To update or not update my OS: Verizon iPhone4
June 20, 2014 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I've got an old Verizon iPhone I would dearly love to keep as long as possible, because once I give it up for a newer one I lose my unlimited data plan. (Grumble! Rant!).

I'm finding that more and more apps won't update or install though, because I've been skipping OS updates due to worries that I'll brick my phone or it somehow won't be able to handle it.

I've got an original Verizon iPhone 4, 16GB, with 6.3 GB currently available. I'm currently running 5.1.1. Mr. Arkham is currently running something even older, I'm not sure what. Neither of us use our phones for music or back up/sync with iTunes very often (or ever).

posted by JoanArkham to Technology (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Possibly a stupid question, and please feel free to flag for deletion: Do you need the unlimited data plan? I hung on to an old phone for the same reason, but....oooooh new phone, want! But data plan! And then I checked my data useage and discovered that I never came close to hitting the cap I would have with a new phone and plan. But I don't stream movies etc. from my phone, and maybe you do.
posted by rtha at 6:26 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another alternative, if you do use lots of data, is to simply buy a new or used phone and switch to it. I did it with one of my lines. It preserved my unlimited data plan at VZ.
posted by 724A at 6:29 AM on June 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sprint supports iPhones and offers unlimited data. Have you considered changing providers?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:29 AM on June 20, 2014

My mother in law is using a fully updated iphone 4 without issues. The newer apps start running a little slower on it, but that sounds better to me than missing out on some apps entirely. I would update.
posted by stine at 6:35 AM on June 20, 2014

I am running the latest updates on an iphone 4 with no issues, though I'd anticipate that they'll stop updates soon after the 6 comes out this fall. Personally, I'm planning to head to Whited00r at that stage, though that probably isn't a solution for you, since it won't be compatible with new apps.

As stated above, if you really want to keep the plan, get something used on ebay or craigslist.
posted by susanvance at 6:36 AM on June 20, 2014

Either do what 724a suggests or bite the bullet. 'Cause at this point, it seems silly to deny your the various advances just an feature you may not even need i.e. unlimited data.

Also, I'd strongly recommend you do encrypted backups of your phone to your computer. Doing so preserves all your data and all your passwords, so when you do upgrade you don't have to re-enter all your passwords.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 AM on June 20, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I don't stream anything, but I have no wifi (and a locked-down Internet) at work. Mr. Arkham does though. I use about 4 GB a month, so he probably uses more. I get very nervous about surprise bills though, and have heard horror stories about overage costs.

I looked into just upgrading with a separately-purchased phone and I got the impression that Verizon now considers any change to your account reason to cancel your unlimited. I may look into Sprint but Verizon has the best coverage in the areas of the country we need. (Mr. Arkham travels to some remote western locations for work and Verizon is often the only game in town.)

We currently pay a flat $135 a month for both phones.

If we do decide to upgrade: what's the least painful way to do so? Every time I walk into a Verizon store, I get the high pressure sales cold sweats.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:43 AM on June 20, 2014

Overage charges with the major carriers aren't nearly as painful as they used to be. I have a limited data plan with AT&T and if I go over they charge me $10 and increase my limit by 1GB for that month. If I go over again (which almost never happens, but it happened this month because iOS kept downloading a bunch of music when I left a wi-fi coverage zone and I didn't notice...), it's just another $10 for 1GB more.

It looks like Verizon has something similar for their plans, just more expensive ($15 per additional 1GB).

If you're okay with losing unlimited data and doing a regular upgrade, the least painful way to do it would probably be to either go to an Apple store (much less in the way of high-pressure sales sweats, in my experience, though it is still a zoo because it's always so busy) or to just buy direct from Apple's web store. You don't have to interact with Verizon employees at all if you don't want to--every iPhone I've ever had was purchased direct from Apple, and I never had to deal with AT&T.
posted by Kosh at 6:57 AM on June 20, 2014

Response by poster: I am going to expose myself as One Of The Olds here, but...if I buy at an Apple store, how do I then choose and change the plan with Verizon? Do they take care of it?

I suppose the cost difference between buying new from Apple or upgrading with Verizon might be enough to just go with Verizon, but I have heard Apple really wants old phones for re-sale in other countries.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:07 AM on June 20, 2014

Another alternative, if you have a family plan with a phone that is NOT a smartphone (probably not your situation), is to upgrade that phone to a new smartphone, transfer that phone to your line, and then switch the first phone back to a dumbphone. I successfully did this in December in downstate Illinois and upgraded my 4 to a 5s. Here's somebody who's did it as recently as March:

I would urge you to keep your unlimited data plan -- at the very least, you should be able to purchase a new or used phone outright and switch your unlimited data plan to that phone.
posted by crazy with stars at 7:14 AM on June 20, 2014

My wife and I both had unlimited data plans grandfathered in - I used a metric ton of data, she didn't. It was vital for me that I not lose my unlimited data. Realistically I could tone it down to 4ish GB by being careful (currently I use anywhere from 8 - 20 GB a month - kids tethering ipads and phones in the car is a doozy).

When my wife decided she wanted a new phone, we went with the normal upgrade path: bought a phone for $200, moved her to a 2GB per month data plan. The stipulation was ensuring it would not affect my unlimited data plan on the same family plan. No problems there, and it helped that we had a very knowledgeable person who had assisted us numerous times previously. Luckily as pointed out above, overages aren't the scary beast they used to be. If her phone goes over 2GB, we get charged an extra $10 for the next 1GB. There are also alerts sent to email and text at 75% usage and I believe 90%, so it doesn't exactly sneak up on you.

For me, my only option was to purchase a phone without using the upgrade. That meant buying a used phone (which I was fine with - getting one a year or so older than the newest options, around $350 on Craigslist). Luckily, we had an old standard phone on our account, $10 a month add on. I was able to use that upgrade, get a phone for $200, and transfer it to my unlimited number. That was a very tight loophole, and only made possible because the helpful guy at Verizon knew a specific way to get it done without raising our monthly bill as well.

To your last update, you won't really see a difference between buying at Apple or Verizon for an iPhone. Unless Verizon happens to be running a special where the 5s is under $200, or the 5c is free, etc, you'll pay the same at either store. Verizon people will attempt to push accessories, warranties, and EDGE on you - big one is the EDGE payment plan. Do not do this. Repeat, do not buy a phone through EDGE. Basically you pay the full cost of the phone, unsubsidized, over the course of two years. So instead of paying $200 now, and being under contract for two years - you'll pay $650 over the course of two years, and be virtually under contract, by the nature of being liable for the full $650 payment on the phone even if you switched or cancelled Verizon. They have made this slightly more reasonable because going on EDGE now slightly lowers your monthly plan (giving you back some of that $450 subsidy you lost), but it still isn't in your best interest.

If you decide today you want to upgrade and get an iPhone, I would do this. Go to Apple, they will sell you a 5s for $200. You should also get AppleCare+ for $99 which gives you warranty for two years, including accidental damage. A broken screen, water damage, or obvious physical damage will cost you $79 to have Apple replace your phone. The only thing AppleCare+ doesn't cover is lost or stolen (Verizon insurance does, and is much more expensive. You'll pay $240 for two years of coverage, plus a $179 deductible for a broken, lost, or stolen phone).

TDLR: Go to the Apple Store. Buy an iPhone 5s with AppleCare+. Decide if you want 2GB or 4GB of data per month. Done and done.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:21 AM on June 20, 2014

And to clarify - buying new from Apple and upgrading through Verizon are the same thing. They both sell you a new phone for $200, and the actual cost of $650 is eaten by Verizon to ensure you stay with them for two years with your monthly service fee.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:23 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've kept my unlimited data plan through AT&T for years and years and years through 2 phone upgrades. The trick is that you have to buy the phone outright from Apple and THEN say "hey I bought this phone and I want to switch."

I suspect the same trick will work with VZ.
posted by tckma at 7:44 AM on June 20, 2014

I've been skipping OS updates due to worries that I'll brick my phone or it somehow won't be able to handle it.

I've the latest iOS on my iPhone 4 and it handles it just fine. Smooth operation, no problems with apps. Since your phone isn't working properly with the older OS, why not give updating a go before you make any decisions?

(Don't forget to back up your data first! Just in case.)
posted by Georgina at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

My husband and daughter have i4s running iOS7 and have absolutely zero problems. They are base cheapest level units with no extra memoory or speed or anything.

I say you should update. You won't brick it. If that doesn't fix your problems, you can then try one of the excellent but more expensive ideas above.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:21 AM on June 20, 2014

I went through this exact situation last fall. If you want to keep your unlimited data, you'll have to avoid signing a new contract, which means buying a new iPhone at full price. (I bought a 5S, which for the 64GB model came out to almost $1000.)

I personally will never deal with the Verizon Store ever again. I needed a new phone on short notice last year (on a weekend) and didn't want to sign up for a new contract. Went to the Verizon Store, where they flat-out refused to sell me a phone at full price in person. Left there, drove to the Apple Store, and walked out 10 minutes later with a brand-new phone. Took it home, activated it on the Verizon website, and started using my unlimited data happily.

Oh, and as far as the iOS version goes: I had iOS 7 running on a 4S, and while it worked, it was *slow*. Doing things like clearing a bunch of notifications in the Notification Center took 5-10 seconds; on the 5S it happens almost instantaneously. If you don't care about that, though, definitely upgrade.
posted by asterix at 8:28 AM on June 20, 2014

Your phone will run the current iOS, but the performance won't be ideal (slow, battery life).
posted by J. Wilson at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2014

Many times I have switched phones on Verizon by entering the ESN online (hopefully that link works if you are logged in to Verizon Wireless) and it has never resulted in any change to contract terms. They would certainly have to provide some notice of such, so if you try this be sure to read all the fine print.
posted by exogenous at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2014

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