Should you upgrade from whatever you have now to an iPhone 4S? The answer to that depends entirely on what exactly you have now, or whether any of the features of iPhone 4S are compelling enough to makes it worth upgrading regardless of what you have now.
Read on for the full breakdown.
Upgrading from an iPhone 2G, iPhone 3G, or iPhone 3GS
If you're currently using an original iPhone, iPhone 3G, or iPhone 3GS than your contract has likely expired and you can get an iPhone 4S at full, subsidize price. You can also get an iPhone 4S on Verizon or Sprint in the US, which wasn't an option for any of the pre-iPhone 4S models.
The improvements to iPhone 4S for iPhone 3GS owners are significant. For iPhone 2G or iPhone 3G owners, they're stratospheric. Retina display, a much better camera that shoots HD video, silky smooth multitasking, incredible gaming power, FaceTime video calling, Siri voice control -- the list goes on and on.
Also, you get to keep your apps, you maintain easy access to any iTunes music, TV shows, and movies you might have bought, and your cables stay compatible.
iPhone 4S is almost a no-brainer update from those early iPhone models.
Upgrading from an iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S
If you're currently rocking an Phone 4, the answer isn't as easy. You're probably still on contract with the carrier, so you may not be able to get the fully subsidized price unless you qualify for an early upgrade or you lean on them and their retention departments. There's also not a huge difference in functionality -- more speed, a better camera, Siri voice control, availability on Sprint, and world-phone CDMA roaming being the major differentiators.
- If you're a hardcore gamer or productivity maven whose tolerance for lag is less than zero, the 2x speed and 7x gaming power might tempt you to upgrade.
- If you're a photo and video enthusiast who really wants the "best camera", that 8mp, F2.4, 1080p lens might tempt you to upgrade.
- If you want the future now, now, now, or you're visually impaired, the artificially intelligent, natural language interface Siri promises might tempt you to upgrade.
- If you need Verizon or Sprint at home but have to travel a lot, the ability to roam on international GSM networks might tempt you to upgrade.
iPhone 4S is not a compelling upgrade for most iPhone 4 owners unless you really want or need a specific new feature.
Upgrading from Android, BlackBerry, webOS, or Windows Phone to iPhone 4S
If your current phone of choice runs Android, Windows Phone, or webOS or is a BlackBerry, here's where it gets tricky. If you're not on contract, it's easier. If you are, you need to weigh the pros and cons and see if the features you get outweigh the penalties you'll have to pay.
- iPhone isn't as customizable as Android unless you Jailbreak it (think root), and that's not always possible at first when a new device comes out.
- iPhone doesn't have BBM (BlackBerry Messenger), so if that's what your friends use you'll be out of touch -- and out of luck. iMessage will let you talk with other iOS users in an SMS/MMS type way, and there are cross-platform apps, but none of them are BBM.
- iPhone has the slickest UI and best UX in the business, but it isn't as simple or elegant as the new Metro UI on Windows Phone, or have as good a multitasking metaphor and aggregation system as webOS. It does more (for now) but taste and preference are subjective.
- iPhone only comes in one style and screen size. 3.5-inch slab. No sliders, no flips, no hardware keyboards of any kind, and no option for 4 to 5.5-inches.
- No Adobe Flash video. (That could be a pro or con depending on how you feel about it.)
- No LTE, WiMax, or HSPA+ 21 or 41 mbps options for faster internet.
But iPhone has a lot going for it as well.
- iPhone has multiple layers but the first layer is so incredibly easy to use that the most non-tech savvy of people, people who are moving up from feature phones, can pick it up and get going with it immediately. At the same time it's highly appealing to expert and veteran smartphone users who want to spend their time getting things done, not getting their phones to do things.
- Apple was the first to put a usable web browser on a phone and absent Adobe Flash, Safari is still the most powerful HTML5 browser in the business. Likewise the built in Mail app shows rich content with pictures. VPN, ActiveSync, and other enterprise-friendly features are also built right in.
- It's become a cliché but there really is an app for almost everything on the iPhone. Pretty much every major app and currently all the best games are easily available in the App Store and are so functional people actually use them more than the great web browser these days.
- iTunes and now iCloud, which does a lot of what iTunes used to but without the cable, lets you easily sync your existing content and also gives you access not only to the App Store but iTunes music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, iTunes U (University) and overall more content in more parts of the world than any other service.
- Apple Stores: If you live near an Apple Store, and you have a problem with your phone, there's no passing the buck between carrier and manufacturer, there's no sending your phone away for lengthy repairs. You make a Genius Bar appointment, you show up, they fix your phone or swap it for a new one (if you're still under warranty or Apple Care). They'll also help you set it up and teach you how to use it. If you're new to phones, this is the single best reason to go Apple.
- More: Apple itself creates a ton of other products to supplement the iPhone, including Mac computers, software for Mac and Windows, and together with their partners provide more cases, chargers, docks, car kits, and accessories of every kind. No other smartphone has the quantity or quality of extras, from fashionable to functional, that iPhone has.
If you've only been using another platform because you were waiting for the 2011 iPhone on your choice of carrier -- go get it.
If you like your current platform but are curious or considering the jump to iPhone 4S, wait until you can try one at the store and really get a feel for it.
Upgrading from a feature phone to iPhone 4S.
Yes. Do it now.
(If you're really hard up for up-front cash, consider a $99 iPhone 4 or free iPhone 3GS, but if you can scrape together the $199+ for an iPhone 4S, considering the contract will cost you ~$2000+ over two years, it's not really much of a savings.)
If you're still not sure, hit up our iPhone 4S Forums to get the help you need to make up your mind.