Are you thinking of buying a new iPhone? Sometimes a new smartphone is the right call, but there’s also a good argument to be made for making the most of what you already have. Here’s how to do that.
Buy a New Case
Take a look at your iPhone’s case for a moment. There’s a good chance it’s the case you purchased when your iPhone was new. It’s probably scratched, chipped, dented, disfigured, and polished shiny from your greasy hands. Inside the case is no doubt a nightmare of pocket fluff, food crumbs, hair, and dirt.
The good news is that your case has done its job. The iPhone beneath the case is probably pristine, and even the touchscreen will be in good condition if you have also used a screen protector. The good news is that you should be able to clean your case with some warm soapy water (just be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions first).
But if you’re looking to give your iPhone a bit of a glow-up, now is the time for a new outfit. It’s a lot cheaper to buy a case than a whole new iPhone (and if your iPhone is an older model you might find that the cases are cheaper anyway).
If you’re looking for some inspiration then we have a list of the best iPhone cases (plus model-specific lists for the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro, and iPhone SE). Personally, I love the Quad Lock cases since you can easily attach and detach them from almost anything.
You can also replace your screen protector. Tempered glass screen protectors do break, and though their functionality remains the same you’ll have to deal with small hairline cracks on your screen.
Clean Your iPhone
Whether or not you use a case, your iPhone is probably in need of a good clean. It’s a good idea not to take your iPhone out of its case too often since this can warp the case, but leaving it in place causes a large buildup of dirt. Take a moment to clean your device and restore it to its former glory.
You can clean your iPhone with 70% isopropyl alcohol to truly sanitize it. Apple updated its cleaning instructions during the COVID-19 pandemic to include disinfecting wipes or a soft cloth with a spray. You should avoid spraying isopropyl alcohol directly onto the iPhone, according to Apple.
The alcohol should help loosen dirt and cut through grease, though you may need to repeat the process a few times until you’re satisfied. Isopropyl alcohol will evaporate so there’s no need to “dry” your iPhone, though wiping it down with a soft cloth to remove fingerprints isn’t a bad idea either.
You should also clean your iPhone’s charging port. Grab a thin wooden toothpick and carefully remove any fluff or dirt. Your cable might also need a clean since the pins can be covered by dirt, which can prevent the iPhone from charging properly.
Reapply the Oleophobic Coating
Ever noticed how slick and easy to clean a new iPhone feels? Fingerprints seem to just wipe right off, grease doesn’t hang around, and doom scrolling has never felt so hygienic. This is because the oleophobic (oil-repelling) coating on the iPhone is still intact on a new iPhone.
In time, this coating wears away. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that peak oleophobic performance lasts around a year on my new devices. How long yours lasts will depend on your usage patterns but eventually, you’ll notice that your screen is harder to clean and needs more attention from you.
The good news is that you can reapply the oleophobic coating to your iPhone’s display with an aftermarket product. The process requires that you thoroughly clean the screen with isopropyl alcohol, apply a few drops of the coating to your display, spread it over your screen using a ziplock bag, and then let the coating cure overnight. You may need to repeat the process a few times.
If you have a screen protector on your iPhone then you don’t need to worry about this. A good tempered glass screen protector will have its own oleophobic coating, so you can replace that to get the same benefit.
Replace Your iPhone Battery
Your iPhone battery capacity reduces the longer you have it, and the more charge cycles you clock up. You can check your iPhone battery health under Settings > Battery > Battery Health & Charging. If your “Maximum Capacity” drops to 80% or lower or your iPhone reports that you’re not at “Peak Performance Capability” then a battery upgrade might be on the cards.
Other issues that can point to a bad battery include an iPhone that runs very hot (especially when charging), a battery meter that behaves erratically, frequent slow down, and sudden loss of power.
The good news is that new batteries are relatively inexpensive, at $89 for most models if you go through Apple. You could potentially save some money by trying a DIY repair with a kit from somewhere like iFixit, but there is the risk you’ll damage the phone in the process.
Spend Money on Accessories Instead
Buying a new iPhone is expensive, and it feels like there are fewer reasons to upgrade your device every year. Apple makes great smartphones, and that includes the one that’s already in your pocket. The truth is that spending all that money on a new iPhone might yield less real-world improvements than spending less money elsewhere.
For example, wireless headphones are far from perfect, but they’re arguably one of the biggest quality-of-life upgrades you can make. Being able to listen to music or podcasts and talk on the phone without worrying about where your iPhone is or dealing with cables is liberating. You could spend big on some AirPods Pro, or save some money and go for something like the Soundpeats Capsule3.
Wireless charging could be another upgrade. It’s incredibly convenient, if a little slow. In some instances (like beside your bed, or while you’re driving), a wireless charger is a great choice. Many iPhone bedside stands integrate wireless charging into them, allowing you to make use of features like iOS 17’s clock-like StandBy Mode.
If you play a lot of games on your iPhone or you’re thinking of tackling more console and PC titles using services like Xbox GamePass, why not turn your iPhone into a handheld console? The Backbone One adds analog sticks, a d-pad, face buttons, triggers, and more to your iPhone and comes in both Xbox and PlayStation flavors.
Just be aware that products like the Backbone use Apple’s Lightning connector, which is being phased out in the iPhone 15 line. If you already have an Xbox or PlayStation controller you want to use, a controller mount that attaches your iPhone to your controller might be a better and more cost-effective solution.
Change Your Wallpaper
It might sound boring and obvious, but a new wallpaper can make a big difference. Each iOS release comes with a set of new wallpapers, which is the wallpaper you’ll see when you buy a new iPhone (before you’ve restored an iCloud backup, anyway).
iOS 16 made it easier than ever to experiment with wallpapers, lock screens, and home screens without sacrificing your current look. Use the wallpaper switcher by tapping and holding a blank space on your lock screen. Using this menu you can easily switch between looks and even set separate lock screen and home screen wallpapers.
In addition to Apple’s list of wallpapers, we’d recommend learning how to make perfect depth effect iPhone wallpapers. This will let you superimpose elements from your images over the time for a striking effect.
Some iPhone owners religiously stick to a set home screen layout, while others let apps and widgets build up. Whatever your style, switching up your home screen from time to time will help keep things fresh. Clear out the app icons you don’t use, and reorder those that you do. Tap and hold an icon until everything starts wiggling to move things around.
Apple overhauled widgets in iOS 17 so that you can do more from your home screen. This includes things like checking off items on your to-do list or registering actions in apps like Streaks without having to launch the app. Tap and hold anywhere on your home screen then tap the “+” plus icon in the top-left corner to add some widgets.
Remember: You don’t need every app on your home screen. It’s often faster to just search for apps, and there’s always the App Library to the far right of your home screen. There are no rules to your home screen, you can do whatever you want these days (within Apple’s boundaries at least).
Consider going minimalist and getting rid of apps entirely (just use your dock). Create a home screen that’s just widgets. Place all of your smart home controls on another home screen setup. Change how you fundamentally interact with your iPhone to make things feel fresh again.
Learn Some New iPhone Tricks
Spotlight is the best way to navigate your iPhone. Simply pull down on your home screen to reveal a search bar, then type what you want. You can find and launch apps, jump straight to Settings, toggle features, perform quick maths and unit conversions, start timers, and trigger Shortcuts, in addition to its core searching abilities.
Shortcuts is Apple’s drag-and-drop workflow tool that can unlock a whole world of productivity. You can do things like extract audio from a video, save files directly to iCloud Drive, convert images to PDFs, and much more. Best of all, you don’t need to create your own since you can download third-party Shortcuts and use them instead.
You may have written off many iPhone features in the past, but things change. For example, as of iOS 17, the iPhone’s dictation feature is a lot more useful. You can leave Dictation on and make changes to the text with your keyboard. Notes is a feature-rich note-taking app that’s worthy of your time, and iCloud Keychain can even take care of two-factor authentication codes now.
Check out more of our favorite hidden iPhone features that will change how you interact with your device.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a new iPhone, but it might not be the best use of your money. Apple adds more features and improvements to each new model, so the longer you wait, the more likely it will be that your next upgrade is a worthwhile purchase.