Which iPhone, which network, and why?This week, Apple announced two new iPhones, and just in case you're thinking that it's time to buy one, we've collected and condensed what we think are the big things to take into consideration when you buy one. From carrier to the actual phones, we'll help you figure out which iPhone is best for you. First up, almost everyone worries about cost, so if that's your big concern, go with either T-Mobile or Sprint. Here's why.
If you're more worried about the monthly cost, but can pay full price for a new iPhone, go with T-Mobile. Apple's offering full-fledged support for the iPhone for the first time, so it's a good time to look at them. If you're more worried about the total, pay a little more per month and sign up with Sprint. You'll get the "subsidized" phone price, but unless you end your contract early, you'll end up saving a few bucks at the end of your contract. T-Mobile and Sprint are also the only two carriers left who offer unlimited data plans, so this is a key concern if you're using a lot of data.
Conversely, all of the savings in the world don't matter if the phone doesn't work when you need it. This has led all of us to scratch our heads. 3G, 4G, LTE, HSDPA, and so on, it's an alphabet soup of standards. Luckily, there are just three letters that you're looking for: LTE. LTE is the high-speed data standard that seems to have won this time around, and if you're looking for the best possible high-speed data, you'll want LTE coverage in your area.
Verizon and AT&T have this covered best, but T-Mobile and Sprint aren't really slouches. For major metropolitan areas, you really should look at your local coverage maps, but more importantly, you should take advantage of any return policies that the carriers offer: if that phone doesn't work in your home, or where you work, then you should look for another carrier.
This actually ties into a slight problem: right now, the Verizon and Sprint iPhones do not support simultaneous voice and data. This isn't always a big deal, but if you're not connected via WiFi where you are, then you can't carry on a conversation while surfing the web. This definitely comes in handy at times, so if that matters to you, then we recommend looking at T-Mobile or AT&T.
That said, if all you want is the fastest LTE, go with AT&T. If you want the most LTE coverage, go with Verizon.
Now, onto the phones! You have three choices: the iPhone 4s for free, the iPhone 5c for $99 and up, and the iPhone 5s for $199 and up.
Right now, the iPhone 4s is the best looking deal: a free iPhone with Siri support, that gorgeous Retina Display, and FaceTime. We don't recommend it unless you're really strapped for cash and want an iPhone no matter what it takes. Why? Well, the iPhone 4s represents a lot of "old technology" in Apple terms.
- The display is the older 3.5-inch Retina Display. It's not a big deal, but that lovely 16:9 display on the iPhone 5, ideal for viewing widescreen content, simply won't be available to you.
- You'll miss out on a couple of the iOS 7 features. Filters in your camera may not matter, but AirDrop is a pretty big improvement, and the 4s doesn't have it.
- Apple's been aggressively phasing out the old 30-pin Dock Connector. Unless you have a lot of 30-pin accessories that you simply can't live without, you're sticking with an older device just to save $99.
- Around this time next year, iOS 8 is almost certain to launch, and your iPhone 4s will miss out on a few more features.
Of course, if you're looking for the latest and greatest, then you're definitely looking at the iPhone 5s. There are a couple of major things going for it, and some minor ones that you might not notice much anyway:
- Touch ID. If you're worried about someone snooping into your phone, this is the big deal of the 5s: the Home button is now also a fingerprint scanner. If you unlock your phone, it'll let you right in. If someone else tries, good luck! They might be able to guess a passcode, but now? They'll need your thumb.
- A brand new camera assembly. If you're looking for a phone with a decent snapshot camera, Apple put a lot of work into this one: With a slow-motion option, software that helps you pick the best possible shot, and a dual-color flash, it's a very good camera.
- The M7 chip. This chip is designed to let your iPhone track movement, acceleration, and jumps and jolts while barely using any power. As Apple noted, the Nike+ Move app can help track your activity throughout the day, so if you're willing to carry your phone as you exercise, this is a pretty handy feature.
- A 64-bit CPU. This is really more of a marketing piece than anything, but the new chip is a lot faster, and a good bit less power-hungry than the old one. Going from 8 hours of talk time to 10 is no laughing matter.
- A new gold color. We're not going to judge: You're carrying this phone for two years, you should pick one that appeals to you!
When it comes to Apple, newer is better, and the iPhone 5s is the way to go if you have to have the latest and greatest, but the iPhone 5c remains a great choice when budget is a concern. You can't go wrong either way.