SMARTPHONES

Don’t buy an older iPhone if you want the full iOS experience

Apple just put an expiration date on almost all of its iPhones — even those it hasn’t sold yet. Well, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but if you want the most powerful software coming out of Cupertino in your pocket, it’s true. Despite dubbing Apple Intelligence as “AI for the rest of us,” iOS 18’s most valuable features are reserved for the most premium devices in Apple’s portfolio. So, if you want the full experience on your next Apple purchase, you’d better be ready to go Pro.

You must be this tall to ride

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Of course, going Pro isn’t as easy — or affordable — as you might think. Even though there are currently four generations of Pro-level iPhones, only two will support Apple Intelligence — not two generations but two models, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Just like Google initially restricted its Gemini Nano features to the top-level Pixel 8 Pro, Apple is saving its more conversational Siri, the ability to create Genmojis, and photo editing features like Clean Up for those users willing to spend a bit more money.

The logic behind bringing Apple Intelligence to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max is easy to pick out, as they’re the only two with the top-tier A17 Pro chipset, but it doesn’t make the bitter pill any easier to swallow. What Apple is doing is saying that the eight-month-old iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are no better than the four-year-old iPhone 12 — at least as far as AI features are concerned. Even Google has since opened up Gemini Nano for its Pixel 8 and Pixel 8a, which are more affordable than the Pixel 8 Pro but share the same Tensor G3 chipset.

The eight-month-old iPhone 15 and 15 Plus are no better than the iPhone 12 — at least as far as AI is concerned.

Apple’s large-screen devices like iPads and Macs have similar — if slightly less restrictive — requirements, making them the easier, more affordable way to try Apple Intelligence for yourself. If you have an M1-powered iPad, MacBook, or desktop Mac, you’re good to go, but this is probably the final nail in the coffin for any Intel-powered Apple products still in the wild and yet another reason for Apple to update the iPad Mini with an M1 chip. Please, Apple, give the small tablet fans what we want.

Left behind, but not (totally) forgotten

iPhone 15 14 series up close

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Thankfully, there’s one key exception to this doom and gloom — the fact that you might not care about Apple Intelligence just yet. After all, we’ve already seen how many kinks Google has had to work out of its early Gemini experience, so it’s fair to expect some of the same from Apple. More importantly, there are still many other reasons to pick up an older iPhone.

Apple’s excellent software support means that devices as old as the iPhone XR and XS will still get iOS 18, even if it’s just a version without the shiniest bells and whistles. You’ll still be able to rearrange apps and widgets on your Home Screen, send and receive RCS messages (finally), and take greater control over the Maps app, among other things. Older iPhones will still have iMessage and FaceTime, which Americans and popular kids everywhere rely on to stay cool.

You might not get Apple Intelligence, but your iPhone 13, 14, and 15 will still benefit greatly from iOS 18.

In addition, older iPhones will continue to shoot excellent videos, work seamlessly with MagSafe accessories, and have one of the best-optimized software experiences around — even if users will have to do without the Image Playground for the time being.

We could joke about the fact that Apple might roll out an update that tanks your iPhone’s battery life, but the truth is that it probably won’t. Instead, by pushing users towards the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max and eventually the iPhone 16 Pro and Pro Max, Apple is actually opening up plenty of opportunities to score a deal on a used but perfectly good iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro, or iPhone 15, which is more than powerful enough for most people.

See price at Amazon

Apple iPhone 15

Apple iPhone 15

Excellent update commitment
Top-tier build quality
USB-C port, finally!

See price at Amazon

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Premium design and build
Upgraded main camera
Dynamic Island

See price at Best Buy

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

10%off

Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Excellent performance
Robust and consistent camera setup
Unmatched software support


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