It’s launch day for the iPhone XS and XS Max. And if it seems a little muted compared to iPhone launch days past, that may be because Apple is making it increasingly easy to hang on to your three-year-old phone instead — even if they no longer sell that phone.
As I wrote last week, I was in the market for an XS. But I was torn: I’m one of those people who believes the iPhone 6S is the last truly great iPhone Apple made. I’m loath to swap my built-in headphone jack for a life in which I have to carry around a Lightning-to-aux dongle just in case.
And yes, fanboys, before you jump in: I already use Bluetooth headphones! I just like the option to plug in a wired set of cans — the same option I am afforded on my latest-model iPad Pro and bang-up-to-date MacBook.
(Answer me this, jackless iPhone owners: When you jump into a friend’s car for a random ride, and want to play some tunes, and all they have is an aux cord, what do you do? Hope you remembered your dongle and don’t need to charge your phone at the same time!)
Still, for a hot moment, I felt compelled to give in to my inner early adopter and get the latest thing. My 6S often drained fast, requiring me to carry an external battery at all times or live in Low Power Mode. Perhaps I was being unreasonable. Perhaps I could learn to live with dongles.
Perhaps I could even learn to live with FaceID, though it still seems an unnecessary and fundamentally insecure feature. I messaged an old friend who loves his iPhone X: What percentage of the time does FaceID fail to open the phone, due to you wearing sunglasses or a hat or the room being too dark? Oh, just 35 percent of the time, he estimated. My TouchID still works 100 percent of the time. Hmmm.
Perhaps I could upgrade to last year’s iPhone 8, the last Apple model to use TouchID. But what an uninspiring option that seemed. Spend $549, get a phone with half the capacity of my 128GB 6S (Apple doesn’t offer a 128GB version of the 8), and of course, enter Dongle-land.
Well, I figured, at least I could get my 6S ready for trade-in or hand-me-down by taking advantage of Apple’s $29 battery replacement program (which the company is offering until the end of the year). As I discovered at the Apple store, my out-of-warranty iPhone 6S qualified for a free battery upgrade because of the month in which it had been manufactured; I didn’t even need to drop $29.
The only caveat: It had a minor crack in the corner of the screen. Apple won’t perform battery upgrades unless you have a pristine screen, for fear that it may shatter when they remove the back. The Apple store offered a screen replacement for $149. Other stores charged $109. The trade-in value of an iPhone 6S is around $100. Again I faltered, feeling nudged towards the latest thing.
But then I found a store that did a third-party screen replacement for $65. It looked indistinguishable from the original. Apple generally won’t repair your phone if it has third-party components, but it makes an exception for screens. The Apple store did the battery replacement in minutes. All of a sudden, the phone that had been limping along, rapidly draining, felt like new.
My 6S feels like it has a new lease on life.
This was helped in large part by the upgrade to iOS 12. Apple has been touting the fact that the latest iOS will make an old phone run faster, and I’m here to tell you they’re absolutely right. My 6S feels like it has a new lease on life. If not brand new, it certainly feels like less than a year old. Good enough for me.
It seems odd that a trillion-dollar company well known for making you want the latest thing should make it so easy to get away with not upgrading your phone for three years. But Apple does seem to be making a new commitment to sustainability.
Lisa Jackson, former EPA chief and now Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, took a good chunk of the iPhone XS launch event last week to talk about this. All Apple offices and data centers are now powered by 100 percent renewable energy. The phones are made with more recyclable components than ever before.
Jackson didn’t talk about this, for obvious reasons, but the biggest thing you can do for the environment as an iPhone customer is to not buy a new iPhone. Very quietly, Apple has made this planet-helping option possible — even for eager early-adopter types like me.
I don’t know how this works, financially, in the long-term. Perhaps my continued use of the 6S is effectively subsidized by people who don’t mind the efficiency downgrade of FaceID, people who must have the latest, brightest, gold-plated thousand-dollar thing, people who don’t mind dongles.
All I can say for now is something I’ve never said before: Thank you Apple, for not making me upgrade.