhone 7 also lets you edit Live Photos for the first time. Like older iPhone, it will have Auto-HDR enabled. Along with higher-quality HD videos, we're talking about a lot more space to store your personal media.
Bottom line? Springing for a 128 GB or 256 GB iPhone 7 may seem a bit excessive, but you'll be thankful down the line.
Should I get an unlocked iPhone?
Getting an unlocked iPhone used to be thought of as shady, unnecessarily covert, and expensive. Who are you, a Russian hacker? Luckily, Apple now provides an Apple Upgrade program that allows you to have an unlocked iPhone with Apple Care protection for only a few more dollars a month than buying an iPhone locked to a specific carrier's network. For roughly 40 bucks a month, you can basically upgrade your iPhone every year. Given the lack of attachment we have to our devices (everything's on the iCloud, and there's always something newer and shinier on the horizon), this may not be a half-bad way to go.
What are the advantages of getting an unlocked iPhone? If you travel a lot, you can use any carrier you choose. If you seldom ever use the phone to talk to a human person, you could theoretically just rely on a VoIP app like Google Hangouts and Viber. Even popular messaging apps like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger allow you to make voice calls.
Basically, if you're tech-savvy enough and your lifestyle suits it, buying an unlocked phone and opting out of a contract with a carrier could save you a lot of money. But for most of us, having a locked phone with a carrier is simply more convenient.
What's the deal with those weird AirPods?Are you not yet ready for the revolutionary future of wireless audio that Apple has so mercilessly thrown us into by eliminating the 3.5 mm headphone jack from the iPhone 7? Worry not. Each new iPhone 7 comes with a Lightning to 3.5 mm adaptor for us Luddites who are stuck in the past. Have fun untangling those vintage ear buds.
For those of us who don't fear change quite so much, the new wireless AirPods are priced at $159 and set to arrive in late October. They do a million different things that your old headphones can't, and you can read all about them here.