Tuesday, October 4, 2011

[EDITORIAL] Is The iPhone 4S Worth It?

So, it's come and gone: Apple has announced a new iPhone. It's not the 5 that everyone was flipping their shit over, but it's the 4S, akin to how Apple went from the 3G to the 3GS. They've kept the same physical design, but all the tweaks are under the hood.

Is what Apple crammed into the 4S worth the upgrade for those with a 4 already?

What about older iPhones?

Will the pressure of an non-subsidized price for those who signed up on Verizon earlier this year be strong enough to keep those from upgrading? Will it be enough to sway people to drop the cold hard cash on the ETF to switch carriers and plop down up to $400 on a new device just to get away from AT&T or Verizon?

I'm trying to convince myself that the 4S is not really worth the money, but hey, let's find out, shall we?

First off, Apple unveiled the 4S with many new improvements over the 4. Better cameras, larger capacity, deeper speech-recognition integration, faster processor, new carrier, but are they all worth it?

  • Camera Upgrade - 5MP to 8MP - The camera is now an 8MP camera with face detection. However, it's aperture is now upgrade to f/2.4, and now has a 5-element lens. What does that mean? Fuck if I know, but it's better, amirite?
  • Processor Upgrade - A4 to A5 - Similar to the iPad 2's processor, the iPhone 4S now has the A5 dual-core chip, which is, reportedly, 7 times faster than the A4. That just shit all over your i4 purchase, didn't it?
  • Larger Hard Drive Capacity - Now in the 64 GB Flavor - Put even more shit on your phone than ever before!
  • Better Video Recording - 720 to 1080 - You now get full 1080p HD video recording, plus video stabilization. No more shaky cams on YouTube! WOO!
  • Quadband Cell Chip - It's Now a World-Phone! - That's the biggest thing there. What does that mean to you? Hardly anything, unless you find yourself traveling abroad and must bring a secondary phone with you. You now have UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA for your "4G" speeds (really, 3.5G), your GSM/EDGE for the AT&T side of the equation, plus CDMA for your Verizon and Sprint carriers. You don't have to switch phones to switch carriers anymore. Unlockers, have at ye!
  • Deeper Voice Recognition Integration - Go From "Meh" to "Sirious?" - Sorry,  I had to get it out of my system. Apple has integrated Siri into the 4S, and only the 4S, which means you'll need the upgrade if you really want your speech-to-text option. For someone who finds himself fighting with my phone just to get it to play a fucking album or texting while driving, this whole thing is almost selling it. You can have Siri do almost anything on your new phone for you, but you'll find yourself a ball-hair away from being abducted from SkyNet. 

Now, is it really worth it for you? Do you need a better camera? Is HD video recording essential? Do you have so much music that you need to double that existing 32 GB size? Are you absolutely sick of AT&T? Do you text while driving? If you answered "yes" to at least the last two options, then consider the 4S, but only if your ETF is outrageous.

The Conundrum

For myself, AT&T's ETF is $325, minus $10 for every month of full service completed (or, in easier terms, each billing cycle you've completed). I got the 4 in mid April, so that makes...5 months of service. My current ETF is $275. If I sell the iPhone 4, eBay says the average selling price at auction in New condition is about $500, and $600 for a fixed-price listing in New condition.

If I paid the ETF, I would go to Sprint. If I got that $500, about half would go to AT&T so I could GTFO, while $225 would go towards the 64 GB 4S, meaning I would shell out $175 out-of-pocket for the new device, $75 if I got that $600.

Anyone with a sliver of their brain left wouldn't pay that much for the ETF, especially when the 4S is quadband. So, here's my proposal to myself: leave the contract alone

I have the benefit of having a sister who wants an iPhone, but can get a full subsidization on her contract. I can get her to "buy" the iPhone 4S, and I can sell her the 4 for whatever amount I feel is appropriate. Sure, I could get up to $600 on eBay, but I would pay - wait for it - $875 for the 4S off-contract. 

You'd have to be a fucking moron to do that. 

If, next year, the iPhone 5 is what it's supposed to be (LTE, larger footprint = larger screen), then my AT&T ETF would be $120 less than what it is now, granted that Apple waits until the fall, like they did this year. $155 for the ETF seems much better than what I mentioned above, and the hop to Sprint would be that much sweeter.