Trying to figure out if it's a good time to buy that iPhone 4 -- or Verizon iPhone 4 -- or if you should wait for the iPhone 5? Or maybe you're still trying to decide if the iPhone is right for you, and considering some alternatives? No worries, TiPb has your back -- here's our iPhone Buyer's Guide.
iPhone 4 is a fantastic device and without a doubt one of the best phones on the market but no one device is right for everyone. If you want something that "just works", that brings the best internet, apps, and games experience, that's supported by the massive iTunes and Apple ecosystem (tons of content, tons of accessories), and that allows some hacking via Jailbreak, then iPhone might be for you.
First of all, we always recommend choosing your carrier first. If there's no iPhone 4 on the best carrier in your area you will most likely find second-rate service more than annoying. Look into alternatives. If your preferred carrier does have the iPhone, then you have some options.
There's only one iPhone, however, so if you want more hardware choices like physical keyboards, flip form-factors, sliders, etc. and app marketplaces that aren't curated and controlled by Apple, there are alternatives.
Take some time, visit the sites above, try out demos at your local carrier store, and see what suits your tastes. Then compare them again to iPhone and everything it offers and make your decision based on the total package.
Once you've decided iPhone is for you the next step is to figure out which iPhone is for you. Apple typically has 3 models on the market at any one time, currently last year's iPhone 3GS and two versions of this year's iPhone 4. (Verizon only carriers the two versions of iPhone 4).
To help you get a better sense of what you can save compared to what you give up, here are our reviews:
The bottom line is whether you need to save $150 or $250 up front when you'll be on the hook for an average 2 year contract (in the US, other countries may have longer or shorter contract terms). When you combine voice and data plans, text and other packages, the total cost could easily work out to $2000 or more over those 2 years. If you only have $50 in your pocket and want an iPhone, that won't matter and you can pick up an iPhone 3GS and have a great new handset. If you can afford $199 or even $299 up front you'll have a phone that's more recent and more capable for a tiny difference in total costs.
So you know you're getting an iPhone and you know which one you're getting, your next decision is whether you should go get an iPhone 4 now or wait for Apple to release the next generation iPhone 5 later this year and get more phone for the same price.
Apple has thus far announced a new iPhone once a year, every year during the month of June. If you're reading this in July, a new iPhone has almost certainly just been released and you can safely go buy it without worrying that it'll be made obsolete for roughly another year. (If it's June make sure you keep your browser locked on TiPb so we can tell you the moment the latest iPhone is released!)
Conversely, if you're reading this in May, Apple is probably just about to announce a new iPhone and unless you don't care and absolutely, positively have to have a new phone now, now, now you should hold off until they do. So far every new iPhone has been the same price -- $199 and $299 -- as the old one but offers more for the money. At the same time the old model has so far been dropped in price (to $99 or $49 right now) so you can save if you need to.
If you're reading this smack dab at the 6 month point, maybe right before the Holidays and you want to know if you should buy, here's the simple question to ask: Do you need it now?
If you've broken your current phone, lost it, or otherwise simply have to buy a new iPhone now get it and have no regrets. There will always be something new on the horizon but that won't help you if you need a phone now.
If you don't need it but just want it, wait as long as you possibly can wait then buy the best iPhone available when you can't wait any more.
Like we said at the beginning, carrier comes first. If you only have one good carrier in your area, that's the carrier you should go with. If you have two or more carriers that are all pretty much the same in your area, then it comes down to things like customer service, whether or not you already have a plan (especially business plans or family plans that would penalize you for switching, etc.), coverage in areas you may travel too, overall speed and reliability of the network, etc. If you're not sure ask your neighbors and colleagues which carriers they use and what they think of the service. Wherever you use your iPhone most, find out which carrier makes the people there the happiest.
In the US there's currently a bigger decision to be made because the two iPhone carriers use different network technologies: AT&T on GSM and Verizon on CDMA. Speed vs. coverage, roaming vs. reliability, you have some choices to make. You won't be able to change later without breaking your contract and buying a new phone (they're not cross-compatible) so think it through. Here's some more information to help you decide:
That's it. You know you're getting an iPhone, you know when, and you know on which carrier. You've done your homework, you've made your choice, and now it's time buy. But where you should you buy it?
If you have an Apple Retail Store in your area you can go there, and if it's in stock, leave with your new iPhone right away. They also offer help with your purchase and will even help you get set up free of charge. If you're worried about protecting your investment, they can also get you setup with AppleCare, and their Genius Bar can help you with hardware problems in the future. Corny as it sounds, It's not just shopping, it's an experience. Apple Retail has the best customer service in the business and it shows. There are no discounts, however, not ever.
If there's no Apple Retail store near you there's also Apple Online in many countries. Again, no discounts but you're dealing directly with Apple.
In a lot of countries, Apple Retail and Apple Online are also the only places where you can get full price, officially unlocked GSM iPhones if that's an option you want. (Can be handy for frequent international travelers.)
If you want brick-and-morter but don't have an Apple Store, your carrier will often have one or several stores in your area. Drop buy or get it shipped to you. If you're getting a upgrade discount or other carrier incentives it's a great way to get it all setup right away.
Big box and chain retailers, everything from Best Buy to the Shack to Tesco also carry iPhones. If you have loyalty points or they're just super convenient, check them out as well.
Shady operators also try to sell discount iPhones, sometimes devices that aren't even really iPhones but cheap -- and highly breakable -- knockoffs. It goes without saying you should avoid those. Any deal too good to be true probably is. If you save money only to end up with a phone that doesn't run iOS and may not even run on your carrier you really just wasted your money.
Once you've gotten your new iPhone and are ready to set it up, get apps, get accessories, maybe get Jailbroken, here's how to get going:
No article can cover every detail or address every unique circumstance or concern. Luckily TiPb also hosts the iPhone Forums, a vast community where users can ask questions, give feedback, and get help. Check them out: