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Putting the iPhone 5S on hold: Why I’m Happy With My 4S



Let’s get this straight: I’m about as loyal an Apple acolyte as you’ll find. The first computer I ever worked on as a kid was an Apple IIC, and as of this writing, I own a MacBook Pro, an iMac, a retina display iPad, an iPod, an iPod shuffle, and an iPhone 4S.

But for all the swooning over the iPhone 5S and 5C this week, I’m staying put with my squat-screen smartphone. Yes, I know: My contract with AT&T is up, and I can get 64GB of golden iPhone 5S bliss for a mere $399! Then I could sell my old iPhone on eBay, wait for the money to clear from the sale and …

Nope. Not gonna do it.

Some techies can have a mean streak about them, and I’d anticipate some volley of insults hurled my way about a) being a luddite, b) too ignorant of the 5S’s advances, or c) too chicken to be an early adopter. None of those hold any water, as I love my tech: I’m also a self-taught audio engineer who recently mixed a cut for the Disney film “Prom,” and scored an indie film in March on GarageBand. (Chicago’s Apple Store has also featured me as a guest speaker in its amphitheater.)


That said, I’ll admit my arguments about not going for the iPhone 5S will deviate from the current stream of Internet chatter. I’m not going to debate whether the fingerprint sensor is sexy enough, or if this new round of Apple advances marks a logical tipping point to ditch my 4S.

Instead, I want to stress this point: Sometimes, very good is good enough. I don’t need a larger screen. I don’t need all these 5S improvements as much as I need to spend my dough judiciously. My 4S rarely drops calls, has fast Internet, and 64 GB of storage space, thank you very much.

What’s more, the appetite for consumer tech always runs the risk of chasing its tail until we enter a state of permanent dissatisfaction with the devices we already own. Think back to when cellular phones were as big as crowbars, and about as heavy. If someone told us then about the iPhone 3Gs, but warned that technology would only ever take us that far, how many of us would’ve scoffed? We’d have kissed the ground and begged Steve Jobs to rain down silicon manna from heaven.

OK, I never liked my iPhone 3Gs much–and complained about its dropped calls and terrible performance bitterly in this piece I wrote for AOL in 2010. But that’s much different compared to 2013. I’ve never stopped to ask myself: “Hmmmmm. I wish this iPhone 4S had more to it. When’s that update coming out?

Sometimes–and this shell game dates back to long before Mr. Bell called urgently for Mr. Watson–we’re perfectly happy with what we own until we see a shinier version of it. Then, the just-fine tool we have suddenly absorbs a tarnish of digital (and materialistic) obsolescence. Maybe Apple sensed this when they put out a phone in gold. As in: “Hey, I know my iPhone 5 is pretty darn good …but I want a gold one.”

And other times, it’s a matter of being resourceful enough as a techie to get by without an iPhone … that is, any iPhone, or smartphone, for that matter. In this post, Pablo Defendini writes about he brilliantly sidesteps the whole mobile phone system by using a combination of his 5th generation iPod Touch, a basic data plan, and a Karma hotspot. (He also implements an iPad Mini or a MacBook Air when the mood strikes him.)

Asked about the iPhone 5S, Defendini replied, “Actually, the camera improvements are a big, big attractive for me. I’m a terrible photographer, so every bit of heavy lifting that the software and hardware can do helps! That would be a reason for me to buy it. But at the end of the day, it would mean that I’d have to sign up for an expensive data-and-voice plan, which I have no need for.”

Meanwhile we must ask ourselves if Apple’s gadgets, or anyone else’s, are truly getting any better, or just newer. There’s one score, at least, on which iPhones are getting worse: DIY repairability. I recently interviewed Kyle Wiens of, and he listed for me the 10 least repairable gadgets he’s ever encountered.

On that least repairable list, six items were Apple products, including the MacBook Pro Retina 15 in., which he slammed as “designed to fail.” It’s too early to know what he thinks of the new iPhones, but I’ll be sure to check in with him to see how he grades those designs and their innards.

I’ve been having fun with Apple design guru Jony Ive’s quote about the 5C, which he called “beautifully, unapologetically plastic.” Well, my iPhone 4S is beautifully, unapologetically obsolete, and I like it that way. Chasing after all this new tech stuff can be exhausting … and this time around, I’d prefer to wait out the materialistic madness until this cool little white phone of mine serves out its useful life.

That is, until Apple introduces a 5S in sea foam green.

Lou Carlozo, a contributor to, has a signature on his iPhone 4S that says “Sent from my iPhone 6.” Of the 1 in 20 people it fools, more than half are from the high-tech intelligentsia.



  1. jimgramze

    09/14/2013 at 2:14 pm

    Buy a new phone when you need a new phone. I think it is as simple as that. Whenever you buy the next big thing is around the corner. If you wait until you need a new device every time then the improvement over your last device will be remarkable and exciting. I decide when I want to buy something and then start looking. After I buy something I stop looking and start using.

  2. Bill

    09/15/2013 at 6:31 am

    Looks fairly obvious to me that Lou has been “sponsored” to write this, based on the tone and quotes in this article as well as the links to other articles. [The tentacles of Samsung’s ad spends reach far and wide.] The 4s is a great phone, but unless he’s going to leave AT&T for a cheap $45/month plan now that he’s off contract (something he never mentions doing or having done, and he certainly would have included it in his money saving plan) he’s continuing to pay back a subsidy (@$20/month) that’s already been fully paid back. That certainly fails the “spend my dough judiciously” test. A 64 GB 4s is worth at least $100 more today than it will be in a year. Add that to the @$250 extra he’s “gifting” AT&T over the next year, and his saving plan doesn’t look too bright. Add to that the fingerprint security feature of the 5s–a monstrous benefit if you have anything worth “securing” and pass code protected, as you would think he might with a 64 GB phone–and it doesn’t make much sense not to pick up a new 5s. In fact, that security alone should sway any serious smartphone user. When you do the “real maths” and not the facile, silly maths Lou tip toes through, selling the iPhone 4s now and buying a new 5s, with a warranty, looks like a no-brainer. But then, no one offered to pay Lou to write that article.

    • Ronald Hunter

      09/15/2013 at 8:04 am

      What $20 a month? You mean the data plan? But if he wants 4G then he will need a data plan, somewhere. So it may be as low as $10, but it will cost something.

      • Bob

        09/15/2013 at 11:25 am

        No. Not the data plan. The no-contract price of an iPhone is @$650. Price with contract is $200 because the carrier subsidizes $450 and “recovers the subsidy” at the amortized rate of @$20/mo for 24 contract months = $480. Unfortunately for consumers, that $20/month “subsidy recovery” isn’t a separately stated amount that drops off the bill after 24 months. Once the phone goes off contract the consumer is entitled to a new subsidized iPhone. Not taking advantage of that by getting a new one is just “gifting” the carrier $20/month.

        • Ronald Hunter

          09/15/2013 at 2:32 pm

          the only item on the bill that isn’t covered by some other description is the data charge. Just what item on the bill do you see as including that $20 a month? If it isn’t somewhere else on the bill, then it must be in the data or voice plan charges, which, as you said, don’t change. Taking your phone onto another carrier will just give them that amount. I just upgrade mine. Keeps me in new phones every two years.

  3. Ronald Hunter

    09/15/2013 at 8:02 am

    I can understand the issue of price as an important reason not to replace a perfectly functional 4S with a 5C or 5S. If you are happy with it, that works for me. On the other hand, you would get (in the case of the 5S) a phone that is four times as fast, supports all the iOS 7 features, has LTE capability (no big deal if you aren’t in an LTE area), and has a bigger screen. I have an iPhone 5, and didn’t even consider upgrading to the 5S. Instead, I gave my upgrade to my wife to trade in the old 4S (which passed to her when I got the 5), to the 5. Mainly because I didn’t see anything on the 5S rumor list that I really wanted. Still when the time comes to upgrade the 4S to a 6, you won’t see much of a trade-in offer, I suspect. I am quite happy with the hardware of my iPhone 5, and with IOS 7 coming in a few days, it will be much like I got a new phone anyway. Still, I suspect by the end of the year, the 5S sales will be well over 25 million. Lots of people with more money than I have just have to be the first kid on the block to get the latest, and greatest.

    • Selvin Cox

      09/16/2013 at 7:34 am

      That’s my position with my I 5 it’s perfect but Lou get the upgrade its free and u don’t have to put your cash for a new phone pls don’t waste it don’t let the carriers get away with tht . lou I love apple too but if its gana knock a few hundred bucks or free phone take it pls u can always hold on to tht 5s at least u have patience to hold and not jump for all the hype tht comes out I sure which I did and the I 5 is great but I’m holding of too c what da six is gana be and Lou if not ill hold for what comes after tht but u hold the break in ur hands and I can not wait for ios 7 to come out tomorrow it’s gana be sweet and ur not gana get all of those features it’s ur call but I admire u ltr !

  4. Ronald Hunter

    09/15/2013 at 2:35 pm

    Would you guys please stop with the messages for your scam get rich quick schemes.

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