Is iPhone 7 worth the upgrade? The answer depends on what you're upgrading from — and what you're upgrading for!

When new iPhones are introduced, one of the toughest decisions to make is whether or not to upgrade to the latest and the greatest. If money is no object, it won't matter. If you're on a plan that allows for early or yearly upgrades, it won't matter much either. Otherwise, it comes down to whether or not the new features in the iPhone 7 are compelling enough to be worth the price.

Water resistance

iPhone 6s was subtly redesigned to include a gasket and seals, so while it wasn't officially "water resistant" by any claim or standard, it was better able to resist minor, incidental contact with liquid than any previous iPhone.

iPhone 7 is officially IP67, which means it's designed to withstand dust and liquids. The liquid part is the key, though. While Apple hasn't released the definition for their liquid protection, it's equivalent to the original Apple Watch and so should survive splashes and quick drops into water.

  • If official water resistance is important to you, for spills, rough work conditions, or any reason, you might want to upgrade.

Future compatibility

The current version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 10, runs on a wide array of devices, past and present. It's part of what makes iPhones so valuable. Right now, every iPhone from the 2012 iPhone 5 to the brand-new iPhone 7 can run pretty much every app made for the platform.

But that'll change. This year Apple dropped support for the 2011 iPhone 4s. Next year they might flip the 64-bit only switch, and new apps will only support iPhone 5s and later. Moreover, there's a world of difference between running the latest apps, and running them well.

With anything older than an iPhone 6, you'll be running 2017 — and future — apps on 2013 technology at best. Which is not ideal With an iPhone 7, you'll be running them on the latest technology, which will carry you forward for years to come.

  • If you have an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s you've already fallen out of compatibility and you'll absolutely want to consider upgrading.
  • If you have an iPhone iPhone 5 or iPhone 5c, you're on the edge and should also strongly consider upgrading.
  • If you have an iPhone 5s or iPhone 6 and want to ensure compatibility for years to come, you should also consider upgrading.

Display size

iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s all have 3.5-inch 960x640 displays at 326 pixels-per-inch (ppi). iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, and iPhone SE have slightly bigger 4-inch 1136x640 display, still at 326 ppi.

iPhone 7 has a 4.7-inch screen with 1336x750 pixels at 326 ppi, and the iPhone 7 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen with a 1920x1080-pixel screen at 401 ppi. That means, with iPhone 7, you get more of everything, and with iPhone 7 Plus you get much more, including the ability to run iPad-style (two column) apps in landscape mode.

iPhone 7 also brings DCI-P3 wide-gamut color to the iPhone line for the first time, which means better, brighter photos, videos, games, and more. For photographers, videographers, and anyone with highly acute color sense, that alone might be worth the upgrade.

  • If you like 4-inch or even 3.5-inch iPhones and aren't sure that bigger really is better, wait and try them in stores first.
  • If screen size matters to you, especially if the ability to run iPad-style apps on an iPhone in landscape is interesting to you, you may want to upgrade.

Apple 10 Fusion and battery life.

iPhone 4 has a 32-bit Apple A4 processor, iPhone 4s has an A5, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c have an A6, and iPhone 5s has Apple's first 64-bit processor, the A7 and motion coprocessor, the M7. All of them represent cutting edge ARM processors of their times. But times change.

Apple's current-generation 64-bit ARM processor is the A10 Fusion. It's not just the first quad-core chipset for iPhone, it's the first one that intelligently switches from two powerful cores to two power-saving cores, depending on the task at hand. That means you'll get an extra two hours on average from an iPhone 7, and an hour on average from iPhone 7 Plus.

And for battery life, more is always better.

  • If you have an iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, or iPhone 5c, the 32-bit days are all but over, and you should strongly consider upgrading.
  • If you have an iPhone 5s and you want "Hey Siri!" you'll also want to consider upgrading.
  • If you have an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s and you want even more power — and more battery life — you may want to upgrade.

LTE + Wi-Fi

iPhone 4s tops out at HSPA 14.4mbps and can't access the much faster DC-HSPA+ 40mbps or LTE 100+mbps networks. That means you'll be stuck on dial-up in an increasingly broadband world. iPhone 5 series all support LTE but all top out at 100mbps. They're also limited to 802.11n Wi-Fi. iPhone 6s supports up to 23 bands of LTE Advanced and can go to 300mbps, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi at up to 866mbps.

iPhone 7 features LTE Advanced 450 Mbps, 24 bands of LTE, to once again be the best world iPhone ever. It's not just about transfer rate either. Moving data faster lets radios power down faster and ultimately saves battery life

  • If you need the additional LTE bands and live in an area with LTE advanced, you should strongly consider upgrading.
  • If you have an 802.11ac router and want to make use of the faster speed, you should strongly consider upgrading as well.


iPhone 4 has an outdated iSight and FaceTime camera. iPhone 4S has an okay 8mp/1080p rear iSight cameras but a poor front FaceTime camera. iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c have decent iSight cameras, and iPhone 5c has a slightly better but still aging FaceTime camera as well. iPhone 5s has the same slightly improved FaceTime camera and a good iSight camera, with support for burst mode and 120fps slow motion video. iPhone 6s has good iSight and FaceTime camera with 12 megapixels and 4K video support.

None of them, though, are cutting edge any more.

iPhone 7 has a new 12 megapixel sensor with a new 6-element lens, and ƒ/1.8 aperture. The FaceTime camera is also substantially improved, coming in at 7 megapixels now.

The bigger news in the iPhone 7 Plus camera, though. It has dual lenses, one wide-angle ƒ/1.8 and the other telephoto ƒ/2.8. Apple's own Camera app keeps things simple, fusing the technology to allow for 2x optical zoom and, soon, simulated bokeh for portraits.

  • If cameras are at all important to you, you'll absolutely want to upgrade.

Lightning connector

iPhone 4 and 4S have the old 30-pin Dock connector. While there remain legacy accessories for that connector, all new iOS devices now use the Lightning connector. That means no new accessories for those old devices.

All the iPhones 5 and 6 all already have Lightning connectors, so that means any accessories you have for any of them will also work with iPhone 6s.

  • If you have an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s, you'll absolutely want to upgrade.

Note: iPhone 7 only has lightning. No 3.5mm headphone jack. You do get a 3.5mm to Lightning adapter in the box, and a set of Lightning EarPods.

Touch ID + Apple Pay

If you have an iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, or iPhone 5s, you can't use Apple's fingerprint identity sensor, Touch ID. That means if you can't unlock your iPhone or apps, and can't authorize iTunes or other purchases at the touch of the finger.

iPhone 5s has Touch ID, but can't use Apple's mobile payment platform, Apple Pay, unless paired with an Apple Watch.

iPhone 7 will include support for Apple Pay in Japan as well.

  • If you have an iPhone 4, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, or iPhone 5c, and want Touch ID, you'll want to upgrade.
  • If you have an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, or iPhone 5s, and want Apple Pay without having to use an Apple Watch, you'll also want to upgrade.
  • If you have an iPhone SE, iPhone 6, or iPhone 6s and you want to use Apple Pay in Japan, you'll want to upgrade.

3D Touch + Live Photos

3D Touch is a shortcut system—a warp tunnel—through iOS that lets you do everything faster. You can press and app to go right to an action. You can press a message or link and peek at a preview. If it interests you, you can press deeper and pop into it.

Live Photos doesn't get capture a still image, but a few seconds of motion on either side, as well as sound. With 3D Touch, you can press on a Live Photo and see it come to life, making the memories more vivid and real.

New with iPhone 7, the Home button has also gone 3D Touch-like. Gone is the mechanical switch and, in its place, a sensor and taptic engine that removes physical failure points and introduces need feedback options.

  • If you have an one of the iPhones 4, iPhones 5, or the original iPhone 6, and you want 3D Touch, you'll want to upgrade.
  • If you have any previous iPhone and you want the new Force Touch Home button, you'll also want to upgrade.

Should you upgrade from the iPhone 4s (or earlier)? Absolutely!

iPhone 4S was introduced in October of 2011. It can't run iOS 10 apps, and can't take advantage of all the features and many of them, including Touch ID, Apple Pay, 3D Touch, and the improved camera, are compelling. Earlier phones haven't been binary compatible for years.

If there's any way for you to upgrade, you absolutely should.

Should you upgrade from the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5c? Seriously!

iPhone 5 was introduced in September of 2012. iPhone 5c is essentially the same phone as the iPhone 5 with a new, fun, plastic coating. Neither has Touch ID or Apple Pay, or the improved processor or cameras, or the larger screen sizes and 3D Touch. Given the phone is increasingly the most personally important device we own, if you can upgrade, now's a good time to do it.

Should you upgrade from the iPhone 5s? Probably!

History of iPhone 5s: The most forward thinking iPhone ever

iPhone 5s was released in September 2013. It has Touch ID but not Apple Pay, and a middling camera by today's standards. It doesn't have the larger screen sizes or 3D Touch, so unless that's expressly something you don't want, you'll immediately see a benefit from that alone.

If you want it to, the iPhone 5s will likely still serve you well for a year or so more, but if you can upgrade a new iPhone will serve you better and well into the future.

Should you upgrade from the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus? Possibly!

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were released in September 2014. They're essentially the same size and shape as more recent iPhones, but lack options for rose gold, black, or jet black, don't have 3D Touch, and don't have cameras that can do 12 megapixel stills or 4K.

If you're due for an upgrade, especially if you care about colors or cameras, check into upgrading.

Should you upgrade from the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus? Think carefully!

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus were released in September 2015. The antenna lines are much more prominent on the back, there's no black or jet black color option, the Home button is still mechanical, and the wireless support isn't quite as fast or broad. Otherwise, it still packs a really good punch — and it still has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

You have to really want one of the new colors, the new radios, or the new cameras to consider upgrading.

Still undecided?

If you're still not sure about upgrading to an iPhone 7, ask questions below or jump into our iPhone discussion forums and the best community in mobile will happily help you out!

Then, once you know, let me know why — or why not —in the comments so everyone else can benefit from your thoughts!