help us choose our first iphones
December 27, 2013 6:23 AM   Subscribe

My parents and I are about to get iphones (and smartphones!) for the first time. We're trying to choose between the 4s and the 5. I've heard that the 5 models tend to eat through data even when the user isn't meaning to use data. Can anyone confirm, deny, or otherwise talk about this problem?

We are going to get on a family plan with Verizon and will not have unlimited data. My parents will most likely not use much data at all. The most I'll use it for is streaming music and podcasts, I imagine. Basically, I don't want us to have to worry about over usage. Here is a link (sorry for amateur cut and paste job) about this issue: I was alerted to this potential problem when a close friend returned her iphone 5 and went back to the 4s because she couldn't stop using so much data unintentionally with her new 5.

I would greatly appreciate advice on which phones we should get and any general insight.
posted by tacoma1 to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I think it depends in the OS. Ios7 can background update apps. But you can turn that off. That's probably what she was experiencing.

You can have ios7 on a 4s but I like the 5 a lot better.
posted by sio42 at 6:25 AM on December 27, 2013

I've had a 5c since October and my husband and I together have never used more than 10% of our 2 gb of data. Turn off the background apps update as sio42 says above and you will be fine.
posted by something something at 6:26 AM on December 27, 2013

Data usage and background data usage is OS based, not phone based. Get the 5, the improvement in web browsing and general usage is a big difference over the 4s.
posted by defcom1 at 6:33 AM on December 27, 2013

Streaming music and podcasts DEVOUR data!

We have our iPhone 5 and we seem to shnore through data. I connect via WiFi at home and at work, to help in this area.

Just be mindful that when streaming that you're on the WiFi, or download your podcasts from your computer directly.

On AT&T we get warnings when we're going to hit our data limit, and we can add data if we need it. So far, this is working fine for us.

But I love my iPhone 5.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:34 AM on December 27, 2013

It has nothing to do with the model of phone and everything to do with the version of iOS you are running. Ironically, iOS 7 actually has much better cellular data controls than iOS 6, but most people never bother to change their settings. Here's how to control which apps are allowed to use cellular data and if you turn off "App Store" in that list it will not automatically update apps over cellular.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:34 AM on December 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, the mystery data usage thing is because of the background app refresh feature which is on by default.

iOS 7 slows the 4s down to a crawl, so I'd suggest the 5. I just went from a 4 to a 5c (which is basically the same phone as the 5) and the difference in speed and battery life is pretty astounding.
posted by griphus at 6:34 AM on December 27, 2013

Also, for podcasts, use the Downcast app if you don't already. You can set it up so that it only downloads the latest episodes while you're on WiFi so you never have to use your cell data to listen to them if you don't want to.
posted by griphus at 6:36 AM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Apple generally supports their phones for 3 years, the iPhone 4S is already more than 2 years old. Stay as close to current as possible.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:41 AM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anecdotally, my iPhone 5 has always seemed to chew through data a lot faster than my iPhone 4 did (even on iOS 6; I have background stuff on cellular set to minimal use on iOS 7), but if I'm being honest, I think that has to do with me being more inclined to use the LTE data, compared to the old 3G speeds. I suspect this is the source of a lot of other people's perceived increases in data usage, too. LTE is honestly faster than public wi-fi in a lot of cases and even rivals my home wi-fi connection. It's really wonderful, a lot more pleasant to use. Too bad the data limitations that all the LTE-enabled carriers have limit its full potential for users.

I would avoid streaming things where you can, or stream over wi-fi, and just make sure you download your podcasts when you're on a wi-fi connection. It can definitely be managed fine, you just have to be cautious with streaming. YouTube in particular will kill you if you use it on cellular too much, but a video here and there is fine. AT&T has an app that allows you to connect to your account and track usage, and I'd be really surprised if Verizon didn't have something equivalent.
posted by Kosh at 6:43 AM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just noticed the bit about streaming music and podcasts.

If this is a contact renewal, you might do well to switch to Sprint. It's actual unlimited data.

I have family plan w my mom. I sit here at work and stream pandora and Songza all day long.

The small bit extra monthly for the unlimited Sprint is totally worth not getting the surprise Verizon bill for $500. Which is the reason I left them.
posted by sio42 at 6:50 AM on December 27, 2013

If this is a contact renewal, you might do well to switch to Sprint. It's actual unlimited data.

And if you're a left-wing pinko like me, CREDO Mobile just started supporting iPhones. They run on the Sprint network, and you get the same unlimited data.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:06 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband and I with two 5ses and one iPad rarely even make it over 20% of our 5GB plan - and while we do work from home and are on wifi mostly, he is a big streamer and we both use our phones as GPS navigation in our cars. I try to do all my downloading at home, but I do it more now than I did on my 4S and there's still not a big jump in usage.

I think your friend made a weird decision to downgrade instead of manage the problem, but to each their own. It's a poor strategy, I think, to get anything other than a 5S or 5C at this point.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:45 AM on December 27, 2013

I concur with Kosh - I use a lot more data* on my 5s because it's just easier. Like, I never streamed audio on my 4 (not 4s) because it just... didn't really work very well. I didn't watch a lot of videos over data because they took forever to load. Now I do that stuff all the time, look stuff up more often, etc. I upgraded from the 4 to the 5s a month or so ago and it has been a delight! You might not notice as big a difference if you're coming from not having a smartphone at all but the 5-series phones are much more pleasurable to use than the 4s now. I'd go to great lengths to manage my data usage before I'd go back to the 4 (or 4s for that matter).

*I have an unlimited data plan from TMobile where they throttle it after 4GB in a month - haven't reached that point yet. I could reduce the amount of data I use substantially by not streaming things, but there's been no need.
posted by mskyle at 7:56 AM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

This Consumerist post may be of assistance.
posted by Etrigan at 8:46 AM on December 27, 2013

Well first off, you can't buy an iPhone 5 anymore, you can only buy a 5C and a 5S. I have heard that iOS 7 really slows down the 4S. Also the 3G data network on the 4S is a lot slower than the 4G LTE data that the 5C and the 5S have. Even ignoring the data issue, it's just not a great idea to get a phone that is already two generations old. I would at least rule out the 4S and decide if you want to shell out for the full 5S or go with the 5C.
posted by radioamy at 11:44 AM on December 27, 2013

« Older Best Canadian mail-away negative scanning services...   |   How do I forgive my parents for reacting badly to... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.