iPhone 4S: Should I Buy the New iPhone?

Should I buy a new iPhone 4S? That seems to be the question of the day from both current iPhone users and those who are thinking about buying their first iPhone. We’re going to try and answer it for as many of you as possible in this article.  With three separate carriers and three iPhone 4S models to choose from, there’s more to think about than previous iPhone launches.

Buying a new phone is a personal decision so you’ll have to adapt our advice to your own situation.

Are you starting a new contract with AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon Wireless?

If so, and the iPhone 4S meets your needs for a phone, this is a no-brainer. Yes, you can get an iPhone 4 for $100 less, but the iPhone 4S is a better phone, overall. Given the choice starting fresh, I would pick the 4S. If you don’t have the money now, wait a month and save up for the $100 difference.

iPhone 4S

Are you switching from an iPhone 3GS or earlier?

If you have an iPhone 3GS, 3G, or, heaven forbid, anything older than that, then you should definitely upgrade if you want to stick with iPhone. If you were holding out for an iPhone 5, you may have a long wait. Plus, the iPhone 4S is a pretty major upgrade from what you’ve got right now.

You’re likely eligible to upgrade for the 2-year contract prices if you want to stick with AT&T. And for those lucky to still have an unlimited data plan, you can probably keep that.

If AT&T’s service in your area isn’t the best, you’re in a better position to switch if you’re near or at the end of your contract. Verizon Wireless does better in urban areas where AT&T struggles. Sprint is offering unlimited data to new iPhone 4S customers, which is a nice incentive to switch.

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Are you eligible to upgrade from an iPhone 4?

Some AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers qualify for an upgrade to the iPhone 4S from the iPhone 4, but there are several caveats. It could end up costing you more than you think — read our post breaking down the costs and benefits of switching.

Since the upgrades are mostly internal, it may not be worth the extra money if you’re happy with the iPhone 4. However, there are features you won’t get on the iPhone 4 even when the iOS 5 update comes through. You can offset some of the cost by selling your iPhone 4, or you could wait until you can upgrade at the lowest price.

Do you want Siri?

Easily one of the most compelling aspects of the iPhone 4S, the Siri personal assistant software brings us right into Star Trek territory. It allows users to ask the iPhone 4S questions, set reminders and alarms, plus dictate, all via natural voice commands.

If you’re eager to use this feature, you’ll have to buy an iPhone 4S.

Do you want more internal storage on your phone?

One of the minor hardware upgrades is a new iPhone capacity: 64GB. If you’re nostalgic for the days when your iPod could hold your entire music collection (or, at least, a sizable chunk of it), the 64GB version of the iPhone 4S is for you. Also useful if you tend to keep movies and television episodes on hand to watch.

Do you play games?

The dual-core A5 chip inside the iPhone 4S means better overall performance much improved gaming performance. You might not notice so much if the most graphically challenging game you play is Angry Birds. However, the better gaming capability the new chip provides means you won’t need a tablet to get down with some Infinity Blade.

Plus, now that the iPhone can handle it, expect more power-intensive games to come to the platform. That makes the iPhone 4S an even sweeter deal for gamers.

Does your phone’s camera matter to you?

Apple CEO Tim Cook stated outright that the company aimed to replace your point and shoot with the iPhone 4S. The 8MP camera on the back has some seriously sweet optics and an upgraded sensor, resulting in beautiful photos with popping colors and great detail. Check out samples photos taken with the iPhone 4S.

iPhone 4S

You’ll also be able to record videos in full HD (1080p), another time when that 64GB version will come in handy.

iPhone 4S

There are a handful of Android phones with good cameras (the Droid Bionic and HTC Thunderbolt spring to mind), so if this is your major qualification you should check out the competition, too. But given the beauty of those sample shots, it’s safe to say that the iPhone 4S camera is among the best available on a phone.

Are you happy with your carrier?

If you’re near the end of your contract and unhappy with your current carrier, don’t buy a new iPhone 4S now and re-up your contract just to have it right away. Consumers finally have a choice when it comes to their iPhone carrier. So study the plans, pricing, and coverage to determine which is best for you. If that means waiting a few months so you can switch without paying a fee, don’t panic. The iPhone will still be there.

Do you want true 4G speeds?

The iPhone 4S will be capable of HSDPA speeds, but not WiMAX, HSPA+ or LTE 4G speeds. Right now power users will feel that difference most keenly, especially if you plan to tether the phone to your laptop for on-the-go wireless. It’s not going to be long until the lack of speedy mobile broadband will be a problem even for less intense smartphone users. And you’re locked in to this phone for 2 years (unless you’re prepared to pay the fee).

On the Android side there are over a dozen 4G and LTE models to choose from.

iPhone 4SAre you a basic user?

There’s no doubt that the iPhone 4S is as easy to use as previous versions, making it a good for phone the tech-savvy and novices alike. Just because it won’t confuse you doesn’t mean it’s the right phone to buy. Contrary to what Apple says, everyone does not need a smartphone.

Think about how much you use your phone and for what purpose. Do you send a lot of texts or emails? Do you think you’ll browser the web much? Thousands of available apps is a nice perk, but will any of them be any real use to you? Are the apps you do think you’ll use available in a feature phone, such as checking the weather and stocks?

Don’t be swayed into buying a phone you don’t need by the hype. Especially one that will cost you thousands of dollars over the next two years.

Do you have the budget for an iPhone?

As tempting as an iPhone 4S seems, it’s not worth busting your budget over. Even if you purchase the 16GB version for $199, remember that you’ll also pay tax on it (and in some states carriers have to charge tax based on the unsubsidized price, so you’re looking at $62 and up) and you have to have a data plan on top of voice minutes and, in some cases, texting.

Would you consider anything besides an iPhone?

The 4S is definitely a nice phone, but as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, many of its best features already exist in Android phones. Plus, with Android you can also get a bigger screen, 4G, mobile hotspot capabilities, and more.

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Check out our posts comparing the iPhone 4S to the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy S II line, and the HTC Titan. If you’re looking for a dual-core phone with a sweet camera, the Droid Bionic is a definite contender.

Comments

  1. Quittingtheday says

    Thanks really helpful format and info. I love iPhones but my partner recently got a Galaxy S II and the bigger screen is enough to win me over.

  2. me2 says

    I also got Galaxy SII after doing some research (comparison videos on YouTube, etc.).  Galaxy SII has a lot better chips (faster) and bigger screen.  It’s lighter and thinner too.  Tons of apps and you are not forced to buy them through a single app store (as Apple does).  The apps seem to be better on android platform (for example, I get google map with voice guided navigation which apple iphone does not).

    • Bobcolumbus4 says

      I’ve had my I phone for 2 weeks. Have I made a jump into this iPhone prematurely and Verizon should have informed me as to what was to come soo quickly to have a newer virsion of what’s to come in only a week of the newest I phone 4s version.
      Please inform me, with honesty and reply with true info

      • Hbwluis says

        I you have just 2 weeks with your iphone, go back to the store and tell them you dont want it anymore. You have 30 days to return the phone. They will get it back and return all your money back. Or just tell them that you want the new phone and they will do a new contract with the new iphone. All cell phone carriers have that 30 day trial period, but of course they wont tell you.

      • Fred says

        Have you been living in a hole for the last 3 months? Everyone knew Apple was preparing for a new launch during the last week of September or mid October.
        Regardless, i think you might be eligible for the new phone if you call your service provider and complain.

      • Anonymous says

        Not premature you’re not missing much with the 4s. Even though I upgraded from a 3Gs its not that much different. I say when your contract is up get a new phone. Other than that you’re fine. If you spend your time worrying about the latest and greatest tech then you don’t have a life. I realized that a while ago and as long as it isn’t older than 2 years, keep it.

        If you can still return it I would. You payed $200-$300 for a nice phone and you should have the latest and greatest for that price.

    • Anonymous says

      They really are about the same speed. Lighter isn’t a plus when you talk mobile phones but, size is. That is the one real advantage Android has right now.

    • Cinm_1234 says

      Have you ever actually seen the apps an iPhone can have? Because if you haven’t, let me tell you that iPhones can have Google Maps, too, even if they aren’t voice controlled. 

  3. MB says

    I’d say, if you want one you should buy it. If you don’t, you shouldn’t. Hopefully that clears things up.

  4. Jharo00 says

    I have a Samsung galaxy s 2 which had been dubbed as the best android phone available… and the pictures it takes are legit worse than the iPhone 4 though it claims to have the same 8gb camera. I’m not kidding when I say that the iPhone is just the BEST phone experience available EVER. This coming from a Guy returning his galaxy for an iPhone 4S.

    • Cinm_1234 says

      The Samsung Galaxy S2 IS the best Android available but I do think that iPhones are better. BTW the camera is 8 mega pixels, not 8 GB

  5. Guest says

    After I have my AT&T iPhone4s for 2 years… then what happens?
    Can that same phone be switched to 1 month of Verizon?
    Then switched again to 1 month of Sprint?

  6. SJ says

    Glad to see someone mention the phone may not be for everyone.   Id like to see someone write about whats the best non-smartphone for people who maybe only need to talk and text and want something less expensive.  (What feature phone gives you weather and stock info?)  It seems all carriers are now only offering smartphones and then forcing you to buy a data package you don’t need, or offer you a feature phone that is 5 years old and looks like it came from a previous century.  Thats what Tmobile offered me as an ‘upgrade’.  I only wanted a new phone cuz I needed it – my old phone was dying quickly -but I wanted to keep my old talk only grandfathered (cheap) plan…but they wouldn’t let me.  They only offered me phones I rejected 3 years ago when I got a new phone or a smartphone that would make me choose a new plan and double my monthly fee.  You’d think they’d be willing to get me a cheap smartphone so that if I decided to add data down the line, Id have it – esp to keep an existing customer and get me to sign a contract…but nope.  Their service really has gone down.  All Ive gotten is hangup calls from t hem every other day.  I will be leaving them next week for good

    • Lew S. Mills says

      Although I agree with you, I don’t see it happening.  The cell phone companies are making a killing and they are doing everything they can to drive you to the expensive data plans.  The “feature phone”  available from Verizon Wireless are terrible so if you want a decent phone you have to spring for the data plans.  Personally, I think the Blackberry’s would make good feature phones.  Nice device for texting.

  7. Pangoy2nd says

    If you want a plastic made phone you go for samsung, if you want quality with best user experience, you go for iPhone. :)

    Honestly, i would feel robbed and fooled if i get samsung. With iPhone, it’s quite fair. Stainless and glass made phone with cutting edge OS? Wow, what esle can get close?

  8. Edward Hayes says

    People are such idiots! Some are raving about the iphone 4s…and its not been compared head to head with anything…if you drop the iphone it will  shatter just like any phone if not protected by some type of cover….before making claims of a cheap plasic phone…know that the Samsung Galaxy S2 has  a metal frame  beneath the plasic coverings

  9. Pangoy2nd says

    Ive seen the galaxy. Really, it’s plastic.

    And talking about idiots… Have you gone to school? I think you values are off. Parents/teachers probably failed to teach you something…

  10. Vinícius Manjabosco says

    This is just a bunch of excuses, everybody knows that the 4S is totally useless.

  11. Jbhjamason says

    yes most other smartphones are slightly faster and cost less, but the iphone has the best apps and has itunes and music, and to top tht off has the new SIRI technology, which looks amazing!!

  12. fred says

    i’m going to make the online update then wait for the new iphone which hopefully is released in 2012, optomistic that it will have a bigger screen.

  13. guest says

    I dont have a smartphone and I want somebody to say what the most recomended non-smart phone is.

  14. Cinm_1234 says

    OKAY EVERYONE LISTEN UP! This is the message that should hopefully stop the squabbling between the two phones. Both phones are very good in they’re own way, and both have their strong and weak points. The message I want to get through is that buy the phone that you want to buy. It doesn’t matter if your friend has a better phone than you because “the screen is bigger”
    or “the camera is one of the best on the market.” Buy the one you want. And you’ll notice I’ve used strong points of both phones in this message.

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