Should I Upgrade To The iPhone 5?

Should I Upgrade To The iPhone 5?

Apple overnight announced the iPhone 5, which goes on sale here in Australia next week. If you’re an existing iPhone user, is it a worthwhile upgrade?

One quick and obvious point to make; I’m pitching this guide at those already within the iOS ecosystem. Yes, there are alternatives, and they’re worth considering at any point, but that’s a different point of complexity to consider.

You can see the full details of the new iPhone over at Gizmodo, but what’s worth considering more from a Lifehacker perspective is whether the upgrade makes actual financial sense.

Apple hasn’t done anything at all to the relative pricing for the iPhone 5 in its three storage capacities. A 16GB model will cost you $799, 32GB is $899 and 64GB is still $999, so certainly right now would be a terrible time to invest in a new iPhone 4S, but what if you’ve already got one — or an older model?

As I write this, none of the telcos have announced their pricing plans for the new phones, and if history is any guide, we might not see those until some time next week. Then again, taking history as a guide, it’s fair to suggest that it’ll be positioned in the premium price caps for each of the telcos if you do opt to go down the contract route.

The jump from the 3GS, or if you’ve held out for a very long time indeed, the 3G would be a rather immense one, and anyone on a phone that isn’t a 4S should be rather solidly out of contract by now. You won’t get much for an iPhone 3/3GS/4 any more; the best strategy (and one that I’ve employed myself) would be to dedicate it fully to being a music or games player and handing it over to a relative.

The positioning for iPhone 4S users is a little bit harder to discern. There’s no doubt that the 5 is an upgrade from the 4S in most respects, but whether it’s enough of an upgrade — especially if you’re not as keen on the stretched 4 inch screen — is a tough issue to work out. With the single year gap, most iPhone 4S users will still be on contract to a telco, unless they purchased outright. Penalty fees being what they are, you’d have to seriously love the new stretched iPhone 5 look to break contract right now, but what if you bought an iPhone 4S outright last year?

A quick check around the usual sites that offer to buy old iPhones suggests that you’d get something in the $400-$500 range for a working iPhone 4S 64GB; less for a broken one or one with lower capacity, and you almost certainly wouldn’t get the cash before the iPhone 5 launches here. Still, that’d knock nearly half the price off the top of the range iPhone 5 if you opted to go down that route.

Will you be lining up for an iPhone 5 next week, and if so, what’s your plan for your existing iPhone?


  • No sir, I will not line up for an iPhone 5, I will walk into a store and get one when it is readily available like a gentleman

    But to be honest, I don’t need all that fancy stuff

  • “Penalty fees being what they are, you’d have to seriously love the new stretched iPhone 5 look to break contract right now”

    Or incredibly stupid – I think most of the time Apple banks on the latter

        • Agreed Thom – this has just made me a 920 advocate even more so, considering the lack of earth-shattering “Ka-Boom” from the announcement. Usually Apple are market leaders. this is just another phone at this point.

          • You’re not out of the loop. It has NFC that no one will use, a wireless charging option that will turn out to be pretty unimpressive in practice, and a nicer camera – probably.

            It’s a solid, attractive, quality phone with a good looking OS, but there’s not much space left for spectacular innovation with smart phones.

          • the main innovations are the touchscreen you can use while wearing gloves and the camera has an optical image stabilser.
            It also has LTE, NFC, wireless charging, all have been seen on phones before but nice things to have

          • agree that smartphones are only able to get incremental updates now

            but there is substantial benefits for nfc
            all the big banks are deploying mobile nfc payment solutions
            for once oz is ahead in the game. i am not talking about kaching
            nfc in general would replace train, bus,ferry, concert, plane and movie tickets
            thats alot of paper and more secure than qr codes

            itd also replace credit cards and you can share info like eBusiness cards

  • As someone who travels frequently for work and picks up local SIMs wherever I go I found the iPhone 4 to be hard work with its Micro SIM. It was over a year into the availability of the phone before I could buy (and not trim) the SIMs for it.

    I’ve yet to see any commentary on trimming SIMs down to Nano size but think it might be just a bit too hard. If this is the case I’m thinking of holding off until the 5S comes out – in the expectations that nano’s will then be more available worldwide.

    In the mean time I have choices to make:
    – pick up a 4S (the price will fall in about 4 weeks time, either fire sale at a retailer or 2nd hand on eBay)
    – give in to my fanboy weakness and buy a 5 knowing I will also have to use (ie buy) a different phone when I travel (teenager will not give me back the 4 once he has it)
    – Least likely but possible – go fully android (may be Samsung will sell me a cheap phone they can no longer sell in the US?)

  • Telstra allow you to pay out the handset instalments remaining (minus their discount) and add another phone without penalty – just need to recontract for 24 months.

  • I was pretty late to the iOS party – but I’m certainly happy enough with my 4 to upgrade it to the 5 at some point in the future.

    However I always dread renewing my contract as it never feels like I’ve got a particularly good deal – the temptation is always to buy the phone outright but then that seems like a daft way to do it when you do the math.

    It’s all so hard.

  • Phones are not exciting anymore. I see no reason to upgrade from my iPhone 4 or change platforms. My phone is an utility device at this point, not an object of desire.

  • “and anyone on a phone that isn’t a 4S should be rather solidly out of contract by now”
    I beg to differ, i got an iPhone 4 in August 2010, which was back when it was very hard to get. So i have only been out of contract for less than a month. The majority of people on 24month contracts would still be on them.

    As an iPhone 4 user, im contemplating SGS3 or Lumia Windows 8 phone. Despite having so much invested in the iOS (lots of apps). First i might investigate jailbreaks, see if the old issues such as broken notifications etc are still applicable to get the most out of my ageing iPhone. The iPhone 4 in my opinion was the best available at the time, but i am rapidly losing tolerance for Apple and their incessant disregard for their users.

    Now if Samsung had a trade-up offer (your iPhone for a substantial discount on SGS3, id have a really tough decision to make)

    • I’ve always signed up for 12 month contracts. Not because I have to absolutely have the latest and greatest when it becomes available, but because I tend to get a bit bored of them after a year. And the resale price is generally still quite keen.
      My contract is up in a few weeks and I’ll not have to break it to upgrade to a 5. But I’ll want to see how iOS6 is on my 4S first – the only new stuff I’m really interested in is in the software not the hardware.

  • Contract due in Nov so no lining up. I’m considering getting a new phone upfront and switching to a BYO monthly plan instead…

    Also what are the usual sites that offer to buy old iPhones? I’ve just been using eBay and but the latter is new only.

  • Yeah, Nah.

    Contemplated moving back to iPhone after a little run with Android, but iPhone 5 and none of the Androids are exciting me as much as Lumia 920 WP8 right now.

    As CNet puts it: ‘For the first time in a long time, Apple has given its rivals room to bask in their own innovations.’

    Hypothetically, If I had a 4s, it probably wouldnt be worth the upgrade, but iPhone 4 or 3GS, definitely (that is, if I was still interested in the Apple ecosystem).

  • If you’re already in the iOS ecosystem and you don’t want to consider alternatives, of course the iP5 is going to be worth considering. As always, it comes down to disposable income – nobody *needs* the kind of tech that geeks like me love.

    Some people can just buy what they want, when they want, and damn the price. My boss is one of those people and I’ve no doubt he’ll be sporting one of these ASAP so good on him :–]. Others have to balance the costs and benefits with reference to their own needs and wants.

    One of the great things about iPhone is that you generally won’t miss out on most of the cool new iOS features even if you have an older device, so there’s less compulsion to go out and grab teh brand-new shiny until you’re good and ready.

  • “You won’t get much for an iPhone 3/3GS/4 any more” – will depend on what you call much!

    ReGadget are still offering over $200 for all iPhone 4 models, around $100 for 3GS and a bit less for 3G.

    Better than it sitting it in the desk draw losing more value!

    • I am buying my wife a white 16GB iPhone 4S tomorrow. She has just finished a 24mth contract with an HTC desire and most of the household is now on iOS with 30 pin connector accessories. JB HiFi are doing the Small Telstra plan with no additional handset charges. (Telstra still want to add and extra $7 / mth).
      I will be getting a Lumia 920 come Nov / Dec or Mar 2013??

  • I am still on 3 and I got a call to switch over to Vodaphone. They will discount my plan by $24 (from 69 to 45 per month) but still give me same plan features, cut of 2 months of my iphone 4 contract (no charge) and give me the iphone 5 on a new 2 year contract. Ill be switching.

  • It all seems rather “meh” to me.

    Bigger screen but applications run with borders. Different dock so nothing you own works (eventually the adapter will mean the thing pokes up/doesn’t fit). Camera sensor is 25% smaller (bad bad bad).

    The only thing that might sell it is LTE, but what price Telstra?

  • Only the earliest iPhone 4 adopters would be out of contract, since it was released just on 2 years ago.

    Given that the iPhone 4 is still available for purchase on a 2 yr contract today, no, many people won’t be “rather solidly out of contract by now”.

      • 3GS was also still available on contract as an 8gb until stock ran out in the last couple of weeks, also your article writes that the iPhone 4 wouldn’t be worth anything however I checked and they’ve been selling (used) on ebay for around $400 at auction today, that’s the iPhone 4 32GB, so you could certainly halve the price of your outright purchase if you off loaded it now.

      • If that was your intent then you need to amend the wording of “anyone on a phone that isn’t a 4S should be rather solidly out of contract by now.” as its clearly including the iP4 in that list.

  • On balance I’m going to stick with my iPhone 4. Sure it’s 2 years old but when I upgrade it to ios 6 it will still have most of the features of the 5. With my cheap prepaid plan it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. Eventually when the 4 dies I’ll look at a new phone.

  • I didn’t buy my 4S outright, nor am I still in contract for a year – I have a 12-month contract ending in a month. But I have no intention of upgrading. I don’t see the point in spending anything significant for a slightly bigger screen. I’ll instead spend at least the next year saving me some cash.

  • What is it with the whining about how the phone isn’t innovative enough? I never hear this kind of noise about how new laptops are pretty much the same as the last one with just a spec boost.

    “It’s only faster, lighter and has longer batery life – fail apple.” I can’t work out whether the bitching is mainly coming from fanboys upset it doesn’t blow the competition away, or haters secretly relieved about the same thing.

    • Because mobile technology should be at a point where significant improvements/innovations are possible and actually happen.

      Both perfectly reasonable expectations, but this fits neither.

      • really? I think its getting to the point where its settling in for the long haul, like how 10 years ago you bought a pc and it was unusable in 12 months, now a 5 year old pc will still do daily tasks with ease. Same as a new model car doesn’t blow the doors off last years model. It’s called maturing technology and it becomes an incremental update.

        • I’ll second this. we’re starting to hit the point where phones are powerful enough to handle substantial software upgrades for extended periods. Apple is supporting ios6 on the 3GS, which was released in 2009. I just installed ice cream sandwich on a galaxy S from early 2010, and it is blazingly quick and pleasant to use. I don’t see a reason these phones cant keep getting software updates for another year or two or hardware failure, whichever comes first.

          The odd ones out here are RIM and microsoft, with their update-killing practices. That should change soon, as they’re each going into a major revision of the OS that will then receive smaller updates.

          My desktop at home is dual core with 2gb of ram, while most of these phones are quad core with the same memory. We’re definitely settling in for the long haul with mobile phone hardware.

    • well the new laptops coming out for windows 8 are pretty impressive how its a tablet which you can dock into a keyboard and turns into a fully functional laptop.

      But look at nokia for example, 920 has a touchscreen you can use with gloves (which is good if you live in a cold country), optical image stabilser and incorporating tech that is recently been used in phones such as wireless charging and LTE

  • Underwhelmed.
    I’ve been admiring all the stuff my niece does with her Samsung s2. She’s a tinkerer and flashes and messes, been doing nfc for a long time now and impressing the heck out of me to the point that had me considering the S3 thats she’s getting which she says she won’t even need to tinker with. The Lumia looks really nice too.
    Overall, I was hoping for a few kill points to show off my iLove. Unfortunately, it looks like late to the party and try to catch up. I really prefer the Samsung screen size too.
    Disappointed. I was holding off since I’mm off contract. Now I have to make a decision.

    • what uses are there currently for nfc? (I know in the future itll be used in more places and you have speakers which have nfc builtin.) Because when I bought my lumia I had all those people complaining it didnt have nfc, and I still don’t understand what im missing out on.

  • I wouldn’t advise anyone with a 4S to get a 5, just as I didn’t advise anyone with a 4 to get a 4S. Everyone knows you skip every second iPhone release (and then some). Two consecutive minor jumps won’t get me back to iOS, even if I have all those purchased apps waiting for me.

  • No, wont be upgrading. My phone budget speaks for itself, as I have an ancient eBay 3GS 🙂 Still I see 3GS owners are to get i06, minus heaps like siri, map flyover and map turn by turn, etc etc. I do have 4GS iphone envy quite often though 🙂 …… cheers

  • good looking OS you’ve got to be joking aside from a new case and some boosted hardware iphone 5 looks exactly like the 3g. Compared to Android and win 7 phone the iphone homescreen is boring and looks dated.

  • These are exciting times indeed.

    I have been doing a lot of research and nearly everyone states that the OS on the phone should be the same as the tablet. As my venerable 3GS is just about dead and I have put off the tablet as the laptop has given me what I want up until now, purchase is on countdown.

    As someone who loves to use a pen and takes copious amounts of notes here is the choice (and really money is of no real concern – capability is):

    -Best MS Surface and Lumina 920
    – Samsung Tablet Note 10.1 and S 111 4G
    – Iphone 5 and tricked up iPad with a smart pen.

    They all seem like good choices, however, as I said the phone is about dead and what may swing the deal are release dates. Apple is winning so far on availability, Samsung on Capability. Not enough hands on for MS for a serious and considered comparison.

    Also, I am the type of person who put VM Ware on an apple laptop and so I am very OS agnostic so reviews on specific OS features does not sway me. Availability of apps is of more concern, apple and android seem pretty much on par there with MS lagging behind.

    The most intrigue I have is about the souped up MS Surface and running all those business windows apps on a full version with compatibility with 1 TB pocket hard drives. Gives me a laptop and a tablet.


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