A lot of people will be upgrading to the iPhone 5 from their old 3GS or earlier iPhone. iPhone 4 owners will probably be easily persuaded, too. But Apple's iPhone evolution usually allows owners to skip a generation without too much worry – so if you have a iPhone 4S, either on contract or bought outright, should you upgrade to the iPhone 5? Updated on 18/09/12
It's a tricky and interesting question to answer and no doubt why you have ended up here looking for some help or even an outright answer. Everyone's situation will vary, from mid-contract to SIM-free, so we can't give tailored advice but the following will be food for thought.
We'll split the article up into reasons for and against upgrading from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5. Some elements will appear under both categories since they have both pros and cons to them.
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Reasons to upgrade to the iPhone 5
For the first time, Apple has increased the size of the iPhone's screen. It's 4in compared to 3.5in, therefore it has more space for content. Possibly more important is the fact it has a 16:9 ratio rather than Apple's favoured 3:2 making it more suitable for movies and TV.
"For big-time entertainment, iPhone 5 lets you watch widescreen HD video in all its glory — without letterboxing." said Apple.
The iPhone 5 has an A6 processor, as we predicted. This is, as you would expect, faster than the A5 chip found in the iPhone 4S. According to Apple, it's twice as fast in both processing power and graphics. In theory this means you can doing things quicker, like open apps and browse the web and get higher frame rates for gaming.
Thinner and lighter
It was a bit disappointing when the iPhone 4S used the same design as the iPhone 4. But the iPhone 5 is both thinner and lighter than the 4S. It's 18 percent thinner at 7.6mm and 20 percent lighter at 112g. Despite the larger screen, the total volume of the phone is 12 percent less than the iPhone 4S.
4G mobile broadband
The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone to support 4G in the UK. Faster mobile broadband on-the-go is a good reason to upgrade. The small problem with this at the moment is that 4G hasn't launched in the UK yet so you'll have to wait a while. It's also worth noting that EE will be the only network able to offer 4G services for iPhone 5 users for around a year. And there's even worse news for O2 and Vodafone iPhone users – see later.
Thanks partly to the A6 processor, the iPhone 5 offers better battery life than the 4S so this is a good reason to make the jump. Apple says you'll get an hour browsing the web over Wi-Fi, an extra two hours over 3G plus 25 more hours of standby time.
Although the iPhone 5 costs a little more than your old iPhone 4 or 4S did, you can help pay for the upgrade by selling your old iPhone. You're likely to get aaround £150 for an iPhone 4 in good condition, and over £200 for an iPhone 4S. iPhone 3GS owners could get up to £100 for their ancient technology.
The latest thing
Unlike the iPhone 4 vs 4S, it's now more obvious you have the latest iPhone. So if you simply want to be seen with the latest device, it makes sense to upgrade.
Reasons not to upgrade to the iPhone 5
Software - iOS 6
If you want the latest software features, you will get them on the iPhone 4S. In fact you'll get iOS 6 on 19 September, before the iPhone 5 even hits the shelves. Previous iPhones have had exclusive features, Siri on the iPhone 4S for example, but the iPhone 5 doesn't get any exclusives.
The iPhone 4 isn't quite so lucky. You can install iOS 6 on the iPhone 4, but you'll lack: turn-by-turn navigation and flyover in Maps, Siri, FaceTime over 3G, and Panorama
iOS 6 won't work with the original iPhone or the iPhone 3G. On the iPhone 3GS, these iOS 6 features won't work: turn-by-turn navigation and flyover in Maps, shared Photo Streams, FaceTime, Siri, Panorama photography mode, and Offline Reading List.
We've listed the screen as a reason to not upgrade because you might be so used to the classic 3.5in size that you don't want a larger screen. After all, some content on the iPhone 5, such as the App Store and photos, will be displayed centred with black borders around it.
If you're still in the middle of a contract on the iPhone 4S then this could be a reason not to upgrade. Since the contract is a legal agreement you could be charged for ending it early. It's always worth speaking to your mobile operator to discuss an early upgrade.
We mentioned 4G as a reason to upgrade but it's also a reason you might want to hold off. The bottom line is that EE will be the only 4G provider for the foreseeable future. Orange and T-Mobile customers will be able to upgrade easily since they are owned by EE.
However, other networks, including Three, O2 and Vodafone, won't be able to provide 4G until the latter part of next year, as it stand at the moment. There's also the important point that the iPhone 5 won't work on O2 or Vodafone's 4G networks even when they are rolled out.
Furthermore, 4G will be rolled out gradually over the coming months and only in certain cities, so you'll be stuck with 3G unless you're in an area with 4G coverage. If you don't live or work in one of the 4G cities, it's pretty pointless paying for it.
So, if you don't fancy moving to EE to get your 4G then it's best to wait until around this time next year for a bigger choice, and probably a new iPhone that supports more 4G spectrums.
If you don't use any intensive apps on your iPhone then you probably won't notice the difference between the A5 and A6 chips. You won't need the extra processing power and after all, the 4S is capable phone so we're sure it will run iOS 6 smoothly.
The iPhone 5 uses a smaller docking connector called Lightning. This means your existing accessories will need an adaptor, which costs £25 at the least. Each. There's also a chance that your accessories won't even work with the iPhone 5.
We do expect cheaper Lightning adaptors to become available via Hong Kong eBay sellers in the weeks after the iPhone 5's launch, however. That said any adaptor, even one designed by Apple, is going to spoil the look of your beloved accessories.
There as been no big improvements to the camera - it's a marginal upgrade. The iPhone 5's Sapphire lens should produce sharper images, and work better in low light conditions. The front camera is better, but not a reason in itself to upgrade unless your phone is your main camera and you take a lot of snaps. See our iPhone 5 vs iPhone 4S comparison for more details.
Wideband audio (HD voice)
In order to benefit from HD voice calls, both of users need to be using phones which support it, and also a network that supports it. So, for most of the time, even if you have an iPhone 5, you won’t benefit from HD voice calls.
Software - iTunes 10.7
Owners of very old Macs have a problem: The iPhone 5 requires iTunes 10.7, which doesn't work with PowerPC-based Macs – only Macs with Intel processors. (The same is true for new 5G iPod touch and 7G iPod nanos, which also require iTunes 10.7.)
Why? Because iTunes 10.7 requires OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, which was the first version of Mac OS X with no support for PowerPC Macs. iTunes 10.7 can go as far back as Windows XP Service Pack 2 on the PC side.
That said, people desiring the iPhone 5 will most likely have an up-to-date desktop or laptop computer. The last PowerPC Mac was sold in August 2006 – before the iPhone even existed!
Storage remains the same
The iPhone 5 comes with the same non-expandable 16/32/64GB storage capacities as the iPhone 4S. Apple also sells an 8GB iPhone 4 if you're really pinched for cash and don't download much.
Better earphones available separately
The iPhone 5 comes with Apple's new EarPods, which are a snugger fit in the ear, leak less noise (great for commuters) and offer better sound quality. Read our Apple EarPods review. But you can buy these separately for £25 so you don't need to change your whole phone to get better headphones.
Accessories won't fit
We've mentioned the need for not-exactly-cheap dock adaptors for your speakers, keyboards, in-car iPhone gadgets and other accessories, due to the iPhone 5's use of the smaller Lightning docking connector. Now consider that expensive leather iPhone 4 or 4S case you own. Where you could slip a 4S into an iPhone 4 case, you'll need to replace it for the iPhone 5. Or maybe you use a Mophie battery pack case that will require buying all over again – even if the iPhone 5's battery life is improved, your ability to keep it charged is just as flawed as it was beforehand.
The iPhone 5 doesn't support near-field communications (NFC) technology. This means that it can't be used as a digital wallet for contactless payments in stores. NFC can also be used to share information between devices and pair accessories quickly. See: iPhone 5 - why no NFC?
Apple doesn't seem to think users need or want NFC for these purposes and instead Passbook in iOS 6 does a similar job. You might disagree with Apple and really want to use your phone for making payments and such like. This is why it might be a reason for you not to upgrade.
So should you upgrade to the iPhone 5?
Got an original iPhone, iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS? Upgrade.
Got an iPhone 4? The above reasons to upgrade are compelling – unless it's the 4G you're after and you're in contract with O2 or Vodafone. But the iPhone 4 remains a powerful smartphone. Indeed Apple's still selling a version.
The upgrade from an iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 is, however, a tough call and will depend on your situation.
Key things to consider are whether the iPhone 5 features will benefit you and whether it's worth the hassle of changing contracts or even mobile operators, plus the many thorny issues surrounding 4G.