Worth the wait?
July 5, 2012 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Should I wait for the next iPhone to be released, or buy a 4S right now?

I have never owned a smartphone, though I do have an iPad. Over the winter, I decided to finally take the plunge and buy an iPhone....but I figured I should wait until the next one is released. Now that it seems the release won't happen until at least the fall, I'm getting impatient!

One of the main reasons I want an iPhone is because of the camera - I want a high quality camera built into my phone so that I can take good photos/videos of my little one while we're out and about. I also love the apps on my iPad so it makes sense to have a phone that is compatible.

I just don't know whether to wait for the new one now. Are there likely to be major advances in the new release? Or will it be just like the 4S with a few minor improvements?

I'm also unsure of the price difference between the 4S and the new iPhone. In Canada, what is generally the price of a new version iPhone when purchased on a 3-year contract with Rogers or Telus? Is it a lot more than if I got the older 4S right now?

Thanks for any advice!
posted by barnoley to Technology (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The MacRumors Buyer's Guide suggests waiting. It will likely be updated in the next few months (by the end of summer). At the moment, any rumors of the awesomeness of the next update are pure speculation. However, a few things. Apple intentionally named the previous model the 4S instead of 5. Many (me included) think this is because the 4S was considered to be a minor update, which makes me hope the next will be a bigger update, hopefully with 4G.
posted by thebestsophist at 4:59 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The 4S is generally considered to be a modest evolution of the 4. Siri, better camera, more memory, marginal stats improvements. Apple is currently getting their rears handed to them by the Android handsets that are becoming available, making the Apple gear feel somewhat old, stale, and dated.

It is, of course, virtually impossible to predict what Apple *might* do. Many people were assuming that the latest updates to their Mac product lines would be anywhere from aggressive to spectacular, but the reality was a little underwhelming.

In a similar way, it's difficult to predict the next iDevice.

There are rumors of a larger display, a trend that's been underway in the Android world for some time. There are rumors of a liquidmetal body, which is at least partially credible. My guess is no larger flash memory option (will stay at 64GB), some moderate improvements in hardware stats (CPU/RAM/camera/etc), a new larger body form factor to deal with a larger display, probably a new dock connector, and then iOS6.

If any of that would cause you undue stress in three months, then wait. If none of it sounds compelling, then what are you waiting for?
posted by jgreco at 5:03 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

WAIT. This going to be a "significant" update. Compare it to 3Gs > 4 (insignificant updates were 3G > 3Gs and 4 > 4s)

You'll hate yourself as soon as the new one comes out if you don't.

Or buy both
posted by Patbon at 5:04 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I potentially disagree with Patbon.

There is a greater feature delta between no-iPhone and iPhone-4S than there is between iPhone-4S and iPhone-yet-to-be-named.

So the question is, is there more value in having a lesser device in your hands now, or is there more value in waiting a few months for features that we can only speculate about, which will surely be at least a little nicer than what you can get now, and could maybe be quite a bit nicer than what you can get now?

The 4S has an 8 megapixel camera and 1080p video capabilities. Will waiting several months get you a substantially better camera? Will you be missing out on great photo ops in the meantime? I heartily approve of carrying a camera with you... we no longer use our Canon camera. It's just so convenient to have an okay-to-decent camera at all times. But I'm not carrying a 4S... I've just got a 4. 5 megapixels. It's fine for catching all the moments.

Having an imperfect tool now is sometimes better than having a perfect tool later. Just something to consider.

But also consider that Apple and/or your carrier will be charging you a price for the phone that will suddenly change in mere months. Our local carrier offers the smallest 4S for $199 on subsidy, and the 3GS for only 99 cents on subsidy. It seems likely that when the new phone comes out, that 4S price will drop to $99 or $49 or something "cheap."
posted by jgreco at 5:22 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know the pricing schemes in Canada, but I do know you want pics of your little one this summer NOW. So, consider that in your decision. There may be trade-in or trade-up possibilities for the phone. But these three months will never come again. The 4S is the available one right now, everything about the next version is only a guess.
posted by caclwmr4 at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The next iPhone is probably going to be a big change in terms of hardware.

Buy an unlocked iPhone 4 on craigslist, they are ~200-250. Sell it when the new one comes out. You won't lose much.
posted by wongcorgi at 5:28 PM on July 5, 2012

I'm waiting, despite Fido offering me essentially a free 4S. Our contracts are for three years in Canada, so I think it makes sense to wait a couple of months for the newer model. I'm mostly hoping for better battery life.

There are rumours of a new dock connector coming, so waiting means you can concentrate on the new connector accessories, instead of being stuck with older versions.

You'll be able to get a 4s a bit cheaper if you aren't overwhelmed by the 5 (or "the New iPhone").
posted by backwards guitar at 6:26 PM on July 5, 2012

Wait! When the new iPhone comes out in ~4 months, you can buy it if you like or get the 4S at a discount.

You will probably also have more carrier options in October, FWIW.
posted by hammurderer at 6:42 PM on July 5, 2012

One reason to wait for the 5 is that apple has a history of artificially not enabling new software feature on old hardware, even if the older hardware can do it. If it's true that the 5 is coming out in just a few months, you are extending the lifetime of your device much longer than a few months, in terms of future apple software updates.
posted by about_time at 7:56 PM on July 5, 2012

If you were in the States I'd lean towards wait but since you're in Canada, WAIT.

3 months now is the difference between being 1or2 generations behind by the time you're eligible for a new subsidy, instead of 2or3 generations. I think it will be worth it.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:34 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My advice on technology is generally this: if you don't absolutely need it now, wait.

Unless your current phone has died and/or you have legitimate needs for the next iPhone, just wait. The upside of this philosophy is that you'd be amazed at how much you save when you just stop to think whether or not you absolutely must have something right now.
posted by tgrundke at 5:09 AM on July 6, 2012

The latest rumor is a release in August. Based on that, what's been said above (about 4S to 5 probably being a much bigger deal than 4 to 4S, etc), and my personal experience being in your shoes twice (choosing whether to get the best Android available or wait a couple months for the upcoming must-have-superdroid....I waited and am very happy I did) I also vote to wait.

And I should think you could find a second-hand, point-and-shoot-for-quick-snaps camera that would suffice for 2 months, not cost a lot, and sell for close to what you paid for it when the i5 is out.
posted by K.P. at 5:14 AM on July 6, 2012

Yeah, if you need a camera that bad for this summer, buy a <>
I have a 4s, have had it since last year, and it's fine, and I won't be upgrading until after the contract expires, but if I wasn't under a contract and had an opportunity to get the 5 in a month or two by waiting, I'd wait.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:18 AM on July 6, 2012

Wait, and then buy the 4s when it much cheaper.
posted by dgran at 5:33 AM on July 6, 2012

If this is going to be your first smartphone, note that the vast majority of the cost is the data plan. If the main feature you plan on using is the camera, look at buying a used or unlocked phone and using it on your current plan with no data. The iPhone also just showed up on prepaid carriers in the US, with plans down to $30 a month. The phone costs more upfront but you can save many hundreds of dollars over the course of your plan.
posted by akgerber at 7:08 AM on July 6, 2012

If money isn't a significant deal to you, you can get a 4S now and likely be able to sell it for $300-400 when the new iPhone 5 comes out.
posted by erstwhile at 9:58 AM on July 6, 2012

Thanks for all the responses. I'm going to wait. I never thought about the fact that I could buy the 4S at a discount if I'm underwhelmed by the 5.... that is a really good point.

Thanks again, these have all given me a lot to think about!
posted by barnoley at 5:53 PM on July 6, 2012

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