iPhone 4S: Siri, A5 and five other reasons to dive in, four to skip it
October 30, 2011 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
The iPhone 4S is a record setting hot seller thanks to features like Siri and availability on carriers like Sprint, but not everyone is biting. The most common question we get is whether it’s more advisable to plunk down on the 4S now or wait until next year for Apple’s next iPhone which will invariably come with a new bag of tricks. For the majority of users we advise taking the plunge now, but the answer is different for each user based on their circumstance and preferences. For the sake of both sides of the argument, here’s a look at several reasons to buy the iPhone 4S now, followed by a few reasons to consider skipping it.
Siri: Any discussion of the iPhone 4S must start here. Unlike voice command products of the past, which were too robotic and too inaccurate, Siri is receiving (mostly) high marks both for its ability to understand plain English and for its accuracy in figuring out what you’re really looking for it to do. But Siri is just one of a number of features the iPhone 4S offers, most of which are less sexy and less publicized…
A5: This microprocessor family first debuted in the iPad 2, and what it brings to the table is speed. Don’t be fooled by the familiar body style of the iPhone 4S, as it’s a different beast inside. The A5 runs circles around the A4 found in the iPhone 4, particularly when using apps (like video games) which are complex and require a large amount of computation or display complex graphics.
Sprint: This one is simple. The iPhone 4 was initially available only on ATT, then later expanded to Verizon. The iPhone 4S adds Sprint compatibility to the first two.
You’re eligible: If you’re still clinging to your iPhone 3GS because you weren’t upgrade eligible for the iPhone 4 last year or because you couldn’t afford a new phone last year, the iPhone 4S rewards you for waiting. The 4S is a second chance to get the iPhone 4 at upgrade-eligible pricing (anyone who bought a 3GS in 2009 is certainly eligible for an upgrade by now), and it’s a better device than the original iPhone 4.
It’s in white: So you bought an iPhone 4 sixteen months ago, and you ended up with black even though you wanted white because the white model was delayed. As shallow as it may sound, the 4S gives you an excuse to get a white one.
Capacity: The iPhone 4S is the first iPhone to offer sixty-four gigabytes of storage on the high end, meaning you might finally be able to fit all of your music on it. That could mean jettisoning that old iPod classic model you’ve been keeping around purely for capacity purposes.
iOS 5: Apple’s new operating system runs fine on the iPhone 4 and it’s a free upgrade. But as users have found out, its more advanced features run better on the faster iPhone 4S.
There are, of course, reasons to think twice about the iPhone 4S and consider holding off for next year’s iPhone…
Battery: The iPhone 4 represented a major advance in battery life over the 3GS, but the 4S doesn’t offer a substantial boost over the 4. Furthermore, a handful of 4S buyers have found themselves subjected to a bug which actually drains battery faster than ever. That bug should be cleaned up in the iOS 5.0.1 software update, but it might be worth holding off from buying at least until that arrives.
4G LTE: With the carriers being slow to build their nationwide 4G LTE networks (none of them has covered more than about a third of their respective customers, and some of them have done far worse), most iPhone 4S users won’t care that it doesn’t have LTE networking built in. But if you’re the type who likes to buy a phone and then hand onto it for awhile (read: more than a year), you might resent the iPhone 4S by this time next year when the iPhone 5 debuts with 4G LTE built in and the carriers have finally built 4G LTE towers in your town.
You’re not eligible: If you have an iPhone 4, you might or might not be eligible for upgrade pricing as of now. Despite two year contracts, carriers offer upgrade pricing at twelve, eighteen, or twenty month intervals after you bought your most recent phone (good luck trying to calculate which interval you’re on; better to just call them and ask). If you’re not yet upgrade-eligible, and those who bought their iPhone 4 later in the game almost certainly aren’t, you could look at paying $399 or $449 for the “$199″ iPhone 4S model. This is true of all carriers and all phones, nothing specific to the iPhone, but it’s worth considering when eyeballing the 4S.
You’re bored: Skipping the iPhone 4S because it looks just like the old one is as shallow as buying the iPhone 4S because it comes in white. But aesthetics can be important, so if you’re bummed that the iPhone 4S re-uses the iPhone 4 body style, we’re not going to judge.
Here’s more on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.