There are a lot of decisions involved when it comes to buying or upgrading to a new phone, especially a new iPhone. Which model? High-end or less-expensive? Which color? There are a lot to choose from this year! Which capacity? Keep it small or go all out? And on which carrier? There's never been more to choose from! Then there's when to buy and where, and host of other small but important things to consider, including, what do you do with your old phone when your hot new one arrives?
Enter iMore's 2013 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 5s and iPhone 5c buyers guide podcast
Rene, Peter, and Richard talk everything about Apple's new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, including iPhone vs. other phones, iPhone 5s vs. iPhone 5c, color, capacity, carriers, and more! If you'd rather watch or listen before you read, start here!
Since its introduction in 2007 the iPhone has improved steadily over the years, adding higher density, bigger displays, faster Wi-Fi and cellular networking, better cameras, and new features like Siri and Touch ID. The above chart shows the evolution of the iPhone from the original to the latest iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, including pricing and capacity at launch. While what you paid for it when you got it might vary, you can check your current model and see how it compares to the ones available now.
iPhone vs. Android vs. BlackBerry vs. Windows Phone: Which phone should you get?
While everyone here at iMore certainly believes the iPhone is still the best phone for most people, most of the time, we're lucky that every major platform now has one or more great phones for us to choose from as well. The iPhone may have the best overall user experience, the highest quality apps and games, the widest range of services, the biggest selection of accessories, and the best customer support, but there are also things the iPhone doesn't offer that other phones do, like much larger screens, physical keyboards, high power cameras, greater hardware options, or simply no Apple about them. How do you know which one is for you? Keep reading!
If you're considering any other, specific phones:
- Apple iPhone 5s vs. Samsung Galaxy S4: Which phone should you get?
- Apple iPhone 5s vs. HTC One: Which phone should you get?
Now vs. later: When should you get an iPhone?
Once you've decided to get an iPhone, you may be wondering when exactly you should get it? Apple releases new iPhones every year, so should you buy now or wait and and hopefully get more bang for your buck with the next one?
- Buy in the fall: Time was, Apple announced and released new iPhones late June or early July. 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 any time soon. So, if you're reading this in in the late fall or early winter, a new iPhone has likely 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 early fall, Apple is probably just about to announce another new iPhone. 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 as the old one but included substantially improved hardware. At the same time, older models have been dropped in price so you can get them for less. Keep iMore's iPhone page bookmarked for the latest news and updates on Apple's latest, new iPhones.
- In between, buy when you need: If you're reading this in the spring 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, 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. And again, keep iMore's iPhone page bookmarked!
iPhone 5s vs. iPhone 5c vs. iPhone 4s: Which iPhone model should you get?
Once you know you're getting an iPhone and now, you need to decide which iPhone you want to get. While some might consider the the latest, greatest iPhone 5s a no brainer when it comes to their next purchasing decision, others might think the funner, less expensive iPhone 5c, or even the hold-over iPhone 4s is a much better value. If you're on-contract, you'll be paying a couple thousand dollars over the next couple of years anyway, so a few hundred for up-front may not matter to you. However, if you don't have that couple extra hundred up front, especially if you're going off-contract, up-front cost really will matter. It's important to really run the math on this and see what suits you best. So, premium, popular, or passé, which one should you get?
- iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c: Should you upgrade?
- iPhone 5s vs. iPhone 5c vs. iPhone 4s: Which iPhone model should you get?
Gold vs. silver vs. space gray: Which iPhone 5s color should you get?
Color is one of the most visually distinctive - and personal - things about a new iPhone, which makes it one of the most important choices you'll have to make. Originally there was only one color, aluminum and black, but Apple eventually went to black and white, and now they're offering three choices for their high-end iPhone 5s: silver and gold, silver and white, and space gray and black. (The space gray and black replaces last year's slate and black, likely because it's an easier color to anodize). If you're on the fence about which color you should get, here's what you should consider.
Green vs. blue vs. yellow vs. pink vs. white: Which iPhone 5c color should get?
More than any iPhone in history, the iPhone 5c is all about color and personality. It comes in hard coated polycarbonate - think plastic, but way classier! - in fun, vibrant shades of green, blue, yellow, pink and white. Color is so personal, so distinctive, but more colors mean more to choose from, and can also mean a more difficult choice! If you're having trouble picking your particular spot on the iPhone 5c rainbow, we're here to help!
16GB, 32GB, or 64GB: Which iPhone 5s storage size should you get?
One of the biggest decisions you have to make - literally! - when it comes to buying your new iPhone is how much storage capacity you get. The way Apple's pricing works, you get double the storage for every extra $100 your spend, which isn't really as straightforward a deal as it seems. While the iPhone 5c only has 16GB and 32GB options, the iPhone 5s has a 64GB option as well. Get more capacity than you need and you'll waste some money. Get too little and you'll experience no end of frustration. So, it's really important to weigh all the options and figure out the best price/storage ratio. Here's how it works!
Speed vs. reliability vs. value: Which iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c carrier should you get?
AT&T vs. Verizon vs. Sprint vs. T-Mobile in the U.S. Rogers vs. Bell vs. TELUS in Canada. Three vs O2 vs EE vs Vodafone in the U.K. And many more around the world. Then there are various discount carriers, regionals, and MVNOs. It's a mess! How do you know which carrier will give you the fastest data speeds, or the most reliable connections, or simply the best value for your money? It all comes down to where you live, work, or go to school, and what options work best in your specific area. However, there's a lot of broad generalities that can apply. Here are some of the most important, broken down by country!
- Verizon vs AT&T vs Sprint vs T-Mobile: Which iPhone 5c/iPhone 5s carrier should you choose?
- Rogers vs. Bell vs. TELUS: Which Canadian iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c carrier should you get?
- Three vs O2 vs EE vs Vodafone: Which UK iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c carrier should you get?
Apple Store vs. other stores: Where should you buy your iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s?
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.
AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c protection plan should you get?
One of the last things you have to decide on when buying a new iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c is whether or not to pony up for the optional AppleCare+ protection plan. It's an additional $99 but it gives you an extra year's warranty as well as a much lower deductible if you damage and need to replace your iPhone. If you're not buying from Apple directly, you might also have the option of getting retailer, carrier, or other third-party insurance. And, of course, you have the option of getting nothing at all. Before deciding which is the best choice for you, here are some factors to consider!
Bonus: How to get the most money for your old iPhone before upgrading to a new iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c
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.
Need more help?
If there's any detail you're still not 100% sure about, or any question you'd still love to get answered before you buy your brand new iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s, we have fantastic information pages that are always kept up-to-the-minute, and amazing community forums filled with experts for you to talk with. Bookmark them and check back often! And once you've decided, let us know in the comments - which iPhone did you get and why?
- iPhone 5s: Everything you need to know
- iPhone 5s: Help and discussion forum
- iPhone 5c: Everything you need to know
- iPhone 5c: Help and discussion forums
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
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.