The iPhone 12 is just around the corner, reason enough for many tech enthusiasts and Apple fans to think about purchasing the new model. The prerequisite for this is a well-filled wallet, as we know new iPhone models come with a high price tag. But not everyone can afford to spend a four-digit amount on a new smartphone.
If you don't have a grand to spare you don't have to do without an iPhone, because although Apple only sells one iPhone model for less than £500 (the iPhone SE), various third-party suppliers still offer the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models for sale and you can still find some refurbished models on Apple's store and at other resellers. In this article we are going to determine whether these models are still worthwhile purchases.
Are the iPhone 7 and 8 outdated?
Compared to current top smartphones, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 no longer look particularly modern. This is mainly due to the fact that the 'screen-to-body ratio' (e.g. the proportion that the screen takes up on the front of a smartphone) has increased significantly in recent years. Even mid-range smartphones from the Android world now consist almost entirely of displays, and clearly visible screen edges are rarely found.
Smartphones are also getting bigger and bigger, the 4.7in displays of these retro models are very small by today's standards. At least the Plus versions, with their 5.5in screens, are more in line with the current standard. A small display doesn't necessarily have to be bad though - and the arrival of the iPhone SE, and its subsequent popularity, is proof that people want smaller screens.
While in their day these phones were the flagship devices, even the low-cost iPhone SE has a more powerful processor than these aging phones.
iPhone vs. Android
It's pretty clear that when it comes to iPhones it's a better idea to spend a little more to get a newer iPhone. The iPhone SE or iPhone XR are excellent choices. But what if those are still too expensive for you. This is where you might consider an Android phone as an alternative to an iPhone 7 or iPhone 8. After all many Android phones are considerably cheaper than iPhones.
Comparing iPhones and Android smartphones is always difficult because they are two completely different ecosystems. If we compare the pure technical data, you will find that you can buy the latest Android smartphones with significantly more features for the price of older iPhones.
The big consideration is how much you want to use iOS instead of Google Android. You need to decide whether iOS is worth the higher price. But since you are reading this article, let's assume that you would like to buy an iPhone.
iPhone 7 & 8 vs iPhone SE (and XR)
Until recently, it was relatively easy to recommend the iPhone 7 or iPhone 8. They are good everyday smartphones for all those who do not need the latest and greatest, and they are reliable. But when the iPhone SE arrived in March, able to do everything these older models can do and more for a reasonable price, it became much harder to recommend them.
In short, the iPhone SE looks like the iPhone 7 and 8, but has a better camera and the latest processor. It will also support iOS updates for the next few years and is therefore much more future-proof than an iPhone 7 and 8. If you can spend £419 on a new iPhone then you should definitely look at the iPhone SE. But there are also arguments for the older models.
The iPhone SE's 4.7in display is the same size as that of the older models. However there are the Plus models of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, so you do have the option of getting a larger version. There is no larger version of the iPhone SE.
5.5in doesn't sound like much more at first, but if you hold the smartphones next to each other the difference is clearly visible. However, a larger display also means higher price (we discuss price in the next section).
But when it comes to screen size there is another iPhone to consider. The iPhone XR is much newer, with a more powerful processor, and has a comparable price to the iPhone 8 Plus. And the screen is 6.1in.
Features and Specs
There is one advantage to the Plus models when compared to the XR: the Plus models come with a second camera lens. The telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom lets you take photos of subjects with the Portrait mode feature that blurs the background.
The other advantage or disadvantage depending on your view point is that the iPhone XR uses Face ID while the iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 retain the Home button and use Touch ID. There are lots of people who prefer Touch ID - but of course the iPhone SE also features a Home button.
Despite once being the flagship phones even the iPhone SE is now more powerful than the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8.
Here's a breakdown of the main specifications for each device.
Specifications iPhone 7 iPhone 8 iOS Will run iOS 14 Will run iOS 14 Colours Black, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold Gold, Silver, Space Grey Display 4.7in LCD, 1334x750, 326ppi 4.7in Retina HD Display (1334x750, 326ppi) LCD IPS Processor A10 Apple A11 Bionic RAM 2GB 3GB Storage 32GB/128GB 64GB/256GB Rear camera 12MP, f/1.8, OIS 12Mp, f/1.8, OIS, 5x digital zoom, Quad-LED flash Front camera 7MP FaceTime HD, f/2.2 7Mp FaceTime HD, f2.2, 1080p video Video recording 2160p at 30fps 4K at 24/30/60fps, 1080p slo-mo at 240fps Wireless charging No Yes Waterproofing IP67 IP67 Security Touch ID Touch ID Ports Lightning Lightning Dimensions 138.3 x 67.1 mm x 7.1mm 138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3mm Weight 138g 148g
The biggest selling point for the iPhone 7 is the price. An iPhone 7 with the smallest memory size (32GB) can be found for about £295.20 here on Amazon and Argos here. £123.80 cheaper than an £419 iPhone SE. But that's with less storage, 32GB compared to 64GB. 32GB is very little even for iCloud users.
The iPhone 8 is even less competitively priced - if you can actually find a new model on sale, it's been listed as out of stock on Amazon for some time.
if you can find one to buy new it is about as expensive as the iPhone SE. Why would you buy an iPhone that looks exactly like the SE, but has fewer features for the same price.
There is one other option though. Buying a refurbished iPhone 7 or 8. Refurbished iPhones are used iPhones that have been refurbished by professionals and are sold with a guarantee.
Refurbished iPhones are available from all sorts of retailers, including Amazon, as part of regular promotions. The advantage of reconditioned devices compared to classic used goods is, in addition to the fact that they have been looked at by professionals, the aforementioned guarantee, which is usually a year.
Refurbished devices are significantly cheaper than new goods, a refurbished 64GB iPhone 8 bought directly from Apple costs £339. Apple notes that that price is £60 off what it considers to be the new price: £399, it's also only £80 less than the iPhone SE. A refurbished 256GB iPhone 8 is £469 from Apple, a saving of £160 on the Apple price of £629.
It's worth shopping around though. Amazon also sells refurbished iPhone 8 models and you can get a refurbished iPhone 8 Plus from Amazon here for £429.95.
If you find one of these older iPhones on sale at a good price should you buy it?
Generally we would advise against buying the iPhone 7 or 8 phones. We don't think that the prices we are seeing the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 (including the Plus models) are low enough when you can buy a new iPhone SE for just £419.
If you can only spend £299 then the fact that you can get an iPhone 7 for that may well appeal - but keep in mind that it only offers 32GB storage, and we think you will get frustrated by that very quickly.
If you are looking for a larger iPhone than the iPhone SE, and the iPhone XR is too expensive for you, then a refurbished iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone 7 Plus could be a good option — as long as it's less than the £629 that the iPhone XR retails for.
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