iPhone 4s vs. iPhone 5: To Upgrade or Not to Upgrade, That is the Question

Apple’s much anticipated iPhone 5 was released today, leaving many questioning whether an upgrade is a worthwhile endeavor, based on both cost and hardware. My answer? A resounding yes.

If you have an iPhone 4 or an older model, the choice is truly a no brainer. The iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS have become increasingly antiquated over the past year, as apps have grown more robust to take advantage of the hardware in the iPhone 4S and the new iPad.

If you’re upgrading from the much newer iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 could be a serious monetary investment. iPhone 4S purchasers are not eligible for an upgrade yet due to the timing of the two releases, so is it worth it to shell out the extra cash to get Apple’s newest model?

In short, yes, even with an iPhone 4S, it’s worth it, and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, the iPhone 5 is a significant upgrade to the iPhone 4S. While we don’t have exact specifications yet, the iPhone 5 has a brand new processor. The CPU and GPU are twice as fast, delivering double the performance.

This means apps will be lightning quick, and it also means that iPhone 5 owners will be able to run sophisticated apps and system intensive games, like Real Racing 3, which we saw earlier today. If you regularly game on the iPhone, upgrading is a must if you want to stay current with content.

Even if you don’t game, if you use the iPhone as a consumption device, reading news, listening to streaming music, or watching videos, you’re going to have a greatly improved experience with the iPhone 5. The difference between 3G and 4G LTE (in areas where it is available) is honestly enormous based on our previous speed tests. My 4G MiFi serves as a replacement for Wi-Fi, while my iPhone’s sluggish connection lags way behind.

Living in an area with 4G LTE and having one of the LTE carriers almost makes the upgrade a necessity. To compare, it’s like using dialup when you have a cable connection available. In addition, the new iPhone will also support 5 Ghz Wi-Fi with an 802.11n connection, so in general, everything you do on the phone will be speedier.

Let’s talk size. The iPhone 5 comes equipped with a 4-inch screen, which is half an inch bigger than the iPhone 4S. More screen real estate is never a bad thing, even at the expense of some extra volume. A larger screen equates to a better gaming and reading experience, and the 16:9 aspect ratio will improve video watching. Apple’s managed to retain its Retina display with 326-PPI and a screen resolution of 1136×640. Let’s not forget that the new display also offers 44 percent more color saturation and less glare.

Though the screen is larger, this is Apple’s lightest iPhone yet. It clocks in at 18 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S and 20 percent thinner, which negates the extra bulk for the most part. Sure, it looks a lot like an iPhone 4S, but it looks like the 4S’s sleeker, sexier older brother.

Those of you who actually use your iPhone for talking will also want to note that Apple’s new iPhone has three microphones for crystal clear sound, in addition to advanced noise canceling technology.

Another major reason that I am planning to upgrade is the improved camera in the iPhone 5. I used to use a point and shoot camera along with a DSLR, but I’ve long since ditched the point and shoot since the iPhone offers comparable capabilities in a device that I’m already carrying around.

The iPhone 5 may be using the same 8-megapixel sensor that’s in the iPhone 4S, but Apple has gone ahead and added some remarkable improvements that will improve picture taking in low light conditions and reduce noise.

In fact, the iPhone 5 has an f/2.4 aperture, a dynamic low-light mode, a five element lens, backside illumination, and a hybrid IR filter. A sapphire crystal lens will also improve clarity, and the new panoramic photo mode is exciting.

In this mode, you’ll be able to take gorgeous panoramic landscape photos that are up to 28-megapixels in size. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but this usable gimmick sure beats some of the extras that Android phones have come with. Anyone remember that ill-fated Evo 3D?

FaceTime over a cellular connection (if your carrier allows it) is a nice touch, and the front facing camera in the iPhone 5 supports 720p HD video, making this Apple’s most sophisticated communication tool yet.

As icing on the cake, the battery life in the iPhone 5 also trumps the battery life of the 4S, which has had some problems since day one. The iPhone 5 boasts an impressive 8 hours of talk time, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music playback, and 225 hours of standby time.

Now, I know many of you with an iPhone 4S are not eligible for upgrades, meaning no contract renewing subsidies. Without a contract, the entry level iPhone will run you $649, which is a good chunk of change. Sometimes carriers let you upgrade early, for an additional fee.

The solution? Sell that iPhone 4S. You can get approximately $285 for a 16GB iPhone 4S using the Apple recycling program, which results in an Apple gift card. Similar solutions might net you even more cash. Undamaged iPhone 4S’s in my area are selling for upwards of $400 on Craigslist.

$300 in your wallet cuts the premium on the new iPhone down to $150 more than the contract price, which honestly, is not a bad fee for a yearly upgrade, and it’s definitely not a bad price to pay for all of the new features that the iPhone 5 brings.

Early termination fees and a new contract can also run about the same price as an unsubsidized iPhone 5 or even less, so that’s also something to keep in mind if you’re looking to switch carriers.

I’m going to upgrade. I think the cost is worth it for markedly faster speeds an improved camera, and a slightly better gaming screen.

Are you going to bite the bullet and snag an iPhone 5? Why or why not? Have any questions about the new iPhone that I didn’t cover? Feel free to ask.

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About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli

  • Kahn

    waoo, what a stupid artcile

  • http://twitter.com/Heihasfallen Migz Valdez

    No, no, no, no. You just think that it’s worth the upgrade. The leap from iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S was more sunstantial, more “wow” than the leap from iPhone 4S to this. You’re stupid in trying to say that. If there’s a “right” generation, it would be those who are on the “odd” generations of the iPhone, not those on the “even” generations. You suck for having an iPhone 4 instead of waiting for the iPhone 4S. Like I said, “odd” generations = right decisions.