A buyer's guide to the new iPhone 4S

Oct 05, 2011 By PETER SVENSSON , AP Technology Writer
Apple's Phil Schiller talks about the iPhone 4S world phone during an announcement at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

(AP) -- Apple is trotting out a new iPhone on Oct. 14, but it's not the iPhone 5 some were expecting. Instead, it's a more modest upgrade, the iPhone 4S. Here are some facts to help you decide if it's time to make the plunge.

- If you own an 4: The new phone will have a faster processor and a sharper, more responsive camera. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same. It will come with improved software, but you'll get that as a free update on your iPhone 4, too.

As an iPhone 4 owner, you should consider the 4S only if you absolutely must have the latest and greatest, or if your old phone is broken. Since the 4S is less than two years old, your carrier will probably make you pay more than the $199 base price if you upgrade, because you haven't "paid off" the subsidized price of your old phone yet.

There's that the more significant upgrade may be less than a year away, and it could add important that are worth waiting for.

- If you own an older iPhone: Apple's new software, iOS 5, will work on the iPhone 3GS, but not the original iPhone or 3G. Take the launch of the iPhone 4S as a good opportunity to upgrade to a faster, more responsive phone, with a sharper screen.

The big cost of owning an iPhone isn't in the purchase price, it's in your monthly service fees. Upgrading your phone every two years is a minor cost compared to paying your monthly bill over the same period. So take advantage of your carrier's phone subsidy and let it treat you to a new iPhone. Because charges about $600 for a phone that costs $199 in the store, it's the phone company that eats most of the upfront cost of the phone.

- If you don't have a smartphone: iPhones are still the kings of the smartphone world, with unsurpassed access to high-quality applications. But they're also expensive. That may not be immediately obvious in the cellphone store, where their $199 price tag (or, in the case of the iPhone 3GS, $0 ) looks comparable to many other phones. Carriers require contracts when selling iPhones at that price, and the available plans aren't cheap, in part because you'll need a data plan. In effect, you'll be paying off that expensive phone over two years, through your monthly bill.

If you want a smartphone for less, look at getting a handset that runs Google Inc.'s Android software from a no-contract carrier like Virgin Mobile, MetroPCS or Cricket. You'll be paying $149 and up for the phone, but the monthly cost will be lower. The biggest weakness of Android phones is that there are fewer good third-party applications available for them, but you'll get roughly 80 percent of the functionality of an iPhone for 50 percent of the cost.

- If you're a Sprint subscriber: If you've nursed a longing for an iPhone but haven't yet moved over to AT&T or Verizon, now's your chance ... probably. Sprint hasn't yet said what kind of plans will be available for the iPhone. It's also not clear if Sprint will sell only the 4S or also the cheaper 4.

But it's a fair bet that Sprint will keep its unlimited data plans as a way to lure subscribers from Verizon and AT&T, which cap monthly data usage on smartphones.

It's worth noting that the iPhone won't support "Sprint 4G," which is what Sprint calls Clearwire Corp.'s high-speed data network. Sprint sells a number of other smartphones that can access this network for faster Web browsing, downloads and uploads, for no additional cost.

On the other hand, the Sprint iPhone 4S will most likely be able to roam internationally, a very rare feature on Sprint smartphones.

- If you're an AT&T subscriber: The Big Orange was the first carrier to place caps on the monthly data consumption of its iPhone subscribers, to keep them from overloading its network. The addition of Sprint to the stable of iPhone carriers will probably give you the option to jump ship and get an unlimited data plan, but Sprint hasn't confirmed this yet.

On the other hand, Sprint's data speeds are lower than AT&T's, and it doesn't have the network of Wi-Fi hotspots that AT&T does.

AT&T will still be the only U.S. carrier to sell the iPhone 3GS, a two-year old model. The price will be cut to nothing, from $49. But AT&T still won't sell the for use on prepaid plans, which could yield substantial savings.

- If you're a Verizon subscriber: One thing that's missing from the iPhone 4S is the ability to tap into Verizon's latest high-speed data networks, which uses the so-called "LTE" technology. That feature might arrive in the next iPhone, which presumably will be the iPhone 5. There's speculation that we might not have to wait until next summer to see that model.

Apple is usually conservative about adding new wireless technology to its phones, but Verizon has been selling LTE phones for half a year already.

If you travel a lot, it might be worth upgrading from the 4 to the 4S because you'll be able to use it on wireless networks in other countries. But the upgrade will be expensive, because Verizon iPhones are so new. You haven't yet "paid it off" through your monthly service fees.

Explore further: FINsix small-size laptop adapter uses special power platform

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Report says Sprint to get iPhone in October

Aug 23, 2011

(AP) -- Sprint Nextel Corp., the country's third-largest cellphone company, will start selling the iPhone in mid-October, The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday.

CDMA iPhone may be coming soon

Jan 06, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The largest wireless carrier in the US, Verizon Wireless, is thought to be in negotiations with Apple to release a CDMA network version of the iPhone later this year, if a price can be agreed ...

A loophole means unlimited data for AT&T iPhone

Jan 26, 2011

(AP) -- Verizon Wireless will start offering the iPhone on Feb. 10 with a draw that AT&T no longer offers to new subscribers: a plan with unlimited data usage. But The Associated Press has learned that some AT&T iPhone users ...

Verizon to start selling iPhone on Feb. 10

Jan 11, 2011

Verizon Wireless made the long-awaited announcement Tuesday that it will start selling a version of the iPhone 4 on Feb. 10, giving U.S. iPhone buyers a choice of carriers for the first time.

Recommended for you

Study: Samsung phone durable, but iPhone has edge

Apr 14, 2014

Samsung's new Galaxy S5 smartphone is more durable than last year's model and other leading Android phones, but the iPhone 5s outperformed all of them in part because of its smaller size, a new study finds.

Invention loves collaboration at Milan show

Apr 14, 2014

Collaboration drove invention during Milan's annual International Furniture Show and collateral design week events, yielding the promise of homes without mobile phone chargers, and with more ergonomic seating, ...

Amazon 'to release smartphone later this year'

Apr 12, 2014

Amazon is preparing to release a smartphone in the second half of 2014, thrusting itself into a market already crowded with Apple and Samsung models, The Wall Street Journal reported.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Royale
not rated yet Oct 05, 2011
Hahaha. They didn't add LTE for Verizon, so you'll still be on 3G. That's a brilliant move...
Noumenon
2 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2011
RIP Mr. Jobs
ronald_g_richard
not rated yet Oct 12, 2011
Hahaha. They didn't add LTE for Verizon, so you'll still be on 3G. That's a brilliant move...


I dont think it matters which carrier you have, the phone just doesn't do 4G.

More news stories

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Unlocking secrets of new solar material

(Phys.org) —A new solar material that has the same crystal structure as a mineral first found in the Ural Mountains in 1839 is shooting up the efficiency charts faster than almost anything researchers have ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

New US-Spanish firm says targets rich mobile ad market

Spanish telecoms firm Telefonica and US investment giant Blackstone launched a mobile telephone advertising venture on Wednesday, challenging internet giants such as Google and Facebook in a multi-billion-dollar ...