Is an iPhone 11 worth buying in 2021? Here’s what to consider

The iPhone 11 may still be the Apple smartphone for you, even though the iPhone 13 could be coming soon.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Apple’s iPhone 11 is now almost two years old, and with the rumored iPhone 13 on the way, is it still a good idea to buy the older iPhone? It’s a fair question to consider, especially since the iPhone 11, which launched at $799, has since been discounted to $599 on Apple’s website. Beyond price and your personal budget, the decision could depend on what features you need in a smartphone. You may even consider buying an iPhone 12 or an iPhone SE instead.

Read more: Here’s how the iPhone 11 compares to the iPhone 12 and how iPhone 13 rumors compare to iPhone 12.

For instance, do you mind using an iPhone that feels a bit dated? Or do you think saving several hundred dollars is more important than carrying the latest smartphone? What about 5G — how important is that to you? If your current phone is on its deathbed, it makes sense to pony up the $599 for the iPhone 11 — or even the more expensive iPhone 12 — sooner rather than waiting for the next launch in the fall. But if you have some wiggle room, here are some questions to ask yourself. (For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you are currently using an iPhone.) 

5G connectivity: iPhone 11 doesn’t have 5G. But do you really need it right now?

One of the iPhone 11’s biggest missing features compared to the iPhone 12 — and presumably the iPhone 13 — is 5G connectivity. The iPhone 11 is an LTE-only device, and if you don’t care for the next-gen wireless tech just yet (service is patchy in the US after all), then the iPhone 11 should suit you just fine. Remember that 5G debuted on the iPhone 12 lineup, and getting access to faster bands of 5G depends on where you live, so going for the iPhone 12 makes your purchase more future-proof


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Display quality: You won’t get a 120Hz refresh rate on an iPhone 11 (or iPhone 12)

The iPhone 11 uses a crisp LCD screen that refreshes at 60 frames per second, or 60Hz. Apple traded up in the iPhone 12, equipping it with an OLED screen, though it kept the display at 60Hz just like most phones. OLEDs are typically more vibrant than their LCD counterparts, with richer contrast and inkier blacks. If you watch a lot of videos on your iPhone, and want a superior viewing experience, an OLED screen might make more sense for you. The iPhone 13 will likely boast an OLED panel too, though Apple is expected to bump up the refresh rate to 120Hz. The faster refresh rate will translate to smoother, snappier scrolling through apps and websites. 


Apple’s Wallet app will be able to store driver’s licenses in iOS 15. 

Screenshot by CNET

Software support: How long will the iPhone 11 get iOS software updates? 

The 2015 iPhone 6S is currently the oldest supported iPhone that will get the next operating system, iOS 15, when the general release lands sometime in the fall. (The public beta of iPhone’s next operating system iOS 15 is already here, and here’s how you can download it.) Based on that and some quick mental math, we can deduce that Apple plans to provide iPhone support for up to six years from launch. As a result, with the iPhone 11, unveiled in 2019, you can rest comfortably knowing that you can expect updates through 2025. 

Read more: iOS 15’s biggest new features: FaceTime, Apple Wallet and Notifications get new tricks

Durability and water resistance: How durable do you want your iPhone to be?

One of the iPhone 12’s big improvements is the material of its display. Apple calls it “ceramic shield” glass. Made by Corning, the ceramic shield glass covering the phone’s display is apparently harder than most metals. Indeed, we can confirm that the iPhone 12’s ceramic shield is tough. Our iPhone 12 drop tests show it protected the hardware from drops as high as 9 feet. (CNET’s iPhone 12 Mini drop tests yielded similar results.) So if you’re a big klutz and are prone to slips and drops, springing for this current iPhone is a wise move (or just get a really nice iPhone case). Keep in mind, the iPhone 11 isn’t a delicate darling, either. It also survived CNET’s drop and water tests and earned a CNET Editors’ Choice Award. You can read our iPhone 11 review for more details. 

Read more: Farewell iPhone case: The case for the caseless phone

Price and budget: How much do you want to spend on an iPhone?

As I said earlier, Apple is selling the nearly two-year-old iPhone 11 for $200 less now than when it was first launched. The iPhone 12 starts at $829, but you can expect the price to drop in the fall or whenever the iPhone 13 is launched. Although it’s too early to know for sure about iPhone 13 pricing, CNET has made some educated guesses. Chances are it’ll come in at the same starting prices as iPhone 12. Depending on what the iPhone 13 turns out to be, getting a heavily discounted iPhone 12 may be a better option. 

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