Am I going to regret buying a used iPhone 4?
September 5, 2014 6:36 PM   Subscribe

My current Android phone is dying, and I've had bad luck with other Android phones. Money is real tight right now, but I'm thinking about buying this used Apple iPhone 4 for $95. Will I regret the purchase?

My phone carrier is Ting. I'd like a smartphone that's a lot more reliable than the horrible Android phones I've owned recently (they would constantly lock-up, or crash, or get very sluggish, etc.). Facebook and Twitter are the two main apps that I use. I also like to take photos and make videos.

I have no experience with Apple devices. Will this iPhone 4 perform adequately for my needs? I know it's old, but I really don't feel like I need to be on the cutting edge of technology. I just need something that's dependable and easy to use.
posted by akk2014 to Technology (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You won't be happy with the performance. A 4s will be significantly faster, and it has a much better camera as well.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:40 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's a huge difference between the 4 and 4s. Speed, capabilities, gps, camera. Everything. And with the 6 coming out, there will be a lot of 4s phones up for sale for not a lot more money (I expect).

I shattered the glass on my 4s and used a 4 - I barely lasted a month. It was so slow that waze couldn't keep up with me for driving directions.

And there will be a new OS with the 6 - so that'll be even harder on the 4.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 6:47 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've found my iphone 4 perfectly serviceable, but I'm the sort who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the smart phone era because the family phone plan couldn't include data if I had a dumb phone. Or something.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:51 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm still using my 4, and I want to drive over it with my car on a pretty much daily basis. $95 seems like a huge ripoff for one.
posted by obfuscation at 6:58 PM on September 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hey there, I'm on Ting and have a 4s. I'm eternally frustrated with how awful the battery life is. The hardware can't keep up with the US, I think. It's fast enough, and the camera is OK, but I think you'll regret it pretty soon if you do anything other than make calls on it.

(I can't wait to replace mine myself, just don't know when or what with.)
posted by wintersweet at 7:01 PM on September 5, 2014

nthing that the difference between the 4 and 4S is significant enough that you ought to not to buy into more frustration with the 4. Apple still sells the 4S, and will iOS 8 will be supported on it, though probably in a limited way. Not so the iPhone 4.

There will be lots of out-of-contract 4Ses that people will want to offload over the next month.
posted by holgate at 7:02 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: $95 seems very expensive for a used iPhone 4. Is that really the best deal you could get?
posted by alms at 7:08 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

The iPhone 4 will not be able to be upgraded to the new OS that is coming out sometime soon; apparently the 4s will. So I would get nothing earlier than the 4s.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:16 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

$95 is a very expensive price for a very old phone (as phones go). Four years is a lifetime by phone standards. Sadly the iPhone 4 will be as sluggish as the phone you're coming from, if not more so.

The iPhone 5 is the phone you want, if you want to go the Apple route. I'm not sure how available they are now, but they're two years old so they can't be that expensive. The 5 is a phone that's at the point where future iterations are only going to be able to improve so much- the screen is fantastic, it runs iOS 7 smoothly (and will run iOS 8 smoothly if reports are true), it has a decent camera by most peoples' standards, it's quite reliable, and it's very easy to use.

(The 5c is cheaply built and the 5s is not worth the upgrade, in my book.)
posted by Old Man McKay at 7:45 PM on September 5, 2014

You can get a brand new unlocked Moto G for $160 on Amazon. I don't have one, but I've heard and read good reviews for the price. Alternatively, I do have an iPhone 4, an iPhone 5, and I'll be getting an iPhone 6. The iPhone 4, at this point in time, being 4 years old, is not much better than a paperweight. I wouldn't do it. iPhone batteries really begin to become craptascular after 2 years. That being said, if you really want an iPhone, the 4S, especially after the 6 is announced on Tuesday, would be a much better option. But don't dismiss the cheaper Androids from reputable brands with good reviews if you're still ok with Android but not the cheap crappy no-names.
posted by cgg at 8:20 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ting user here as well. I also don't recommend getting an iPhone 4. At this point, iPhone 4 is a 4-years old phone, that mean iPhone 4 is at least 3(soon to be 4) generations behind the current generation phone. Battery on an used phone can be hit and miss. You might be able to squeeze another year out of iPhone 4 but it will be horrible experience.

I know you said you have terrible experience with Android device. My first experience with Android was horrible as well because it was a cheap phone. Then I bought a flagship Samsung Galaxy SIII, it's a much better experience.

If you want to stick with iPhone I would recommend at least getting an iPhone 4S, preferably iPhone 5 or 5C. The current used price for Sprint(which you can transfer over to Ting) iPhone 5C is $175 and $230 for iPhone 5. The price will drop by at least another $50 with release of iPhone 6 next week. An used Sprint iPhone 4s, which you can transfer to Ting, is worth around $125. See here for price.

Is there any reason for sticking with Ting? If you could switch over to a different carrier, you could get Moto G for as cheap as $50 after $50 rebate. It will be much better experience than iPhone 4. Unfortunately, I don't think Moto G is compatible with Sprint or Ting network.
posted by Carius at 8:59 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should be able to get a 5c or the old 5 practically for free. $95 for an old 4 is a ripoff. The 4 is practically worthless, not just because it's obsolete and won't be able to run anything, but also because if it's used it's probably reaching near the end of its operational life. Do not buy it.

(Credibility-meter: I'm an apple product junkie, and actually waited in line for the 4 back in the day. have also owned a 3g, a 5, and a 5s (current phone), as well as 3 different iPads, etc.)
posted by paultopia at 9:02 PM on September 5, 2014

Another vote for the 4S over the 4, it's a solid phone.

I'm still completely happy with my 4S, as it supports the new iOS and most apps are still compatible. The 4 is definitely limited in that regard. I had the 4, and switched immediately to the 4S when it came out - a noticeable improvement. The only problem you will probably have is the shortened battery life if it's used. Might have to keep it plugged in regularly.
posted by lizbunny at 9:03 PM on September 5, 2014

I second the suggestion that a Moto G is a decent unit and recently revamped - note that the old one is also called Moto G and can now be had for a song (70$) but the new one is still a great option at 180$ (review).

As for iPhone I faced the same issue and chose the 4s, not for speed but compatability. The 4s runs 160$ on the Ting site. Ting appears to be a reseller for Glyde for used phones, and gives you a variety of carriers that might better work for you. For ~180 you can even get a good condition 5c and it's on even on Sprint which can likely be used on Ting soon. The 5, 4s and 4 Spring phones apparently all work.

And staying away from a "free" contract phone is the best financial choice.
posted by zenon at 9:11 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like ting, and am considering buying an iPhone 6 outright and bringing it to them. I use a 4s right now, and I share your dislike of android phones, even flagship ones; they're just awful for media consumption.

I'm quite happy with my 4s; its performance with ios7 is fine, and it does everything I need. I do have to charge it twice daily, but I have a long commute, so I just charge it in the car, no problem.

That said, I would wait until ios8 has been in the wild a bit before buying a 4s. It's the oldest phone that will support ios8, and apple crippled the 3G with an iOS update that made it nigh-unusable. iOS isn't as friendly as android about apps supporting older ios versions, apps tend to require the latest version (at least, more often than android).

So wait to see if ios8 is decent on a 4s. If so, get that for cheap. If not, it's worth it to get a 5 or 5c. Go for a burner phone to tide you over, since ting makes that easy.
posted by Pacrand at 9:34 PM on September 5, 2014

I have a 4s, it is a very satisfactory phone with iOS 7. I have no idea how it will be under iOS 8 and it is getting long in the tooth. I think a 4 wouldn't be a great experience, and I wouldn't buy an iPhone 4 for $95, particularly since Apple is sure to announce new phones in a few days, which will push prices down on newer models.
posted by Good Brain at 9:35 PM on September 5, 2014

I gave my iPhone 4 to a family member, for free, like six months ago, and it still boggles me that she can use it, especially with iOS 7, which was even slower on it than 6 was. So, I would not do that. I paid however much for a Nexus 5 and it has been a gorgeous experience that seems in no way comparable to that of the people I know with crudware-laden older Android phones. But I am generally the sort of person who runs my phones into the ground, and the iPhone 4 stopped being sufficient for me ages ago. The family member who now owns it treats it like an iPod that's also a phone and is reasonably content, but I thought the photos came out pretty bad from the beginning and--yeah, just no.
posted by Sequence at 9:40 PM on September 5, 2014

The iPhone 4 was a kickass phone 4 years ago. Now though it will be a terrible experience. In 2014 it is slow, has a shitty camera taking shitty photos and video, old timey small lower resolution display, can't take advantage if iOS 7 features and won't even run iOS 8 which is coming out this month. The 4s will be markedly better but I'd go to a 5/5C/5S if you can. Note when getting a used 5 that there was a batch of them sold 2 years ago that have a battery issue. Apple is replacing the batteries for affected customers, but not sure what they'd do with used product especially if the original owner changed batteries from the original.

My iPhone 5 is 2 years old and runs iOS 7 well but I'm getting a iPhone 6 when my ATT contract expires later this month. I think the 5 will work fine in iOS 8 but next year when iOS 9 comes out next year it will be sluggish and iOS 10 won't work at all.
posted by birdherder at 12:37 AM on September 6, 2014

I'm going to buck the trend here and suggest that iPhone 4 is probably ok as long as you don't plan to keep it for too long.

I had a 4 running ios 7 and while it was somewhat sluggish, I wouldn't call it painfully slow. You don't have all the ios features the newer phones do like turn by turn navigation or Siri, but if you really are just looking for a Facebook and Twitter phone it will do. The pictures and video part may be more problematic. But hey, if money is tight then what can you do? I would search for a lower price just for peace of mind though. And if you can get a 4s for the same price definitely do that.
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 3:58 AM on September 6, 2014

Wait a week! Apple is about to announce the new phone, which will drop the asking prices of the old models.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:25 AM on September 6, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips. I'm so glad I checked here before I bought the iPhone 4. I'll probably bite the bullet and go for an iPhone 5 (the 5s and 5c models don't work under Ting).
posted by akk2014 at 5:54 AM on September 6, 2014

The 5 is a great phone. I love mine to pieces. Then again, it's my first and only smart phone...
posted by kathrynm at 7:33 AM on September 6, 2014

Pay attention to the type of phone - Ting is CDMA, not GSM.
posted by CathyG at 2:16 PM on September 6, 2014

Also on ting, here. ..check out's like ebay for phones...some really great deals...I'm still using my galaxy note 2 and still love it and the big screen and great battery life are still working great after 2 years...with the note 4 coming out soon, the price will probably drop again really soon.
posted by sexyrobot at 5:28 PM on September 6, 2014

I'm using a 4 at the moment, and agree with the chorus that it's getting really long in the tooth these days.

I'd also like to point out that right now is a pretty bad time to be picking up a secondhand iPhone, since the new model is just a couple weeks from coming out. The secondhand market's gonna get flooded after that.
posted by neckro23 at 10:33 PM on September 6, 2014

Response by poster: I bought a used iPhone 5. It's been working well, though the $250 cost was much more than I was hoping to spend on a phone. Thanks for the advice.
posted by akk2014 at 5:25 AM on September 22, 2014

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