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iPhone 4S: Should I Upgrade from an iPhone 4?



The iPhone 4S looks a lot like the iPhone 4 in your pocket, but looks can be deceiving. Many iPhone 4 users will benefit by making the move to an iPhone 4S, but there’s a lot to consider before you wait in line or pre-order an iPhone 4S.

iPhone 4S — Should I Upgrade?

The short answer is yes if you have the budget for a new phone, prefer the iPhone platform over Android and you don’t mind signing a two-year agreement.  The iPhone 4S has some notable improvements over the iPhone 4, especially in the speed, photo and video departments. There are also parts of iOS 5, Apple’s new mobile operating system, that will only run on the iPhone 4S.

iPhone 4S

If you’re looking for the latest and greatest wireless innovations and aren’t 100% loyal to the iPhone platform you might want to consider an Android phone with 4G LTE technology. Those looking for a fast and reliable mobile Internet connection may be better served with a device like the Droid Bionic.

Cost of Upgrading to the iPhone 4S

The cost of upgrading to an iPhone 4S will vary dramatically depending on your carrier and how long it’s been since you last upgraded.

Are you eligible for the advertised iPhone 4S price? (Total Cost $379 to $498)

If you’re eligible for an upgrade, you’ll be able to pay the advertised iPhone 4S prices of $199 (16GB), $299 (32GB) or $399 (64GB) plus taxes and fees. But that’s not all you need to pay. Most states require mobile phone buyers to pay tax on the full unsubsidized cost of new phones. That’s an extra $450 you need to pay tax on, which means you need to budget up to $81 for tax on average (assuming a 9.6% state and local tax according to Forbes). Tack on another $18 for an AT&T activation fee and you’re up to $298 for an entry-level iPhone 4S.

Most people eligible for an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 4S upgrade are going to be AT&T subscribers. Most Verizon iPhone 4 owners won’t be eligible since Verizon started selling the iPhone 4 earlier this year. AT&T’s been selling the iPhone 4 since June of 2010.

iPhone 4S

AT&T does offer select customers the fully subsidized prices, even if they’re several months away from the end of their two-year contracts. The early discounts typically go to AT&T’s most profitable customers, such as those with expensive plans and extras, such as the mobile tethering option. AT&T isn’t going to offer you the lowest price on the iPhone 4S if you you have a bare-bones iPhone contract or are piggy-backing on a lower family plan. Some family plan subscribers will find that one iPhone 4 line is eligible for an upgrade while others are not.

Learn how to check your upgrade eligibility status.

Are you eligible for an early discount? (Total Cost $461 to $656)

If you have been with your carrier for a year, you might be eligible for a small upgrade discount on the iPhone 4S. This will vary from carrier to carrier, and even from line to line on family plans.

AT&T is offering some iPhone 4 owners a partial early discount of $250 off the unsubsidized price, bringing the 16GB iPhone 4S to $399. The 32GB iPhone 4S is $499 and the 64GB iPhone 4S is $599 if you fall into this camp.

Are you not eligible? (Total Cost $729 to $929)

If you are not eligible for an upgrade to the iPhone 4S at the end of your contract, or as an early upgrade, your only option will be to purchase the iPhone 4S at the off contract price.

The iPhone 4S off contract pricing is $649 (16GB), $749 (32GB) or $849 (64GB) plus taxes and any carrier fees. These prices are normally cut dramatically when you sign a new two year contract. In this case, you will need to plan for an extra $62 to $81 in sales tax.

Do You Hate Your Carrier?

Many AT&T iPhone 4 users are frustrated by call reliability issues, but refused to jump ship to Verizon since it didn’t make much sense to buy the same phone all over again and pay an early termination fee.

But it’s been eight months since Verizon started selling the iPhone 4 to non-Verizon subscribers, which means their early termination fees have decreased. AT&T subscribers need to pay $325, minus $10 per month if they want to cancel their contracts before the two-year agreement expires. Assuming you bought the iPhone 4 on launch day back in June 2010, you’d have to pay $175, which still hurts, but is worth it if you live or work in an AT&T dead zone that has a strong Verizon signal.

iPhone 4 users on Verizon’s network cannot access data while on phone calls. This is especially frustrating if you use your iPhone 4 as a mobile hotspot, which means you can’t share your iPhone 4’s 3G connection with your notebook or tablet while talking.

If you have limited data plans on AT&T or Verizon, the unlimited data plans that Sprint is offering may make it worth the switch for heavy data users.

Get $200 Or More For Your Old iPhone 4

Whether or not your eligible for a discount, you can sell your iPhone 4 back to Apple or any number of gadget buyback services ( and Nextworth are two of our favorites).  Selling your iPhone on eBay or Craigslist will fetch even more if you’re willing to deal with strangers directly.

iPhone 4S Features

Upgraded Camera

The camera on the iPhone 4 is no slouch but Apple saw it fit to upgrade its successor with a camera that will have the competition playing catch up. In fact, Apple made it a point to point out how far behind the competition was at the iPhone 4S launch event.

The iPhone 4S has been outfitted with a new 8MP camera, which includes new optics and a better sensor. In short, the iPhone 4S camera is on par with many dedicated point and shoot cameras on the market. Don’t believe it? Here are several sample photos taken with the iPhone 4S, which show off the abilities of the camera in several settings. (click to enlarge)

iPhone 4S action shot - waves on the beach

iPhone 4S flower girl picture photo

Click here to see all of the sample shots.

If you like to record videos, you are able to record in full 1080P HD and the camera uses built in image stabilization to help produce prettier video.

We should also note that the iPhone 4S’ camera features face detection, something not found with the iPhone 4’s camera.

Faster Processor

The iPhone 4S has the same A5 processor found in the iPad 2. This means that the iPhone 4S is nearly 2x as fast as the iPhone 4, and has 7x faster graphics. This makes for a snappier phone and prettier graphics when you play games like Infinity Blade.

Gaming won’t be the only thing that will be made faster by the iPhone 4S’ A5 dual-core processor. Watching video content should be an even smoother experience than it was on the iPhone 4 plus switching back and forth between applications and multitasking will be quicker than ever. The time it takes to load an application will also be much shorter due to the A5’s powerful core.

The best part? There is no sacrifice in battery life. In fact, the iPhone 4S will last even longer than the iPhone 4.

iPhone 4SNew Antenna

Last year’s iPhone 4 was part of a debacle dubbed Antennagate that saw Apple hand out free bumper cases to please owners concerned about a perceived ‘death grip.’ So, we knew that Apple was going to find a way to improve its antenna for this new phone.

The iPhone 4S’ antenna has been changed in a way that allows the cellular radio inside the device to determine which of the two antennas, embedded in the stainless steel bands on the sides, will offer the best signal.

That means, at least in theory, that there should be no death grip on the iPhone 4S because the radio will use the antenna that’s not being blocked by the hand.

World Phone

The iPhone 4S will be a true world phone. It contains both GSM and CDMA radios which means that you can travel the globe and use it like you would in your hometown.

This is a feature that is not available on either the AT&T or Verizon iPhone 4. So, if you’re a world traveler or find yourself on planes and in hotels on business, the iPhone 4S is certainly a phone to look at.

New Assistant App – Siri

Perhaps the biggest reason to consider an upgrade is the iPhone 4S exclusive assistant app called Siri. The iPhone 4 won’t have this ability, even after you upgrade to iOS 5.

Siri is a virtual assistant for your iPhone. The app can respond to a number of requests including,

  • Ask for a Reminder – At a specific time or place
  • Ask to send a text
  • Ask or the weather
  • Ask for information – Like a restaurant
  • Ask to schedule a meeting
  • and much more

For more on Siri, check out why Siri could make the iPhone 4S worth the upgrade.

Bottom Line

Since the iPhone 4S isn’t a completely new phone, many may choose to wait until they can get the phone at the fullest discount. But if you can get a good trade-in price for your old phone that offsets the cost of upgrading early or even switching to a new carrier, go for it. There are enough advantages to the iPhone 4S to justify an upgrade that cost you much. But if you’re looking at having to pay the unsubsidized price or an early cancellation fee, consider holding off.



  1. geo

    10/06/2011 at 9:01 pm

    $199 + $81 + $18 ≠ $379   = $298

    • ojins

      10/06/2011 at 10:05 pm

      was about to say the same..

    • Mts111787

      10/07/2011 at 3:11 am

      the carrier should pay the discounted part of tax on the phone  not us we should only pay tax on what we spend

      • California tx is stupid

        02/05/2012 at 8:38 pm

        Nobody should have to pay tax on the retail price: retail prices are frigen scams anyway to get you in the door for the real price…California is such a crap hole.

  2. GEorge

    10/06/2011 at 11:13 pm

    iOS 5 will run on iPhone 3GS, 4, both iPads, 3rd & 4th gen iPod touches. Idiot…

    • IheartFaggots

      10/07/2011 at 12:26 am

      Yeah, but iOS5 on other devices won’t have the features that the 4S will have.  Idiot…

      • Abraham

        10/07/2011 at 4:24 am

        Running iOS 5 on my iPhone 4, I can say it has all the features except for Siri. Let us be respectful.

        • John Smith

          10/10/2011 at 3:38 pm

          Really? Because features of the 4s includes the A5 dual processor which runs nearly 2x as fast and 7x faster graphics, along with the new antennae and siri(according to this article). The iOS 5 is just a new operating system…don’t be mad because you can’t upgrade.

        • Nikki

          11/01/2011 at 10:40 am

          I payed for the app Siri it angers me that i no longer can use it on my iphone 4.

    • wirble wirble

      10/15/2011 at 9:23 pm

      Upgrade your 3gs to IOS 5 so you can get a faster A5 processor, shoot with 8MP camera and ask SIRI for a blow job.  Freakin Moron, check yourself before you call someone an idiot.

  3. Kingsley Kings Choo

    10/07/2011 at 1:30 am

    iphone 4s is the best phone!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Jakers19

    10/07/2011 at 8:10 am

    hey, I was going through the upgrade process via AT&T, my current carrier.  One of the things I have to agree to is changing from my grandfathered unlimited data plan to a limited one.  So the one thing keeping me on AT&T is gone.  Anyone else run into this?

    • A22

      10/07/2011 at 12:53 pm

      i still have the unlimited option….

    • KeyJewel

      10/08/2011 at 6:37 pm

      Try upgrading through the Apple site- they’ll let you keep your unlimited plan.

      • John Smith

        10/10/2011 at 3:38 pm

        ah eff you in the ass hole

      • Haviland Coen

        11/26/2011 at 7:58 pm

        if you have the iphone 4 and you upgrade to the iphone 4s how much money will it cost?????????

    • guest

      10/10/2011 at 1:02 am

      yes i agreed but after checking my data history usage for the last year or so i never went over the 2gb…. i added to hotspot feature due to ipad2 and my Macbook Air which now has me up to 4gb and including streaming video i never went over…..close tho 3.7gb due do watching netflix everyday…good luck my friend

    • Drew Armstrong

      10/10/2011 at 11:02 am

      As one of the million upgraders from my 3GS I can say that there is no truth to this. You can keep your plan…

    • Keithsmoothgresham

      10/10/2011 at 9:07 pm

      You will still have unlimited but it will change to the 4s unlimited plan.

    • wirble wirble

      10/15/2011 at 9:25 pm

      They must have lied to you because, if you do it online; it still give you the unlimited option.

  5. Vaughn Felix

    10/07/2011 at 7:50 pm

    I must have an awesome tax bracket coz I got the 32 gb model after tax and or fees, if there were any fees. $364.00

    • John Smith

      10/10/2011 at 3:33 pm

      So you paid 65$ in tax….

      • Johntwatsmith

        10/12/2011 at 8:48 am

        you’re a twat!

  6. willie chan

    10/09/2011 at 4:27 am

    LoboStyle, you can try

  7. Dillonmartinez1

    10/11/2011 at 1:06 am

    i only paid 439.00 after tax on my 64 gig 

  8. Michael Cobases

    10/15/2011 at 4:29 am

    Once iPhone 4s will be in my country I think that I will take it without any contract. Of course I will pay more at first but I believe that it will pay off in long term as I currently have really good tariff plan

  9. BEE

    10/15/2011 at 6:40 am

    They say 260 out the door in California for an upgrade.

    My friend in california Took 2 mins in the apple store to find out.

  10. William Hudson

    10/17/2011 at 4:21 pm

    Ifools………”A5 dual processor which runs nearly 2x as fast and 7x faster graphics” 7Xfaster graphics because of a dual core? Really? I doubt it in real life, these specs are sounding like the ones Apple makes fun of with PC’s I even doubt the 2x faster over all………. maybe under certain circumstances.

    Honestly I see little reason for me to spend over 200 USD to upgrade from my year old Iphone4.

    For me Iphone 4s is a Fail, Iphone 5 with more improvements would have been a win.
    What happened to innovation?

  11. Dave

    10/20/2011 at 9:58 am

    wankers the lot of you!!

  12. Peter

    10/25/2011 at 7:40 pm

    think about what you will say when the iPhone 5 comes out. ” i should have waited” is what most of you would say. if you have a 4 for less than a year and a half, dont upgrade, i think most civilized people have patience. 3gs or later, if you have really good patience, wait. if not, go ahead and upgrade. save the money you would potentially use to buy a 4s when you have a 4. Really. Who, honestly needs speed, graphics, camera, and an assistant enough to spend upwards of 800 on?

  13. Telco214inc

    11/28/2011 at 11:53 pm

    Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II .. $350
    Blackberry bold touch 9900/9930 $350
    Apple iphone 4g 32gb … $350
    Apple ipad 2 64gb wifi with 3g … $350
    its brand new in the box, unlocked with one year warranty
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    12/04/2011 at 5:39 pm

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  15. Ttoscano1987

    12/21/2011 at 8:16 pm

    I have the iPhone 4s and I’m loving it, it makes me look at the iPhone 4 the way I used to look at the iPhone 3GS did when the 4 came out

  16. aziz waled

    01/03/2012 at 9:49 am

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  17. jaya gupta

    01/09/2012 at 6:28 pm

    I have had the worst experience with ATT. Out of the last 6 months, I have had NO service for the last 2 (no bars, no 3G, nothing.) I finally left them last month, paid all balances, and closed my account and they are still harassing me now saying that they want $379 of cancelation fees!!!!!! And I was not even in contract! I’ve tried to solve this by calling them 3x now. I’ve spent over 10 hours on the phone with these guys – they either say that they are fixing it and it should be done (which is doesn’t cause I get harassed again) or they say that I need to go go to the apple store and deal with them, or another excuse. This company is shady and keeps finding a way to harass or falsely charge customers.

  18. projectexam

    03/17/2012 at 6:44 am

    try if you are looking for iphone 4S

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