I think it may be time to upgrade my iPhone. The camera is starting to not work sometimes.

I don’t really know what to do.

I think it may have done this before. The rear camera suddenly stopped working.

Try to take a picture: darkness.

The fix seems to be turning it off, and dropping it softly onto a magazine, on a coffee table. Just to re-jiggle the multitudinous quick-connector’d wireage, so to speak.

I bought this phone refurbished from Apple in February 2018, so it’s been 2.5 years. Only 2.5 years! I guess it does work this evening, basically perfectly, good as new, but it is admittedly disappointing to be looking at a flaky camera.

on cameras

I don’t even really like the camera on a phone, it’s really not very good compared to a mirrorless/DSLR.

But it’s still quite useful day-to-day, to scan QR codes, to take silly pictures, pictures of food, unexpected stuff…

A phone with a middling camera is forgivable, but a phone without a reliable camera just sucks. I’d place a $100 value on that, at least. Maybe $160.

Viable options

  1. $400 iPhone SE
  2. $700 iPhone 11
  3. $400-700 some Android, maybe Samsung/LG ?

64 GB minimum, I have definitely hit the 32 GB limit on my 7, but it hasn’t been a huge issue. I don’t really know what I’d do with 128 GB, or 1 TB for that matter.

What it all costs

I spent about $500 on this phone back in the day, so to last 2.5 years means this phone has cost me at most $200/year.

Factor in trade-in value (which, impressively, the App Store app shows me automatically) of about $100, and it’s more realistically about $160/year.

I did not buy AppleCare, but after reading up on that it might only last 2 years anyway, so it’d be moot now. $199? may be worth it, but I’m not sure. I’m usually pretty careful. I kept my 7 in an Otterbox Defender for maybe a full year, before I put it back in the Loopy case (which is my absolute favorite, and now that I know it comes in a left-handed version, I simply must try).

At my going rate, assuming $100 trade-in once it’s time,

if the phone lasts then it’d better be
1 year $260 (or less)
2 years $420
3 years $580
4 years $740

What to do

I definitely lean iPhone. I have had 3 different Android phones, so I try them out from time to time. I’ve had, let’s see, 4 different iPhones, so it’s pretty balanced.

iPhones have consistently smooth animation, though I’ve got to say the 4 I still hold onto is slow as jank to do nearly anything. It might be a low-current battery causing CPU throttling, to be sure, but even plugged in 100% it’s slow.

I like small-to-medium phones, but with a Loopy case I don’t think big matters as much as sheer weight.

I don’t find my 7 heavy at all, at 138 grams. Both the SE and the 11 are heavier:

iPhone grams mass
7 138
SE 148
11 194

194 grams is almost a half-pound! I’m sure it won’t be a problem, either way.

Pros & cons

Let’s be straight, the cons are pretty much: dollars & cents.

Pros: SE over 7

  • A13 over A10
  • True Tone display
  • 802.11ax over 802.11ac
  • Wireless charging
  • Fast charging
  • Dual-SIM over single

That’s it—it’s basically the same phone.

Pros: 11 over SE

  • 6.1” screen over 4.7”
  • Dual cameras (not sure concretely what this gets you)
  • 4K/60p video
  • Face ID (I’m least excited by this, Touch ID is great)
  • 2m water resistance over 1m
  • 65 hours audio playback over 40 hours

It’s about a $300 bump.

My options

I can

  • drop $0 and squeeze another 6 months? year? out of my 7, until its truly dead and worth $0 - $50
  • drop $300 on a new SE (trade 7 in)
  • drop $600 on a new 11 (trade 7 in)

Weirdly, if I bought the 11 I’d probably spend even more and get the AppleCare, so maybe I’d drop $800 total on that.

Either way, I’m getting a new case, since dimensions change slightly.


I mostly store (my own) Vinyl/CD rips, 700 MB / CD.

No compression, preferably, since it’s nicer to just stay 16-bit/44.1kHz wave. I think I mostly keep .aiff files.

Practically speaking, an iPhone needs about 20 GB just to store my mail & messages & photos, so I would just subtract about 20 from the total.

3 CDs 2 GB
18 CDs 12 GB (all that a 32GB iPhone 7 can really fit)
66 CDs 44 GB (64 GB iPhone SE/11)
162 CDs 108 GB (128 GB iPhone SE/11)

So a 128 GB is a +$49 option on the 11, and 256 GB is a +$149 option. Wow, I didn’t realize they made 256 GB. It’s about time, forever the 160 GB iPod Classic was the largest-storage thing Apple ever made, pocket-sized.

Same goes for the SE. That makes it easier to think about, that version & storage are totally orthogonal, price-wise.


MacRumors’ buying guide says Caution on the 11, and Buy on the SE, since it’s newer. The 11 should get an update (presumably the 12, right?) this fall, so it’ll probably get a faster chip.

Is there anything out faster than an A13? like in an iPad Pro?

A12Z? Hmm, maybe.

If you look at the Geekbench iOS, A13 is king of single-core but second only to A12Z in multi-core. Even in multi-core, the 11 is the 7th fastest and the SE is the 10th fastest.

So while the SE is hardly distinguishable from my 7, it’s truly one of the best iPhones they’ve made.

I think the biggest plus of the 11 is the display: it’s just so much bigger, without being much bigger in the hand. It’s not a huge difference, but it is a difference. I guess Android phones had that kind of setup for a while, but they also had (have?) that weird set of 3 buttons.

The next biggest plus is the battery.

But are those 2 things worth $300?

Is it worth $300 to get back to a working phone?

going forward

If the camera stops working for 24 hours, I trade in.

If it stops working momentarily 3 different times, I trade in.

I kind of feel I should trade in soon, before my 7 becomes worth less, but I could also maybe wait until the fall for an update to the 11. Ups and downs.

I feel inclined to splurge and do the 11 + AppleCare, but SE + AppleCare would also be a mini splurge.

Wow, so both Gazelle & uSell offer $82 for my phone.

That sucks!

Maybe I should take Apple’s offer, which is worth I think about $100 - $110. Fuck!