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My Next Phone

It wasn’t an easy decision, and I’m still not 100 percent convinced. On Friday I pre-ordered the iPhone 8 Plus 25GB in Space Grey. It’s the first time I’ve picked an iPhone that isn’t the flagship model1 when upgrading, which I’ve typically done every other year.

The iPhone X looks amazing, it’s time for my biennial upgrade, but it’s not my choice for my next phone and thats surprising me.

I generally like to buy the best (most powerful and fully featured) model I can personally justify, so it doesn’t feel as outdated in the 24+ months use it will see. My 6S still feels pretty darn good and I’m happy with it, but I do want the dual camera and performance capabilities of the Plus model. I’m generally happy to not be an early, or first adopter, of new things.

Now I like shiny new gadgets as much as the next person, but they can have issues and teething troubles and those I can do without. So far, upgrading at the second iteration of each iPhone model (the S version) has worked out pretty well for me.

Is the Plus Too Big?

Since the 7 Plus was released with dual lens and a portrait mode2, I’ve been considering upgrading to the bigger model when the time came.

I’m not sure from brief experiences in a shop with the Plus model if it’s going to prove uncomfortable for me. I imagine the something more in-between the 6S and the 7 Plus would probably be the sweet spot for a phone size-wise. Say the size of the X for example, with its bigger screen, higher pixel density in a smaller overall size than the Plus.

Sure the larger size of the Plus is going to make one-handed use, challenging, and possibly a little uncomfortable or unwieldy at times. I’ll find out soon enough if it’s a going to work our for me or not.

The other thing that’s bothering me about ‘going large’ is pocket-ability. Not exactly something you can test in a store. I’ve pre-ordered a case which arrived today. That seems to fit trouser and jacket pockets dimension wise, though thats without the weight of the phone in it.

I use a case as, like most people, I’m clumsy on occasion. It’s likely I’ll buy several more cases that I switch between depending on my day. iPhones feel great without a case on they wouldn’t stay in good condition under my care without some protection. Most cases are going to add bulk to an already big phone, but I’m not comfortable carrying around my phone without one. My current plan is to get one ultra thin case, one protective folio case (the Otterbox Strada case that arrived today) and a Moment case for lens attachment.

The Notch

While the notch is packed full of cool hardware for Face ID and TrueDepth, it just doesn’t look right encroaching on the screen, icons all squished up around it.

All the demonstrations so far also show clipping and/or cropping of content to fit the slimmer (than the Plus) form factor of the device and it’s notch. It’s a distinct look, but there’s a reason for that and it’s a compromise that I don’t want to make right now.

On a device where the display is a key feature it’s a real letdown.

Capturing the Moment

The camera is a key component for me. Last time round I chose the 6S and not the Plus model. At the time the only difference between the two was Optical Image Stabilisation. While a nice to have it didn’t sway me to the Plus size.

That changed with the 7 Plus, with Dual-lens and Portrait mode. The iPhone X has enhancements over and above the improvements in the 8 Plus which makes it very tempting.

Dual optical image stabilisation on both lenses with the X compared to wide only on the Plus. A fixed aperture of f/2.4 for telephoto on the X compare to f/2.8 on the 8 Plus. The wider aperture on the telephoto will give better light gathering capabilities and a shallower depth of field. If I get the Plus I miss out on these two great lens qualities.

The front facing camera only sees occasional use for quick selfies when I’m with family or friends. While TrueDepth sounds good I’m also okay skipping it this time round.

Face ID is cool but I’m comfortable with the lower but still great security of Touch ID. Not to mention the nice ability to be able to unlock my phone without focusing my attention in it’s direction. I currently have my wife’s do feeling store on my phone so she can unlock it if she needs to which is handy for lots of little things, including being able to access my 1password vault should an emergency arise3. This handiness goes away with Face ID.

I’m also concerned how we Face ID will cope in very dark rooms too, like say a nursery during a 2am feed. I’m sure if there are issues they will be resolved pretty quickly, but I’m happy to avoid potential frustrations in the short-term.

Big Features Cost Big Money

The X is a lot of money to be walking around with in your hands/pocket, I have some concerns. Over a thousand pounds on a phone4. Worth it for the phone of tomorrow today yes, but a lot to pay, even over 20 months (upgrade programme).

There are a number of places I’d feel a bit wary of using my phone in public when it costs that much. The 8 Plus costs only £200 less that the X, but it looks like the previous model, it’s not as easily identifiable as the latest and thereby most expensive model. At least it won’t be when the X is released in November. In my mind that makes me less of a target when out and about, though it doesn’t make it safe.

I recall a time when the commonly held belief was that it was better to not use the, somewhat iconic, Apple EarPods as it made you more of a target for thieves.

Sure a lot of us carry a number of devices with us on a daily basis with a total value far higher than this. Our phones however are frequently on display though, as we stand in queues, sit on the bus or train, or walk from A to B. They are in our hands and are that much more susceptible to being stolen.

While it may not always be the case, it turns out that right now I am highly reluctant to make myself (what I perceive to be) more of a target by carrying around over a £1000 worth of phone. After a year the cost of manufacturing devices with this new technology will have dropped to a more acceptable level so that ‘second (or greater) level adopters like myself will consider it more desirable than fiscally objectionable and attention drawing.

Since my first iPhone I’ve chosen to buy my phones outright but this time I’m going with the iPhone Upgrade Programme.

The phone gets paid off with no additional cost, I keep my cheap tariff with my current provider. I’m also going with AppleCare+ (for the first time on many iPhone I’ve owned) as part of the monthly payments to provide extra protection and the option to upgrade after 11 months should the next iteration of the iPhone X prove irresistible. The second version of a breakthrough model of an iPhone is always more stable and polished.

I’m picking up my iPhone this Friday, all being well. It might not be the best Apple phone available for long but I’m hoping that won’t matter much to me, at least until next September.

  1. Not counting the Plus model variant when I bought my last and current iphone the 6S. 
  2. The camera is always an important part of the phone for me, especially since becoming a parent, I take many pictures and increasingly shoot videos. 
  3. For logins, passwords and other secure info not already in our shared vault. 
  4. £1149 for the 256GB. For a phone like this 64GB is just not enough. Base option should have been 128GB for the X. I can’t see anyone opting for the 64GB unless it’s a company phone, and in that case wouldn’t they be looking at the iPhone 8 instead?