Hello and welcome to Financial Face-off, a MarketWatch column where we help you weigh a financial decision. Our columnist will give her verdict. Tell us in the comments if you think she’s right. And share your suggestions for future Financial Face-off columns by emailing our columnist at email@example.com.
Fall is just around the corner, but if you follow the consumer calendar, this period is better known at Starbucks SBUX as pumpkin spice latte season.
and new iPhone season at Apple AAPL,
The PSL is now 20 years old and the iPhone is 16 years old, but every year Starbucks and Apple try to make you fall in love all over again with their headline-grabbing products.
The nutmeg-topped latte will cost you at least $6.45 for a grande in New York City. The latest iPhone 15 starts at $799 for the base model, $899 for the 15 Plus, $999 for the Pro and $1,199 for the Pro Max, the company said as it unveiled the product lineup on Tuesday.
“These are the best and most capable iPhones we’ve ever made,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
If you’re an iPhone owner and your two-year phone contract is about to expire, chances are you have an iPhone 13. How does the iPhone 15 stack up against the iPhone 13, and is it time to upgrade?
Why it matters
If you take Apple at its word, upgrading matters because of all the new features the company rolled out on Tuesday, including the iPhone 15’s all-day battery life (Apple didn’t say how many hours this means); the fastest smartphone chip “ever” for the 15 Pro and Pro Max; a “state-of-the-art telephoto camera” on the 15 Pro Max; a lightweight but thinner and more durable titanium casing on the Pro and Pro Max models; and satellite roadside assistance via AAA on all iPhone 15 models.
Are these improvements enough to justify the cost of a laptop or a phone vacation? With inflation still driving higher prices for everyday essentials, consumers may be reluctant to rush out to buy the new iPhone, even though Apple has kept prices for three of the iPhone 15 models the same as last year. About 37% of consumers say they plan to buy the latest iPhone this year; That’s an increase from 29% in 2021, according to studies by WalletHub.
When deciding whether to upgrade, the first thing you should do is sit down and think about how you use your phone, says Nicholas De Leon, a technology expert at Consumer Reports. “If you’re someone who doesn’t use it much, when you scroll through Instagram META,
and then text your husband, I don’t know if you need a new phone for that,” he told MarketWatch ahead of Apple’s product launch. But if you’re a TikTok influencer whose livelihood depends on producing high-quality videos, the upgrade might make sense.
“The improvements of the iPhone 15 won’t change the lives of typical iPhone users, but paying off debt will.”
As for the 13 versus the 15, one of the most noticeable differences (aside from the new type of charging port) is that the 15 has the ‘Dynamic Island’, a mini control hub on the phone’s home screen that gives you information such as which number you are listening to or who is calling you. Apple described this feature as “magical.”
De Leon is not convinced: “Is that enough to rush and upgrade?” he asked. “Um. The Dynamic Island is neat, but not what I would call transformative. But it’s a nice bonus if you do upgrade this year.”
Both the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max have a ProMotion display, which was previously only available on the 13 Pro. It makes animations and other movements appear much smoother, which can be important for you if you’re a gamer.
The iPhone 15 also has a faster chip, which according to product review site Tom’s Guide amounts to a “decent, if not stunning, upgrade” over the iPhone 13. iPhone shoppers who want to upgrade from an iPhone 13 but don’t want to spring for a iPhone 15, according to Tom’s Guide, may consider getting the iPhone 14 Pro as it has most of the same improvements, with the exception of the USB-C charging port.
Don’t run out to buy the iPhone 15 again. This is not the time. Many households are on shaky financial footing. Credit card debt is at an all-time high and student loan payments are about to pick up again. The improvements of the iPhone 15 won’t change the lives of typical iPhone users, but paying off debt will.
Do not miss it: ‘iPhones Are Depreciating Devices:’ Should You Buy an iPhone 15 or Invest $800 in Apple Stock?
There was a time when getting the latest iPhone made a much bigger difference for the average iPhone user. Early iPhone users couldn’t even copy and paste on their phones. At this point the annual changes are quite incremental. But Apple still uses its annual event to increase media attention and influence its stock price. The latter did not happen this year; Apple shares fell after Tuesday’s event.
The average phone user is probably better off ignoring the hype and making a decision based on their needs. “They’ve always been good at the dazzling showmanship of this,” De Leon said. “But I just look at regular people in my life and reader feedback about what people do with their phones. ‘Not much’ is kind of the answer.”
“You can also extend the life of your existing phone. If your iPhone 13 is low on energy, you can have the battery replaced.”
Instead of buying a new phone, you can extend the life of your existing one. If your iPhone 13 is low on energy, you can have the battery replaced by Apple or at Best Buy BBY,
for $89, according to both companies’ websites. That should buy you another year or so, after which you can buy a new iPhone 16 (if that’s what the company calls it), which will likely be a marked improvement over your current device.
Another tip: don’t be influenced by the length of your mobile phone contract. With contracts lasting three years with some carriers, spending $100 more to get the higher-end iPhone model will cost you about $2.80 per month over 36 months. That removes the financial incentive that could lead you to buy a more advanced phone than you really need, says Josh Lowitz, co-founder of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, or CIRP, which publishes a Substack newsletter on Apple.
“[It] facilitates the decision to buy the more expensive phone and subtly encourages you to buy the more expensive phone because you expect to own it longer and want to future-proof your phone,” Lowitz told MarketWatch.
In other words, if you know you’ll keep your phone for three years, you might want to buy one with more features and processing power than you actually need for your daily tasks because you might be worried about your phone starting to feel outdated. within 12 or 24 months. Ignoring this concern could save you $100.
Also see: How does the iPhone 15 compare to the latest Pixel and Galaxy devices?
Is my judgment best for you?
On the other hand, if the safety features Apple has touted in recent years are important to you, the iPhone 15 could be worth it. The iPhone 13 doesn’t have the Emergency SOS feature that lets users text emergency responders via satellite when they’re out of cell phone range; that started with the iPhone 14.
For the iPhone 15 series, Apple has rolled out satellite roadside assistance through a partnership with AAA. The service is available for free for two years to all iPhone 15 buyers. “Apple focuses on three critical, broad features: apps for security, privacy and health,” said Mike Levin, co-founder of CIRP. “All three are very personal to people. It’s very tempting. These are messages that resonate very strongly with many different demographic groups.”
If you decide to upgrade, don’t forget that you can often get a discount on a new phone by trading in your old device. Here’s a look at Verizon VZ’s offers,
and AT&T T,
Tell us in the comments which option should win in this financial face-off. If you have ideas for future Financial Face-off columns, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.