1G or 3G?
December 6, 2009 1:41 PM   Subscribe

iPhone...first generation used or 3G new, or wait for a while? A friend might sell me an iPhone 1G for $50. Should I buy that or upgrade? I am eligible to renew my AT&T contract. It doesn't give me the iPhone option, so I would have to go to a store, but that is not an issue here. As I understand, the 1G iPhone's data plan is ten dollars cheaper than the 3G data plan. Over a year that would be $120 in savings, plus the phone being $50 cheaper than the cheapest 3G, adds up to $170 savings over a year. I am a bit cash strapped, but is it worth buying an older used phone for saving that much?
posted by spacefire to Technology (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I live in the US.
posted by spacefire at 1:41 PM on December 6, 2009

It depends on what your usage will be. If you'll use it mostly as a phone with email, GPS, web-surfing, and game apps as a bonus (like I do), you should be fine on the Edge network. If you plan to use a Chicken of the VNC type app on the phone to log into your work computer or something similar, the 3G would serve you better.

One of the major benefits of the 1G would be its unlockability, which allows you to use the phone anywhere in the world without paying AT&T's ridiculous international roaming prices. If you're strapped for cash, you might also look into T-Mobile's phone plans. They're pretty much the same except they don't have the rollover minute thing, but cheaper. The 3G is now unlockable as well, but if you decide you want to move over to T-Mobile, you'd only be able to use their Edge network, as their 3G runs on a different frequency than AT&T.

If cash is seriously a concern and you don't mind staying on Edge, I'd go with the 1G. Mine is almost 2 years old and it's still clunking along. Gets cranky now and again, but it suits my purposes just fine.
posted by arishaun at 1:52 PM on December 6, 2009

If you'll use it mostly as a phone with ... GPS

iPhone 1G doesn't do GPS. The Map app does do an admirable job triangulating based on cell towers.

You might want to check the battery life on your friend's 1G before buying it. The battery on my 1G has seen better days, but it's certainly time to have it replaced.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:02 PM on December 6, 2009

I wouldn't buy an older iPhone, unless lack of space, speed and features is not an issue for you.

Indeed, if you can wait, I reccommend holding off for another six months when Apple will likely release the 4th generation iPhone. If you do, you'll have the choice of either getting the latest, greatest iPhone or buying a 3GS on the cheap as hordes of current iPhone 3GS users look to palm off their handset as quickly as possible so that they can get the new one.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:12 PM on December 6, 2009

Buy it for $50, decide you don't like it, unlock it and sell it for $150.
posted by thejoshu at 2:24 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

For only $50, I'd say it's a good stopgap option until you decide to upgrade.
posted by maniactown at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2009

Being stuck in a (two year?) contract from that "$100" iphone could conceivably cost you a lot more than $170. Go with the used one.
posted by alexei at 2:40 PM on December 6, 2009

I bought a 3g for 99 bucks refurbished. It was actually brand new and never used. So 50 seems like a lot to me, but for your situation maybe it's worth it.

Indeed, if you can wait, I reccommend holding off for another six months when Apple will likely release the 4th generation iPhone.

Or wait a year until the 5th generation iPhone. It never ends. If you need it and can use it now, don't wait 6 months. You're always 6 months from something better and greater.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 3:06 PM on December 6, 2009

Does ATT still offer the "Old" Iphone plan? I thought that it got phased out, and only people who signed up way back then continue paying that rate.
posted by stratastar at 4:00 PM on December 6, 2009

Although I've heard they discontinued it for new subscribers (since it was exclusively made for old WAP phones), if you can figure out a way to get the TMobileWeb service (formerly T-Zones), you can have full edge access for your 1G phone for like $6/month, instead of $20 on AT&T. If T-Mobile has decent coverage in your area, then unlocking and going T-Mobile could be your most economical option. My iPhone bill is $46/month.
posted by tsmo at 4:05 PM on December 6, 2009

I have been with AT&T and before that Cingular for over 5 years.
posted by spacefire at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2009

My brother just got a 3gs 16gb iphone refurbished from AT&T for $50, so I wouldn't spend $50 for a 1g unless it's unlocked and you can use it with a really cheap, non-contract T-mobile plan.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:22 PM on December 6, 2009

The GPS on the 3G and 3GS is among my favorite iPhone features. The original doesn't have it.
posted by alms at 6:00 PM on December 6, 2009

I would not get an original. Even light web browsing is painful over EDGE, and having used GPS on my phone, I wouldn't want to do without it.

The plain 3G (not 3GS) is $100 new, and adds the faster networking and GPS; the 3GS adds a compass, better camera, and faster processor.

Any iPhone can be jailbroken and unlocked in 5 minutes, so that shouldn't be a deciding factor.
posted by adamrice at 8:00 PM on December 6, 2009

I'd go with the 1st gen iPhone, unlock it and use Tmobiles month to month service until the next big thing comes along. (Thats what I'm currently doing myself.)
Else I'd go with the refurbed 3G because getting stuck with a 1st Gen iPhone and a new 2 year contract is going to suck a year from now when the battery decides to finally bite the dust.
posted by Redmond Cooper at 12:12 AM on December 7, 2009

Just another data point, I picked up a refurbished 3G, and one of the things I use most often is the GPS. Part of this is due to living in a new, fairly large city, so YMMV.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:22 AM on December 7, 2009

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