Should You Buy the New iPhone XS?

Only if you fall into one of these five categories.

Photo illustration of an iPhone XS with arrows pointing toward and away from it.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Apple.

The new iPhone XS is expensive. Like last year’s iPhone X, it costs $999. The larger XS Max costs $100 more—and if you opt for additional storage capacity, its price could reach nearly $1,500. With the days of carrier-subsidized hardware purchases but a shiny memory, that’s a lot of money to pay out of pocket. It makes the question “Should I buy this year’s iPhone?” all the more important.

For some, the answer is a resounding no. Unless you’re the most devoted Apple aficionado, purchasers of the 2017 iPhone X don’t need to upgrade. With Apple’s first $1,000 iPhone, the company set the stage for devices meant to last longer than the old two-year renewal cycle. The device has an excellent camera, speedy processor, and strong glass on its front and rear faces—the iPhone XS just slightly improves on all that. For those with slightly older devices, upgrading to iOS 12 may also satisfy the itch for a faster, more efficient device without spending a cent.

Based on the device’s specs and feature set, and the consensus from early iPhone XS reviews, there are some iOS users who could benefit from the upgrade. Here are the five categories of people who should most strongly consider making this purchase.

If iOS 12 doesn’t fix your problems

iOS 12 became available for download on Monday and is compatible with devices as old as the iPhone 5S. If you’re considering getting a new phone, give it a spin first—those who’ve been using the public and final betas of iOS 12 have found it largely improves performance of their older iOS devices.

If your main issue with your current device is that it’s slow or buggy, that’s a software-related issue iOS 12 could fix. A week or two of use should give you a good idea of whether the operating system update was what you needed. However, if your problems with your device are more hardware-related—the camera takes poor-quality photos, the phone is scratched beyond recognition, or buttons are no longer working properly—a new phone may be in order.

If you’re prone to dropping your phone

When it comes to durability, not all iPhones are created equal. Despite its looks, and its glass back, the iPhone X actually proved to be one of the more drop-resistant phones.

The iPhone XS and XS Max should build on that. Apple says it included the most durable glass ever used in a smartphone—possibly Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6, which Cult of Mac reported would turn the 2018 iPhone’s display “into a tank.”

While you’re likely to incur scratches, the new phone should, in theory, be more drop-resistant than older models. If your phone is at least two years old and its display is spiderwebbed (or you’ve dropped hundreds of dollars on replacement displays), the new, stronger iPhone XS may be in order.

If you’re an iPhoneographer

Quality photographs can make a big difference on social media, and smartphones continue to inch their way to the quality of more expensive standalone cameras. If smartphone photography is a big part of what you do (or aspire to do) professionally—or it’s otherwise your top concern about your phone—the iPhone XS or XS Max could be worth the upgrade. While these phones have the same dual 12-megapixel telephoto and wide-angle lenses on back and 7-megapixel camera up front as the iPhone X, Apple has improved its image signal processor so that the device can capture better photos than its predecessor.

For TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino, it’s the new Smart HDR feature that sets this camera over the top. “For a company as prone to hyperbole and Maximum Force Enthusiasm about its products, I think that [Apple has] dramatically undersold how much improved photos are from the iPhone X to the iPhone XS,” Panzarino said. “Your camera roll as a whole will just suddenly start looking like you’re a better picture taker, with no intervention from you.”

If you can count it as a tax write-off

Is owning the new iPhone an integral part of your job and what you do? If you can expense the device, whether on your personal taxes or to your employer, by all means, upgrade away.

And if you have the option, you may as well upgrade to the 512 GB storage variant so you never, ever having to worry about that annoying “Storage Almost Full” notification on your iPhone again. Good luck explaining that necessity to your accountant, though.

If you need that status symbol

Oh my god, if you don’t get the new iPhone, will it be social suicide? Well, you better get the iPhone XS Max in the new gold coloration so that anyone who sees you can tell immediately that you have the newest, largest iPhone in existence.

If you’re worried that the gold model may come across as tacky, rest assured: Apple has developed a classy hue with just a hint of rose. (It’s “less ‘pawn shop gold’ and more ‘this is very expensive’ gold,” according to TechCrunch). Will it match your existing gold iPhone accessories? Probably not, so you’ll need to replace those too.

If you own an older device (2+ years old) and are still on the fence, there’s no rush. In the past, some hardware and software issues have taken a few weeks to crop up on new iPhones. Waiting also gives you time to assess whether the slightly cheaper iPhone XR may better suit your needs. The iPhone XR isn’t available for preorder until Oct.19.

While their incremental improvements over last year’s iPhone X aren’t particularly earth-shattering, the 2018 iPhones do seem like quality devices that could support their hefty sticker price with longevity.