iPhone 4S vs. iPhone 5 – Why It’s Worth Waiting to Upgrade

Yesterday I gave you the reasons why I plan on upgrading to the iPhone 5, but my own reasons (and my enthusiasm for shiny new Apple products) might not be the right reasons for other people to consider an upgrade.

Today I’ll explore the reasons why it might be worthwhile to stick with the iPhone 4S and wait for the next iPhone before investing cash in a new device, because upgrading is definitely not the right decision for everyone.

Even though I’m planning to upgrade to the iPhone 5, I’d like to point out that the Sept. 12 event was a disappointment. I don’t blame anyone who watched that event or read news of it afterward and decided not to order a new iPhone – it entirely was unimpressive.

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like Apple has lost the magic that Steve Jobs brought to announcements. When the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4 came out, it was like Christmas morning, a birthday, and New Years Eve all rolled into one.

The events themselves were exciting, and so were the products. The iPhone 4 marked a huge upgrade from the iPhone 3GS, including a major redesign, and so did the iPad 2.

In comparison, the iPhone 5, though it is an upgrade to the iPhone 4S in every way, is a boring phone. It looks markedly similar to the iPhone 4S and it didn’t include any features to draw us consumers in, to make us sit up and say “Wow, look at that iPhone 5. I have to have it.”

At the same time that I make this complaint, I can’t voice specific features the new iPhone should have had or what it should have looked like to be more noteworthy. I don’t know, but that’s why I’m not Jony Ive making the big bucks at Apple.

The iPhone 5’s slogan, “The biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since the iPhone” can only be taken literally. In terms of impact, it has little.

If you upgrade to have the newest cool device, to be the kid with the best toys, you may want to skip this one, because I’m not sure it’s the best new toy out there anymore.

If Apple really wanted to impress, perhaps the company could have included little touches like inductive charging, biometric passcodes, or some other breathtaking feature. Even an invisible improvement like a capacity increase would have made it more desirable. Apple seems to be taking few risks these days. I understand that there’s not a lot of innovation that can be made in cell phones at the moment (much like laptops – we’re in a refining period) but it’s the small things that count.

On a more practical note, for those of you who already have an iPhone 4S, don’t need the extra performance improvements for games or other tasks, and weren’t impressed with the new iPhone, there’s little reason to upgrade.

It’s bigger, it’s clunkier, and it’s less portable. Your thumb may still fit across a 4-inch diagonal screen, but I guarantee it’s going to make some aspects of the phone less usable.

Apple and app developers are not going to phase out the 4S. Your phone will comfortably run all apps in the coming year before the next iPhone upgrade, which can be proven with the iPhone 4. I don’t think I’ve seen a single game that can’t run on that phone. Logically, the iPhone 4S has lasting power. The iPhone 5 may have double the processing power in theory, but you’re only going to notice a slight difference with system intensive apps.

For me, LTE was one of the major selling points of the iPhone 5, but unfortunately, LTE isn’t available in all areas. AT&T has limited LTE availability, focused mainly on the west coast. Verizon’s coverage is better, but still not all encompassing, and Sprint’s LTE is just embarrassing.

If you live in one of the areas that doesn’t have LTE yet or if you have Sprint, I’d save that precious upgrade. LTE coverage is going to take some time to rollout, and by the time U.S. carriers get their act together, we’ll be nearing the release date for the seventh generation iPhone. Even in areas with LTE, that speed increase may not be worth the extra cost to some of you.

Upgrading to the iPhone 5 from an iPhone 4S is pricy, because no iPhone 4S users are available for an upgrade at this point in time. That means buying off contract, terminating contracts, or paying early upgrade fees. All of these options are significantly more expensive than buying a phone with a two year contract.

Those of you who don’t need the power or the features of the iPhone 5 for a specific reason should stick to the iPhone 4S. It’s still a great phone, it will last through the year, and when it comes time for the iPhone 5S release, all those suckers stuck in a contract with the iPhone 5 will be so jealous.

After all, if you wait now, you can get the hot new phone next year. If you’re thinking about upgrading from the 4S to the 5, remember, there’s always something better around the corner. Is the step up from 4S to 5 it really worth the cost?

Plus, if you didn’t already preorder in the hour window between when the iPhone 5 went on sale and when Apple’s stock ran out, those shipping times have jumped up to two weeks. That’s practically next year already!

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About Juli: Contact me via Twitter: @julipuli

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jafu3457 Jafu Bumbalini

    shipping times have jumped up to two weeks. That’s practically next year already!
    Really? It’s only mid September. OK, I guess that comment was made tongue in cheek. Good article, Juli, and as a 4s owner I generally agree with you. I’m happy with it and I don’t have a need to upgrade at this time. Of course, needs and wants are often different. Electronic toys are personal items and subject to individual taste. I’m sales for iPhone 5 will be very strong. My main reason for not buying the 5 is the increased size. I want my phone to be compact enough to slip into my pockets without sticking out. If these things get any bigger they’ll be almost as big as a small tablet. As a second point, I’m already heavily invested in several cases and docks and don’t want to toss them and start replacing all these things because of a new proprietary power connector.

  • Monique

    I’m up for an upgrade now and I’m looking into the iphone 4S. The 5 is great but I’m not a fan of big screens, watching movies or games (games occasionally) or technology, I just want a phone for texting, talking, photos and internet. Currently I own a blackberry bold 9630, so you can see why I really need an upgrade. I’m wondering if I should upgrade to the 5 because it is the most recent or just save my pennies and get the 4S? Any opinions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Juli Clover

      Monique, if you live in an area with 4G, you’ll notice a difference with the iPhone 5 when you’re browsing the Internet. The iPhone 5 also has a better camera than the iPhone 4S, which is something to consider if you like to use it for taking photos. Other than those two attributes, I think you’ll be very happy with the iPhone 4S, but I’d definitely recommend the extra investment if you can take advantage of the 4G LTE technology.