Why iPhone 6 and iPhone 8 owners will want to upgrade now

Jason Cipriani, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu April 23, 2020
iPhone SE vs iPhone 8 vs iPhone 6

Apple's second-generation iPhone SE is a dream to use. It's a clear throwback device, paying homage to the iPhone 6 design that was more recently used with the iPhone 8. In fact, it's practically identical to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 8 -- down to the 4.7-inch screen, home button, and Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

So, if you've been holding on to an iPhone 6 or iPhone 8, you might now be in the market for a budget-friendly iPhone, and therefore find yourself looking at the shiny new iPhone SE. Well, we're going to break down the real differences between iPhone 6, 8 and SE and help you decide if it's time to upgrade.

And as a TLDR, here's how the iPhone SE compares to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 8:

  • iPhone 6: A good option if you're in need of a backup phone or in the market for something for a tween or teen to prove they're responsible.
  • iPhone 8: With the iPhone SE now on the market, the iPhone 8 is well past its sell-by date, so unless you find one deeply discounted, it's best to skip.
  • iPhone SE: The iPhone SE delivers a huge amount of value that is basically unmatched from any other budget or midrange smartphone on the market, and delivers performance on par with Apple iPhone 11 family.

iPhone 6

iPhone 6

Apple's iPhone 6 made its debut in September 2014. It was the first time Apple introduced two screen sizes to its lineup, the iPhone 6's 4.7-inch screen and the iPhone 6 Plus's 5.5-inch display.

The change in Apple's approach to the size of the iPhone's screen, and adding another device to the lineup, was big news at the time, as was the addition of near-field communication to the iPhone, which debuted with the iPhone 6 — bringing Apple Pay and contactless payments along with it.

History lessons aside, the iPhone 6 was an important iPhone, but it's now outdated.

Apple has stopped releasing major iOS updates for it, meaning it's stuck on iOS 12 and only receives major bug or security fixes now.

Indeed, you can find the iPhone 6 on Amazon for as low as $99, but at this point, it's running on borrowed time. The A8 processor, while powerful for its time, is now outdated and sure to show signs of its age.

If you're in need of a backup phone while yours is getting repaired, or something for a tween or teen to prove they're responsible, then the iPhone 6 is a wise, but temporary, investment.

iPhone 8

iPhone 8

The iPhone 8 was introduced in 2017, and up until the middle of April, it was actively sold on Apple's website. The 8 and 8 Plus were discontinued after Apple announced the iPhone SE.

In terms of external design, we can't tell the difference between the iPhone 8 and the iPhone SE, other than an Apple logo placement on the back.

Inside is Apple's A11 Bionic processor, 2GB of memory, your choice of 64GB, 128GB or 256GB of storage, and a 1,821 mAh battery.

Better yet, the iPhone 8's software is current, with the phone running the latest version of iOS 13. Apple's likely to continue supporting the iPhone 8 via software updates for the next couple of years, given its past support for older phones.

The camera setup in the iPhone 8 is a single 12-megapixel camera with 4K video support at up to 60 frames per second, similar to that in the iPhone SE. The front-facing camera is 7 megapixels — again, similar to the iPhone SE.

The iPhone 8 is also now officially discontinued and removed from Apple's site, but you can still find it available at places like Best Buy or with your carrier. But its starting price is $450. That's $50 more than the newer, more capable, iPhone SE.

It's likely not worth spending the extra cash on unless you find it for a deep discount.

iPhone SE

iPhone SE

The iPhone SE picks up where the iPhone 8 left off, with the same 4.7-inch display, home button, Touch ID fingerprint reader, and camera setup. But it's using the latest Apple has to offer when it comes to internals: the A13 Bionic processor that the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro use.

Faster performance is not the only improvement. It also gains an important new camera feature: portrait mode. Using some fancy tech, and taking advantage of the more capable processor, Apple is able to get great-looking portrait mode shots with the iPhone SE — a feature the iPhone 8 never had.

The iPhone SE has wireless charging capabilities, just like the iPhone 8, and has the same IP67 water and dust resistance rating.

You will lose 3D Touch capabilities, which the iPhone 8 had, but Apple has since moved on to Haptic Touch. The differences between the two boil down to this: 3D Touch registered how hard you pressed on the screen's display to reveal hidden menus and options, while Haptic Touch recreates the same feature with a long-press, but is not as versatile.

With the iPhone SE boasting the latest Apple hardware, naturally, it also supports the latest software. Over the long run, the iPhone SE will be supported longer than the iPhone 8.

And with a starting price of $399 for a 64GB model, it's also less expensive than the iPhone 8 — which is just crazy, but good for phone shoppers.

Bottom line

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 8 are respectable devices, but well past their prime. The iPhone SE is more affordable, more recent, and sure to provide a better experience further into the future. So if you've been holding onto a previous 4.7-inch model, now's a great time upgrade to the second-generation SE. Plus, you can learn how to trade in your previous iPhone for the most money here.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.