iPhone 13 fuss makes me wonder if people got the upgrade memo

Getting a new phone every year certainly isn't mandatory

iPhone 13 Colours
(Image credit: Apple)

I suppose it happens every year, Apple announces a new set of handsets and everyone says “oh, I was expecting a built in taser” or “where’s the transparent, foldable screens like those ones on Westworld”. Apple sometimes just updates a few things, makes a better phone and then people buy it, usually in their millions. The iPhone 13 launches this week, and it's accompanied by some whinging.  

But this year I’ve seen an increase in whinging about how small the update is, and it honestly confuses me. Firstly, if Apple is right about the performance and battery life, the new iPhone is anything but a boring update. It could be a significant leap in power. Plus the Pro models get the 120Hz screen that seems to really matter to Android fans who will never buy an iPhone. 

But aside from anything else, you’re not actually supposed to upgrade every year. Sure, that is an avenue open to you if you really want, selling a year-old iPhone is pretty easy, and you’d get a chunk of money back, or you could use Apple’s upgrade program. But the every-year-upgrade-squad are certainly the minority. 

Everyone else is on a two or three year upgrade cycle now. You might be on a 24 month contract, or with some networks the repayment of your phone might be as long as three years. And at that point, the new iPhone is well worth getting, just for a couple of camera iterations alone. I know that, because I went from the XS Max to the iPhone 12 Pro and it was a monumental camera leap, but my XS was still a great device, although its battery was a little bit less capacious than when it was new. 

Ultimately, we’re not at a point in technological advancement where entirely ground-breaking phones are possible every year. We’re also not really at the point where anyone needs to continuously upgrade their handset every year. Could Apple make a folding iPhone? Almost certainly. Would it, with the compromises involved? Absolutely not.

While this opinion piece is framed around Apple, that’s only because it’s just had a launch. The same will be true of Google’s new Pixel or any of Samsung’s iterative updates. These are all just keeping the device fresh and are mostly for people who have reached the point with their existing phone that they need, or want a new one. 

Ian has been involved in technology journalism since 2007, originally writing about AV hardware back when LCDs and plasma TVs were just gaining popularity. Nearly 15 years on, he remains as excited about how tech can make your life better.