Is my iPhone Too Old?

iPhone 5, 5s and SE side-by-side

Is my iPhone Too Old? a reader asks…

I have an iPhone 5 I’ve been hanging onto for awhile. I know it’s old, but is it now too old? I hung onto it because it’s small enough for me (I’m petite with small hands) and does everything I need to do, make phone calls, text, email, snap pics and occasionally surf the web. All the latest iPhone models are too big. Unfortunately, I cracked my screen and I guess it’s time to upgrade. Are there any models of iPhone I can buy that are not huge?

Apple will still support your old iPhone 5 if you want, and can do screen repair, but that will cost you $269. You can buy a new iPhone SE for $350 and up at cellular phone service carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile), but you can probably find it cheaper shopping either online or at major retail stores (Walmart, Best Buy, Target, etc.). The advantage of the iPhone SE over your current model is that it is able to run the current version of iOS (12). Basically, the iPhone SE has pretty much the same internal guts as an iPhone 6s, so not completely obsolete. And the iPhone SE is the same size as your iPhone 5, so there’s a real advantage for you personally. It was only recently discontinued by Apple, so there are probably many smartphones available to buy.

I would first look at your cellular carrier to see if they have one you can buy, then go to one of the major retail stores (online or in-person). Buying from ebay, Craig’s list and/or an individual has more risk. And for the most part, avoid refurbished models (unless you buy direct from Apple). Be sure to find out what warranty is provided, since you won’t be able to get AppleCare+. Also, avoid models with only 16gb of RAM, you want either 32gb or 128gb of RAM, which assures you’ll get the latest version of the iPhone SE (the older models came in 16gb and 64gb). If you take a lot of photos and videos, go for the larger internal storage, it’ll be worth the extra cost.


With the iPhone SE you’ll get a fingerprint reader (the older, slower version), 4k video recording, the faster processor, more memory and a better camera than your iPhone 5. Likely the biggest difference you’ll notice is the fingerprint reader, which lets you unlock the phone with your fingerprint instead of a passcode. You may be wondering why Apple no longer sells the smaller iPhone? Read on…

Apple, like all companies is in business to make money. So they cater to 80% of the market, aka ‘most people.’ Most people wanted a larger iPhone, so Apple moved to serving that need, starting with the iPhone 6. For anyone who didn’t want the larger iPhone, Apple provided the SE model for several years, but sales were not enough to make it worth their while to keep making the smaller version. So in September 2018 Apple discontinued the iPhone SE. From time to time you may find a refurbished model on Apple’s website (check, but your best bet at least for the near future is to buy a new one from a retailer. Stock supplies will continue to dwindle and I expect the SE to be hard-to-find within a few months, so buy now if you can.

You can continue to use your iPhone 5 until you find and get an iPhone SE, then visit your carrier (or an Apple Store) to get everything transferred over to your new iPhone. You can also do this yourself: Both iPhones use the nano-SIM card, so you can remove it from the iPhone 5 and put it into the SE to transfer over your cellular service. Your best bet is to use iCloud Backup to transfer over all your settings, apps, and data from the old iPhone. But since you’re already paying your cellular provider, you might as well let them do it for you. If you want to do it at an Apple Store, make an appointment with the Genius Bar.


Lastly, have you given the larger size iPhone a fair shake? The difference in size has one big positive: its easier to see things on the bigger screen. All the newer iPhones also have a feature to temporarily drop the display down closer to the bottom of the screen, to make it easier to reach the icons at the top. Most folks (even with small hands) took about a day to adjust to the larger size, and once adjusted never wanted to go back. If you are willing to give the larger size a shake, you can go with either the iPhone 8 (with home button) or the iPhone X (without) for less than the cost of the current iPhones (XS and XR). Forget about the iPhone 8 Plus (or XS Max), that’s going to be a lot bigger.

The only reason to consider getting a later model iPhone is because you apparently keep your smartphone a lot longer than the norm (these days). The newer the model, the longer Apple will keep supporting it. For example, the iPhone 5 is slated to be no longer supported at all in 2020. Apple generally fully supports a model for 3 years after it’s discontinued, then provides limited support for another few years.

Since the iPhone 5 came out in 2012, we are now seven years from when the first model was shipped. For the iPhone SE, that came out in 2016 and was discontinued in 2018, so I expect along about 2023 it will be considered too obsolete. For last year’s model iPhone X, 2025 is likely its age-out date. The iPhone 8 is still being produced, so it’s going to be quite a number of years before that model’s considered obsolete, although with every new model now going to face recognition over fingerprint technology, I’m guessing that the iPhone 8 will be considered obsolete in as few as 3 years. Just some food for thought…

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