iPhone 4S vs. iPhone 5: Why You Should Wait for the Next Upgrade

UPDATE: Now that the new iPhone 5 has been released, be sure to also check out our new ‘iPhone 4s vs. iPhone 5: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade, That is the Question‘ post.

As Apple’s iPhone event wound down yesterday, many people were hoping Tim Cook would pull out Steve Jobs famous line, “One more thing,” and introduce the iPhone 5 that so many of us were anticipating.

That line never came, and we were left with the iPhone 4S as the new Apple phone. Some people were fine with the announcement, but others, who had been waiting for a new form factor and a bigger screen, were left disappointed. As soon as that iPhone 4S flashed on the screen in Cupertino, Apple stock dropped 2%. Twitter exploded with tweets from angry Apple fans, and message board entries displayed the dissatisfaction of receiving an iPhone 4S instead of an iPhone 5.

The iPhone 4S is a significant upgrade to the iPhone 4, just as the 3GS was a much faster version of the 3G. But here’s the problem: The iPhone 4 design is 16 months old. It’s stale. It’s boring. We’re used to Apple giving us faster, thinner, sleeker devices on a regular basis. Every other iPhone release was in the month of June or July, with an update coming every year.

The iPhone 4S marks the first fall release, and it was a reasonable assumption that since an upgrade took 16 months instead of 12, something big was coming. And Apple scheduled a big event. The iPhone 4S announcement plus the news that the iPod Touch now comes in white was not big at all. People would be less disappointed if Apple hadn’t made such a hubbub about an incremental upgrade.

Beside the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S is a decent upgrade. It features an improved camera, an A5 dual-core processor, dual-core graphics, and faster downloading speeds.   But beside other top of the line Android phones (Samsung Galaxy S II, Motorola Droid Bionic, HTC Titan), the iPhone 4S is nearly outdated.

Those phones all have faster processors and more memory. The Galaxy S II beats or equals the iPhone 4S in almost every category, from display technology and display size to battery and weight. The only thing the iPhone 4S stands out for is its significant internal storage, display resolution, and media playback time, but it really falls behind on processing speed, memory, and display size. The iPhone 4 is 3.5 inches, while other top of the line phones from Apple’s competitors all feature 4”+ screens.

Where’s the innovation? Where’s the blow-your-mind designs that Apple is famous for? The designs that every other manufacturer tries to emulate? This is a barely competitive phone that looks exactly like a phone that we’ve been using for 16 months. It’s hardly worth an upgrade.

My iPhone 4 works fine. It’s sufficiently speedy, the camera is fine for Twitter pictures, and while Siri is cool, I’m not enthralled with the idea of speaking to my phone. The iPhone 4S might be moderately faster, but it doesn’t entice me to buy the iPhone 4S at this point.

If you have an iPhone 3GS or earlier model, then the 4S is definitely a huge upgrade that’s worth a new contract. Go for it, get the iPhone 4S and revel in the amazing speed increase and retina graphics. Likewise, if you’re a Sprint customer, you will be awed by the splendor of an iPhone. It’s a must have, especially compared to the other lackluster phones that Sprint offers.

If you have an iPhone 4, this is an upgrade you should probably skip. The iPhone 4S is faster, but the screen size and resolution are the same. With iOS 5, you’re getting the same software, and the touted network speed advantage is only a minor increase that’s not 4G. The only feature you won’t have access to is Apple’s new built-in personal assistant, Siri.

The iPhone 4 will last at least another year, and a mid-season upgrade will lock you into a new contract, making you ineligible for an upgrade during a summer or fall 2012 iPhone 5 release. Many of you who purchased an iPhone 4 at release, like I did, will soon be eligible for an upgrade. But purchasing an iPhone 4S within the next few months will mean you’re not eligible for another phone until April of 2013 or even later (at least, with carriers in the U.S.). And that means no shiny new iPhone 5 for you when it comes out, unless you’re willing to pay the non-subsidized price, which is pretty hefty.

I won’t be upgrading. The iPhone 4S doesn’t have enough to offer, so I’m going to hold out and hope that Apple bounces back and releases a phone that’s truly innovative rather than a rehash of an old product.

Are you going to upgrade to the 4S, or stick with your current phone? What’s your reasoning? Let us know in the comments.

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About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli

  • Anonymous

    I upgraded from the 4 to the 4s. I was skeptical as well, but the interface speed is SO fast. The animations and transitions are smooth as butter! Also, I am a GUILTY vehicle texter. I wanted Siri so I can dictate my texts on the go. The personal assistant feature, in my opinion, has been underrated by many reviewers. It is revolutionary rather than evolutionay. Plus, the way iPhones hold their value, I can sell my 4s for $300 when the (5 or 6) comes out next year. Here in SLC, I put my 4 up for sale and had the deal done in 27 minutes!

  • Jm19794u

    Wow your crazy

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501525736 Sam Speers

    Never owned an iphone, but have a Mac, iPad, and iPod. My contract just ended, and ppl are saying i should wait for the iphone 5 instead of going to a new android phone. like the Galaxy Nexus, or HTC EVO LTE. So would it benefit me more to wait for the new iphone 5, or just stick to android?

    • Juli Clover

      I would absolutely wait for the iPhone 5, but there’s a chance you may be waiting until the fall. If you can’t wait, I would choose the iPhone 4S over every other Android phone on the market. I’d even choose an iPhone 4 over every other Android phone. The reason? Support. Apple will be supporting those devices for several years, while you’re lucky if your Android phone continues to get software updates for a single year. 

  • sfath1975

    Can any of you act like adults. If you like Verizon that great for you. If someone likes Sprint great for them. I worked for Sprint now Verizon. I can honestly say. It depends where you live. Each state has service that one company works better than the other. FYI there is a chance Sprint might get the IPhone 5 1st I have been in meetings about this. But also remember why they would its called unlimited data usage. Thsts why for my kids I keep sprint. Also really look at 2 other things the new HTC comes rooted if you want with no void of warranty try that with an IPhone. Also sorry to say Android really dies gave 5x the users it does help they sell many phones from different makers but they are still way bigger there is no doubt look up total sales of Android. Again its a choice and don’t say Apple is a American product cause its made in Japan. Everyone needs to get along. FYI DO PEOPLE HAVE YO CURSE TO get there point across. The moderator will be pulling your posts. Have fun everyone standing in line. If I want one I will just get mine before the doors open maybe buy 10 so others don’t get one. Just kidding I would not do that.

  • KICO

    THE NEW CAMERA IS GREAT AND THE SPEED UP OF THE PHONE WHICH I WOULD COME AS A BIG BENEFIT TO ME AS I USE CAMERA A LOT ON THE PHONE…. I ALSO LOVE TO SHOW OFF THE COOL NEW FEATURES OF MY PHONE AND HOW COOL IT LOOKS… THE IPHONE 4S HAS NOTHING MUCH TO OFFER OVER THE IPHONE 4 PEOPLE WOULDN’T EVEN REALIZE THAT I GOT A NEW PHONE…. IPHONE 4S IS JUST SO POINTLESS BUT APPLE JUST WANTS TO MAKE MORE MONEY ON SAME OLD DEVICE WITHOUT PUTTING ANY MORE EFFORT INTO IT AND FOR ME THESE  LOW IMPROVEMENTS DON’T SEEM LIKE THEY ARE WORTH 700$ TO ME AS I’M T-MOBILE SUBSCRIBER. I WILL WAIT FOR IPHONE 5 BUT IF IT’S NOT IMPRESSIVE LIKE MY 3G,3S AND 4 WERE I’LL JUST HAVE TO GO AND SEEK FOR AN ALTERNATIVE.

  • Jonathan Neufeld

    Don’t waste your money, hold-out for the iPhone 7.
    And you spelled “might” incorrectly.