This a simple guide to Apple’s latest iPhone for consumers who may be interested in purchasing their first iPhone or upgrading from a previous model. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, and his colleagues spent nearly two hours on stage talking about the new iPhone and applications that run on it yesterday, so there’s little wonder that there’s a lot of information to wade through.
I’ve been asked countless times by friends and relatives over the past couple of days about the new iPhone and whether or not they should buy one. Here’s a collection of the most commonly asked questions and my answers. This guide is designed to be easily readable by average consumers. You can click through to the articles at the end of each answer for more detailed and technical information.
What’s so great about the new iPhone?
The new iPhone has a lot of improvements that may be attractive depending on your needs. Here are a few key features:
- The display is sharper, making pictures and videos look better. It will also be easier to read text.
- The camera on the back of the iPhone 4 has been significantly improved. It can now take 5-megapixel photos and HD video. The photo quality still won’t be as good as most point and shoot cameras, but it will now be very convenient to send high-quality photos and video clips to friends and family. There’s also a low-powered flash on the back of the iPhone for the first time so you can finally take a decent picture in low light.
- There is now a front-facing camera that will come in handy to take self-portraits. It’s of lower quality than the one found on the back, but is conveniently placed for functions such as video chatting.
- The new iPhone 4 will come preloaded with new software that will allow you to run applications in the background. For example, you can listen to Pandora radio while browsing the Internet. Previously, you could only listen to songs from your iTunes library while using other applications. The new software, called iOS4, will be available to install on the iPhone 3GS. So you don’t have to buy a new phone to get this functionality.
- One common complaint about the iPhone is that its battery doesn’t last long enough. The new iPhone 4 has a slightly larger battery and is more efficient. This means it’s rated to last up to 40% longer than older models. However, your mileage will vary depending on what kind of applications you use, how strong your AT&T signal is where you live and other factors.
- The iPhone 4 is the thinnest smartphone on the market, which means it will slip into your pocket easier. It will feel a lot more like the iPod Touch than the iPhone 3GS.
- A lot of people are excited about a new video calling feature called FaceTime. You will be able to place video calls with other iPhone 4 owners, but you need to be connected to a WiFi network. It does NOT work when you’re on AT&T’s mobile network. For now, you’ll only be able to call others with iPhone 4’s.
Here is Apple’s marketing video about the iPhone 4. Apple’s known for hyperbole when it comes to describing some aspects of their ‘magical’ devices, so take the scripted commentary with a grain of salt.
Here’s a more detailed guide to the iPhone’s new features.
Can it hold more movies and songs than my old iPhone?
It depends. Apple will be selling both 16GB and 32GB models, which are the same sizes as what was offered in the iPhone 3GS. The iPhone 3G, which was released in 2008, came with either 8GB or 16GB of room for your music, apps, photos and video. I recommend buying the 32GB version since the new iPhone has more video features, including HD video, which takes up a ton of space.
When can I buy a new iPhone?
The iPhone 4 will go on sale on June 24, but you can pre-order starting on June 15 from Apple.com and ATTWireless.com. If you know you want to buy one, I suggest pre-ordering it. There’s absolutely no need to camp overnight in front of an Apple store unless you’re a real geek that considers that sort of thing fun. There’s no telling if Apple will have plenty on hand the days and weeks after the launch though. After the initial launch on June 24, Apple will quickly release it in a total of 88 countries over the next three months. After the initial rollout iPhone 4’s will be a dime a dozen. So if you’re not in a hurry to get one don’t fret.
The iPhone 4 will also be sold by Apple partners such as Best Buy and Walmart, but they have not announced when those partners will actually have them for sale.
How much does the new iPhone cost?
The new iPhone is priced at $199 for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB model. This advertised price is for new AT&T customers and eligible AT&T customers who agree to a new two-year contract. If you’re already an AT&T subscriber and aren’t eligible for an upgrade, you can buy an iPhone for its unsubsidized price of $499 (16GB) or $599 (32GB). Some AT&T customers may be eligible for a partial discount.
If you’re new to the iPhone, or smartphones in general, that the total cost of ownership is much higher than some expect. Here’s a guide I wrote about the cost of owning an iPhone 4.
How do I know if I’m eligible to upgrade now?
You can visit ATTWireless.com and login to your account. From there, select ‘Upgrade’ from the menu across the top. It will list each phone line on your account and whether or not you’re eligible for an upgrade. If you already have an iPhone, simply place a phone call from it to *639#. AT&T will send you a message with the info. Be sure to do this from each iPhone on your account as AT&T evaluates each phone, not each account. If your contract expires anytime in 2010 you will be eligible for the $199/$299 upgrade prices. If you pay more than $100 per line in services (like I do), you may be eligible for an early upgrade even if your current contract expires sometime in 2011.
You can find a full explanation of the simplest way to check for iPhone upgrade eligibility here.
Is it true that AT&T’s raising the price for 3G on the new iPhone?
Yes and No. Current iPhone subscribers pay $30 per month for unlimited data and will be able to keep this plan if they wish. New subscribers must choose between a $15 per month and $25 per month data plan. The cheaper plan only includes 250MB of 3G service per month. The $25 per month plan includes 2GB of 3G data per month. If you go over these limits you’ll be charged $10 and receive an additional 250MB (if you’re on the cheaper plan) and 1GB (if you’re on the more expensive plan). The amount of data used is only calculated based on your time on AT&T’s wireless network, not on how much you download using your home’s WiFi connection or any of AT&T’s wireless hotspots, which can be found at thousands of locations such as Starbucks locations.
Existing customers can downgrade to a cheaper plan, but be warned that once you do so you’ll never be allowed to get an unlimited data plan again. AT&T is clamping down to lighten the load on its network. Many features, including streaming video apps and apps that stream music in the background will eat through the 250MB and 2GB limits quickly if you’re not on a WiFi network.
Here’s a complete guide to AT&T’s iPhone data plan pricing.
Will the new iPhone 4 drop fewer calls?
The side edges of the new iPhone are big giant antennae that are designed to improve wireless reception. Of course nobody has any real-world experience yet except for select Apple and AT&T employees. If you live in an area with poor AT&T reception you shouldn’t expect any miracles, but you may notice fewer dropped and garbled calls if you live on the edge of good/bad AT&T signals.
Here’s some additional information about the iPhone 4’s antennae and reception.
Is it true Steve Jobs couldn’t get the iPhone to work at that conference?
Steve Jobs had an embarrassing moment at the Apple conference when he couldn’t get the NYTimes.com to load on the iPhone 4. Some people have erroneously blamed this on AT&T’s network. While AT&T is weak in many parts of San Francisco, Steve Jobs was actually having trouble connecting to a WiFi network at the Moscone Center. Part of the problem was that there were literally hundreds of people in the same room using WiFi routers and laptops, creating a lot of interference. The snafu you may have seen on the 11 o’clock news is not indicative of the iPhone 4’s performance or Steve Jobs’ ability to get it to work.
You can watch a video of Steve Jobs’ iPhone 4 SNAFU here.
Can I use my iPhone 3G/3GS Accessories with the iPhone 4 or do I need new ones?
The iPhone 4 is slimmer than previous models and has hard corners rather than the curved edges we’ve seen on the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS. This means the iPhone 4 won’t fit in old iPhone cases, including those that doubled as extended batteries. The bad news is you will need to spend some cash to re-buy accessories. On a positive note, the dock connector that you use to charge and sync your iPhone remains the same. This means your iPhone speakers, car kits and alarm clocks will all function fine with the iPhone 4. Likewise, your Bluetooth and wired headsets will work with the iPhone 4. The only issue you may have is if you have older wired headphone sets that lack the 3-button controls. They will still work, but you won’t have all the functionality, such as volume control, found with the new iPhone headsets and newer premium headsets.
Apple will be selling a Bumper iPhone case starting this month. Many other companies will also sell compatible cases.
So should I buy one?
If you like your existing iPhone and don’t mind extending your two-year contract the short answer is YES. The bulk of the cost of owning an iPhone is in service fees and applications, not in the purchase price. If you’re going to pay AT&T’s numerous fees you might as well have the best hardware available.
If you are dissatisfied with AT&T’s network and/or your existing iPhone the short answer is MAYBE. Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile all offer competitive products such as the EVO 4G, Nexus One and Droid Incredible. These ‘Android phones’ are powered by Google software and are quickly gaining in popularity.
If you are short on cash or really don’t like a lot of aspects about your current iPhone answer is NO. While there are hundreds of improvements packed into the iPhone’s hardware and software, the iPhone 4 is an evolution of its predecessors. It is not an all-new product despite what some may claim.
If I buy one can I get something for my old one by trading it in or selling it?
Yes, there are several web sites that will buy your old iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS for a pretty penny. For example, Gazelle.com is buying my iPhone 3GS for $274 and my wife’s iPhone for $126. I’ve found it much simpler to sell old gear to Gazelle.com than deal with individuals on eBay and Craigslist. Gazelle will send you a pre-paid box for your old iPhone. Once you send it back they’ll send your payment by check, PayPal or gift card. Services like Gazelle.com refurbish your old iPhones and sell them without contracts at a profit. If you sell now, you have 30 days to turn in your old phone, which is plenty of time to get your new phone.
What about all of my old apps and data?
All you need to do is synchronize your old iPhone with your Mac or PC. Then, plug your new iPhone in. iTunes will ask you if you’d like to restore your old iPhone’s data. It is a painless process and all of your apps, contacts and data will be right where you expected. Be sure to wipe your old iPhone of its data before you sell it or give it away.
Are you buying a new iPhone?
Yes, I plan on ordering one for myself and one for my wife. I’m not completely satisfied with AT&T’s network, but the company is making steady (albeit slow) improvements to its network. To help alleviate my frustrations with the network I have a BlackBerry that I carry for placing calls and a Sprint MiFi mobile hotspot to get online when AT&T is missing in action. I also use Google Voice to route calls to my landlines since AT&T is spotty in my neighborhood. Selling the old iPhones to Gazelle will offset most of the cost of the upgrade.
Like I mentioned, I’ve been asked the above questions countless times by friends, family and readers over the past few days. If you have any more questions about the iPhone 4, feel free to ask in the comments sections and the Notebooks.com team will be glad to answer them by adding to this article.