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Should I Upgrade to the iPhone 16? These Are the 5 Key Areas Apple Needs to Address

TL;DR: The iPhone 16 needs to deliver on five key areas to convince an iPhone 12 user to upgrade: a new chipset, better battery life, new features, unique AI capabilities, and no price increase. The decision to upgrade will depend on how well Apple addresses these areas and the user’s specific needs and budget.

As someone carrying around an iPhone that’s got a few miles on the old odometer — an iPhone 12, to be exact — you’d think I’d be keenly interested in the iPhone 16 launch that’s going to be happening later this year. Apple’s going to roll out a bunch of new phones with shiny new features, and as much as I may appreciate my iPhone 12, it’s a cinch that the new models will be better than a four-year-old handset in every appreciable way.

And yet, even if logic would suggest that I’m a prime candidate for an iPhone upgrade, I’m still on the fence about whether the iPhone 16 will be the device that finally convinces me it’s time to move up in the world.

That could well change.

While iPhone 16 rumors have been remarkably detailed up until now, there are still some unknowns, and I’m the sort of person who waits until everything’s official before committing one way or the other. And that’s crucial since there are five key areas that the iPhone 16 will need to deliver on if I’m going to take a flyer on an upgrade.

Before we get into what the iPhone 16 needs to do to win me over, here’s some key criteria on the kind of phone I want.

  • I prefer compact phones that fit neatly in my hand, so the iPhone 16 Plus and iPhone 16 Pro Max are not really options for me. (Especially not the Pro Max, since that phone is tipped to have an even larger screen than its predecessor.)
  • I would need to overcome years of penny-pinching to pay $1,000 or so for a phone, so unless I’ve got some distant relatives ready to leave me their fortune, the iPhone 16 Pro is out, too.
  • I will hold on to tech until it starts falling apart in my hand, so trying to squeeze another year out of the iPhone 12 is very much on the table.

With that in mind, here’s what I’m looking for from the iPhone 16.

The iPhone 16 Better Have a New Chipset

As good as recent iPhones have been, Apple made a strategic decision that requires a compromise if you opt for the company’s standard iPhone. In an effort to pump up interest in the Pro models, Apple’s saddled the regular iPhone with an older, hand-me-down chipset.

Take the current iPhone 15, which is not powered by Apple’s latest and greatest silicon. It’s running on the A16 Bionic that powered the iPhone 14 Pro models released the previous year. The iPhone 14 suffered the same fate, running a modified version of the A15 Bionic that powered the previous year’s Pro models.

When I buy a new phone, I expect the main components of that phone to be relatively new. The iPhone 15 (and the iPhone 14 before it) can’t make that claim, so that’s a hard pass from me.

There’s some good news on this front, as Apple is reportedly going to use an A18 chipset in every iPhone 16 model. Yes, the iPhone 16 Pro will likely get a better version of that silicon, but at least it’s a new system-on-chip that’s supposed to be powering the standard model, and not a rerun of last year’s chipset. Should that rumor about Apple’s A18 plans prove accurate, that’s a big hurdle to upgrading removed, at least for me.

I’d Like Battery Life to Be Better

As Apple’s first phone to offer 5G connectivity, the iPhone 12 didn’t fare that well in our battery testing. And while the phone’s battery life has held up well over time, it’s at the point where it’s going to start showing its age and have trouble holding on to a charge.

So yes, I’m curious to see how long the iPhone 16 can last.

It should be an encouraging answer if Apple’s recent history is any indication. Contemporary iPhones have gotten much better at power management, with the iPhone 15 posting a time of 11 hours and 5 minutes on our battery test. That’s more than an hour better than the average smartphone.

There’s more encouraging news from the iPhone 16 rumour mill. The standard iPhone is expected to join the two iPhone 16 Pro models in getting a bigger battery this year. (Alas, iPhone 16 Plus fans, that phone could see its power pack shrink relative to the iPhone 15 Plus.) That increase, coupled with expected power management improvements from the A18 chip could lead to longer-lasting iPhone 16 models — and certainly an improvement over what I’m used to with the iPhone 12.

New iPhone 16 Features Would Be Nice

An air of sameness has crept into the iPhone lineup in recent years, to the point where it makes little sense to upgrade to a new device every year. An iPhone 15 vs. iPhone 14 comparison probably reveals the most substantial changes of any year-over-year upgrade — you get a better main camera, a Dynamic Island cutout and USB-C connectivity — but these are still pretty similar devices.

As someone with a four-year-old iPhone, I’ll reap the benefits of the cumulative changes Apple has made since 2020. That upgrade to a 48MP main camera may be old hat to iPhone 15 owners, but it’s new to me, as is the addition of a USB-C port. You’d also imagine the display on the new iPhone will be brighter, given the focus on screen improvements in recent years.

But there are potentially some iPhone 16-specific changes to talk about, too. Rumours suggest Apple is going to take the Action button added to the iPhone 15 Pro models last fall and bring it to both the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus. That means a customizable shortcut button will possibly be there. (Maybe Apple could even expand its ability to trigger more than one shortcut.)

All new iPhones could add a second button, with a Capture button reportedly in the works. This would make it easier to snap photos and capture video without having to launch the camera app. I’ve previously shared my Capture button wish list for how I hope that feature works on future iPhones.

Unique AI Capabilities for the iPhone 16

You may have heard that Apple is eager to step up its AI offerings and that this year’s iOS 18 update is going to be the company’s first big step toward doing that. We’ve been treated to rumors about all sorts of new features coming to the iPhone, from a revamped Siri to AI-powered tools in a variety of built-in apps like Pages, Keynote, Music and more.

But those newfound capabilities aren’t necessarily limited to the iPhone 16 models coming out this fall. Since they’re a part of iOS 18, they should also be available on other phones capable of running the software update. According to rumors about iOS 18 compatibility, that should include all the phones that currently support iOS 17. While Apple has sometimes limited some iOS features to newer iPhones when the older models don’t have the hardware to support a new capability, for the most part, the AI features available through iOS 18 should work just fine on my iPhone 12, potentially saving me the need to upgrade phones in the fall.

Apple could have some AI features planned exclusively for the iPhone 16, but if it does, we wouldn’t hear about any of those until the fall iPhone launch. Next month’s WWDC 2024 keynote will offer an iOS 18 preview, which will give us a pretty good idea of what capabilities are coming to which phones.

But don’t expect a complete picture of Apple’s AI plans until we finally get an official look at the new batch of phones being released this fall.

I Don’t Want to Pay More for a New Phone

In case my use of a four-year-old phone and my reluctance to pay up for a Pro model weren’t dead giveaways, I hate having to part with any more money than the bare minimum. So how Apple decides to price the iPhone 16 lineup will go a very long way in determining my upgrade plans.

If the iPhone 16 can come in at the same $799 starting price Apple’s charged for its entry-level flagship phones in recent years, then perhaps we can do business together. If, however, the company takes its cues from last year’s iPhone 15 Pro Max price hike and tacks another $100 onto the cost of the iPhone 16, I’m less likely to cast my current phone aside.

Rumours don’t give us much to go on here, since reliable pricing chatter doesn’t usually surface until right before Apple’s launch event.

Even then, rumours can’t always be trusted.

Ahead of last year’s iPhone 15 launch, several sources claimed that prices were going up on all models when it was just the Pro Max that saw an increase. This is definitely something all potential upgraders will be watching closely, not just cheapskates like me.


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