iPhone 5 buyers guide

Everything you need to know about choosing the perfect iPhone color, capacity, carrier, and more!

There are a lot of decisions involved when it comes to buying a new iPhone, or any phone for that matter. Once you've decided you do indeed need a new phone, you still have to decide if the new phone you need is an iPhone. While we still believe the iPhone is the best choice for most of the people most of the time, there are a lot of great phones on the market these days and there might be one better suited to some people's individual needs. And let's say you do decide the iPhone is perfect for you, then comes the choice of model (iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4), color (white & silver or black & slate), storage capacity (16GB, 32GB, or 64GB), and carrier network (in the U.S., AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint are the major ones). And what do you do with your old, broken phone when your new, hot phone arrives?

Enter iMore's 2012 iPhone buyers guide. If you need help deciding what to buy, we've got your back. And if you've already decided, just bookmark, email, Facebook, or Tweet this so we can help your friends and family and you can get on with enjoying your new iPhone!

iPhone or something else: Which phone should you get?

Just because Apple has released the new iPhone 5 doesn't mean you have to race off and get it. Crazy, I know, particularly coming from the biggest iPhone enthusiast site on the web, but that just goes to show you how true it is. When the time comes for you to get your next phone, whether it's today or next year, and iPhone or something else, you should look at what's on the market and decide what best suits your needs.

If you want the sleekest, slimmest, easiest to use, most mainstream friendly, most content rich, most well supported phone in the industry, the iPhone might just be for you.

If you're not sure, here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of upgrading to the iPhone 5, whether you own and existing iPhone, an Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone, or a feature phone. Also, because the Samsung Galaxy S3 is probably what's going to give the iPhone the biggest run for its money right now, we've also done a special, in depth, comparison of the two:

Now vs. later: When should you buy an iPhone?

Once you've decided to get a new iPhone, you may still be wondering when exactly you should get it. Apple releases new iPhones every year, so should you buy now or wait and get the next one, and hopefully more bang for your buck, when it launches? Here's the deal...

  • Buy in the fall: Time was, Apple announced and released new iPhones in the fall. Since 2011, however, Apple has shifted from a summer to a fall release schedule and, given the importance of the holiday quarter, that probably won't change next year either. So, if you're reading this in in the fall, winter of 2012, the iPhone 5 has just been released and you safely go buy it without worrying that it'll be made obsolete any time soon.
  • Stay away in summer: On the other hand, if you're reading this in summer or fall 2013, Apple is probably just about to announce another 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 (and now $399)-- as the old one but offers way more hardware bang for the buck. At the same time the old model has so far been dropped in price (to $99 or ever free for the 2-year old model) so you can save if you need to.
  • In between, buy when you need: If you're reading this smack dab at the 6 month point, around spring of 2013, 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.

iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 4S vs. iPhone 4: Which iPhone should you get?

iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 4S vs. iPhone 4: Which iPhone should you get?

While some might consider the the latest, greatest 2012 iPhone 5 a no brainer when it comes to their next purchasing decision, Apple keeps the 2011 iPhone 4S and the 2010 iPhone 4 around for a reason. For some people, up-front price really does matter. However, over the lifetime of a typical contract, you'll be paying a couple thousand dollars, so it's important to really run the math on this and see what suits you best. Well, here it is:

Black & slate or white & silver: Which iPhone 5 color should you get?

Black & Slate or White & Sliver: Which iPhone 5 color should you get?

This year, like the last few years, one of the biggest decisions you have to make about buying an iPhone 5 is which color will you get? Unlike the new iPod touches, the iPhones are still a two color affair -- black and white. But this year, they're also a two-tone affair, with a metal back plate breaking up the glass on the back. And for the black version, it's a blackout affair, which the aluminum anodized as dark as the glass.

Technically Apple is calling the iPhone 5 color options Black & Slate and White & Silver. So while you still have only two choices of iPhone color, with the iPhone 5 those choices are more extreme than ever before. So here's the story...

16GB, 32GB, or 64GB: Which iPhone 5 storage size should you get?

16GB, 32GB, or 64GB: Which iPhone 5 storage size should you get?

When it comes to iPhone 5 storage, you need to carefully balance cost and capacity. 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB all have their pros and cons, so it's important to weigh all the options carefully and get the very best price/performance ration for you. We've broken down the prices and capacities, so if you're weighing your options, here what you should consider:

AT&T vs Verizon vs Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Which iPhone 5 carrier should you choose?

AT&T vs Verizon vs T-Mobile vs Sprint: Which iPhone 5 carrier should you choose?

If you're in the U.S. it's probably not so easy deciding which carrier is best for your iPhone 5 needs, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile. Price is always a huge factor to consider when choosing a carrier, but coverage should be just as, if not more, important when making a decision. Since the iPhone 5 supports LTE cellular technology, you're going to want to take a close look at which carriers offer the best LTE coverage in your area. Then there's the matter of simultaneous voice and data -- AT&T and T-Mobile can do it over HSPA data, but Sprint and Verizon need Wi-Fi. And don't forget international roaming. Here's the complete breakdown:

Apple Store vs. other stores: Where should you buy?

So now that you know what you're getting, how about where? Carrier compatibility aside, the iPhone you get will be the same, but the customer service you receive can vary greatly. Also, if you have specific loyalty rewards at a certain carrier or company, that can change the deal you get.

  • Apple Retail: 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 your new iPhone 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. (Though your carrier discounts can still apply.
  • Apple Online: 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. If there are any shortages or shipping delays, you can still order and they'll get it out to you as soon as stock allows. Also, in some countries, Apple Online is the only places where you can get full price, officially unlocked iPhones if that's an option you want. (Which can be handy for frequent international travelers.)
  • Carrier stores and big box retailers: If you want brick-and-morter but don't have an Apple Store nearby, 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. (Many are also taking a page from Apple and upping their customer experience.) 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.

How to sell your old phone before upgrading to the iPhone 5

How to sell your old phone before upgrading to the iPhone 5

Selling your old iPhone (or any old phone) can help offset some, if not all of the cost, of a new iPhone, especially if you're not yet eligible for an upgrade and have to pay a premium. Odds are you've already decided which capacity and color you'll be getting when the iPhone 5 drops so you have some idea of how much money you need to get out of your current iPhone to cover the purchase.

So if you don't fancy handing it down for free to a family member or using it as a backup phone, we can guide you in the right direction when it comes to selling your old iPhone and getting top dollar for it.

iPhone 5 user guides

Once you've bought your new iPhone, it's time to enjoy. Here's how to set it up with iCloud over-the-air (OTA), including updates, backups, security, music and media, and apps and games, how to get Siri up and running and assisting you, and how to get started with your iPhone camera.

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How to get more help with your iPhone

No article can cover every detail or address every unique circumstance or concern. Luckily iMore also hosts the iPhone Forums, a vast community where users can ask questions, give feedback, and get help.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.