The Ultimate iPhone Buyer’s Guide

The iPhone 4S was announced last week at a special invitation Apple event. This announcement made some individuals immediately make plans to go for an upgrade. However, new customers and those stuck in contracts are given a new dilemma, which iPhone should they upgrade to. The current situation has made the iPhone an affordable option for almost any individual. While each iPhone has their share of advantages, they all have their choice of disadvantages as well. Today, we are putting bias aside, comparing each part of the purchasing options, and allowing you to make the best decision.

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As a customer, you are presented with three options. You have the newest option, the iPhone 4S, the middle option of the iPhone 4, and the free option of the iPhone 3GS. On one hand, the enticement of paying less up front is what may pull you to a cheaper device, you must still think about the future. After a while, certain devices aren’t going to be covered for updates. This is Apple’s nice little nudge telling you to get off the couch and wait in line for the next iPhone. At the moment, the iPhone 3G and first generation iPhones are discontinued officially. The iPhone 3GS, the free model, is on the cutting block.

As much as it hurts me to say it, don’t go free. This is a device that will bring buyers remorse (yes, even if it’s free) by next year and you’ll feel like you’ve wasted your time. Now we have the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S to choose from. While these are both the same devices with different guts, unless you already have an iPhone 4, I feel the 4S is the best choice. iPhone 4 users feeling the need to pay $649 for an unlocked iPhone 4S should sit back for a couple of months, your device still isn’t that old.

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Now that you have chosen to get the iPhone 4S, it’s now time to see how much memory you’ll need stuffed in it. With the iPhone 4S, you have three choices. The iPhone 4S allows you to purchase a 16GB, 32GB, or a 64GB model. I already can see the mouths water over a 64GB iPhone 4S, I will tell you right now to forget about getting it. There are very few people that will need a 64GB iPhone, this isn’t your sole gadget we are talking about. Chances are, you have an iPod of some type, and will take advantage of the Cloud, so don’t waste the $200. I only recommend 32GB with a little squirm because most likely you have been able to survive with 16GB this long, why make the change? If you are an app fanatic, consider doing away with unnecessary applications. If your apps still are a squeeze on 16GB, then consider a 32GB model. Otherwise, 16GB is ample space for the average consumer.

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Some individuals are lucky enough to have a service provider they are happy with. However, many other customers feel that an end to their contract is the perfect opportunity to run away from their service provider and never look back. But you must remember that choosing a service provider is harder than you think. This is a legal contract you’ll be signed into for two years, this is the real pocket emptier. There are three choices you have as a prospective iPhone customer, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. Each have their own strengths and faults, however, most faults are deal breakers for some people, so it’s important to take a look at them.

The first topic to consider is data. This is a requirement for all iPhone devices. If you are new and need unlimited data, Sprint is your only option. AT&T and Verizon only has unlimited data for individuals grandfathered in the plan. If you want the fastest service provider, AT&T is scientifically the right choice. AT&T has on average 1410 kbps or speed, Verizon has 877 kbps, and Sprint only has 795 kbps of download speed. If you want to surf and talk at the same time (an ability I use regularly with my AT&T service), then AT&T is the only option for talk and browsing at the same time.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you want the cheapest plan out there, then Sprint is the best option. Their “unlimited everything” $99/month plan is amazing. You get unlimited talk, text, and calling for only $89/month, when you add in the $10 smartphone fee, you have unlimited everything for under $100.

Best in Devices: iPhone 4S (Best all Around), iPhone 4 (Close 2nd Money Saver)

The iPhone 4S is your best option truthfully. You have the newest, future proof device at a reasonable price. If you don’t have enough for the iPhone 4S, save up for it. If are too anxious to wait for an iPhone, there is still the iPhone 4 option that I highly recommend as a second. My view of the iPhone’s evolution is that if it was the hot item a year ago, it’s still a hot item now. You’ll miss out on Siri, the speed, and an amazing camera, but you can just get a point and shoot if you don’t want to feel left out.

Best in Storage: 16GB (Everyday User), 32GB (App-Addict)

The everyday user will feel that 16GB is just enough for them. 32GB are for app hungry users that use their iPhone for everything. It is also a great future proof choice. However, 64GB is an option that very few people will need and for that reason I don’t recommend it. $399 for 64GB is a money waster and you won’t even use half of it if you use your iPhone for average tasks.

Best in Providers: Personal Discretion (Read on)

Providers is a choice I can’t make blindly for you all, sorry. If you are already with a provider you like, stick with them. If you are a traveler, you’ll always be guaranteed 3G with Verizon, but you can’t surf and talk with it. AT&T is a horrible service provider according to user experience surveys, but it’s the fastest. Sprint is the new kid on the scene, but it’s the cheapest out there. I recommend weighing your options because neither of the providers will be the perfect one.

Image credit: Yutaka Tsutano