iPhone 4 or 4S – Which one should you get?

Posted by: Brett

The iPhone was announced and released in October of last year, but with the iPhone 4 still on sale at most retailers, and even Apple stores, some people are not sure which device is for them, or which they should get. It’s an understandable dilemma and if you cannot decide which to get right now, worry not.

Of course any tech geek would urge you to go out to get the latest and greatest by Apple, but not everyone cares about the “latest and greatest”, but rather just want what will fit in with their budget or work best for them. After the break, I’ll weight the pros and cons of both devices compare each aspect of them, as well as offer my own advice to you so you can make your decision. Note that this is not mean to be a review of either device, but merely a comparison between the two.

Internals

Let’s start off with the internals. The iPhone 4S contains Apple’s custom A5 dual-core processor, clocked at 1 GHz and down-clocked to 800 MHz. The iPhone 4 contains Apple’s custom A4 single-core processor, also clocked at 1 GHz and down-clocked to 800 MHz, but running on only one core. In non-technical terms, the aforementioned means that the the iPhone 4S should be somewhat faster than the 4. Apple claims you’ll see a 2x performance increase and 7x graphics increase. Both devices have 512MB of RAM, too. Most average consumers probably won’t notice a performance or graphics increase on a daily basis, but it is there if you’re the type who pays attention to that stuff. Things will just run a lot smoother and launching this will be faster.

The other difference internally is the iPhone 4S comes in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB storage variants. Before the announcement of the 4S, the iPhone 4 did too, but now, only 8GB variants are being sold, and without the ability to insert more memory, 8GB may not be enough for some people. Of course you can still get a 4 that has 16, 32, or 64GB in it online via eBay or Craigslist (or elsewhere), but most retailers are not carrying it anymore with those amounts, so you’ll probably not be able to find it in stores. Some carriers may be selling the device refurbished, though, so that’s another possibility if you want a 4 with more memory. (Note: The iPhone 4 does not have a 64GB capacity variant.) Both have the same Retina display and both have very similar batteries.

Software

Both devices are capable of and currently support the latest software update by Apple, that being iOS 5.0.1. Both devices also encompass the same exact software features apart of iOS 5.0, except for one that is exclusive to the 4S – Siri. Siri is a virtual voice assistant available only on the iPhone 4S (for now, presumably) which uses voice input to complete tasks, such as search the web, send texts, emails, manage your calendar, and more (check out my Siri overview here). Whether Siri is really necessary for most is certainly debatable – some people have said they wanted it at first and never ended up using and some use it daily. Of course, Siri shouldn’t be the only reason you want the 4S, because if that’s the case, the device isn’t for you. Just know, you will not get Siri if you choose to purchase the iPhone 4. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is one of the more cool, gimmicky features of the 4S. In addition, keep in mind that since the 4S has a faster processor, it can handle more, meaning it will likely be supported software-wise longer than the 4, which is nearing 2 years old.

Camera

The camera is one of the more improved aspects of the 4S when compared to the 4. The latter has a 5 megapixel camera and the 4S has an 8 megapixel camera with an f/2.4 aperture, meaning a wider lens opening, allowing for better pictures in low light. In addition, the 4S can record full 1080p HD video, versus it’s predecessor’s 720p capabilities. Video quality isn’t substantially improved, although you can definitely make out a difference, which the new image stabilization helps with. Camera quality is greatly improved, as is the software side of things with additions such as picture editing tools and a grid overlay. Both devices have identical front-facing cameras.

Conclusion

It’s obvious the 4S is better on paper, but what if you didn’t care about that and wanted a 4S without all the extra stuff because you’re on a budget? In this case, the 4 would be for you. It has a decent camera, same build quality as the 4S, a slightly lower quality processor, it runs the same software just as well. You can buy it new from Apple, AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon for roughly $99.99, unless there’s a sale, of course, but that’s the going rate for a new one. Off contract, you’ll have to spend $549.99, so if you’re on a budget, be sure you wait till you’re eligible for an upgrade.

If you’re the type who likes to have the newest iPhone with the latest processor, best iPhone camera, Siri, and everything else that’s new, then I suggest you work for Apple get the 4S right away. In addition, you shouldn’t be on a budget because it’ll run you $199.99, $299.99, or $399.99 for the 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB versions, respectively. If you’re not eligible for an upgrade, they’ll be $649.99, $749.99, and $849.99 respectively. All in all, both are solid phones and each one shines in different aspects. In the end, it’s up to you which device will work out best for you.

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