Trying to Decide Between an iPhone 4 and 4S?

A friend called me on the phone over the weekend and hit me up about which type of iPhone he should buy. He was leaning toward the $99 8gb iPhone 4—which is a hell of a good deal, certainly—but wanted to make sure he wasn’t missing out on cool new stuff by passing on the $199 16gb iPhone 4S. I could tell by the tone of his voice that selling him on the idea that the extra hundred clams was worth it was going to be difficult, so I recommended he follow his gut.

I now realize that I should have pushed harder for him to pick up the 4S. Now, I’m going to try to make the case that the extra money up front, while possibly a deal-breaker for some, shouldn’t be seen as a bigger deal than it really is. I don’t think it’s any question that the iPhone 4S is a better phone than the iPhone 4 (at least, in terms of specs), so it’s just a matter of money.

Here are some back-of-the-envelope calculations regarding the iPhone 4S pricing. For the purposes of this exercise, we’re going to assume that the monthly bill for an iPhone (including data, voice and no overages or taxes) is $79. I’m sure that price varies around the world and between carriers, but not so much as to deflate my point.

24 months of iPhone service at $79: $1896

  • Total cost of owning an iPhone 4: $1896 + $99 = $1995
  • Total cost of owning an iPhone 4S (16gb): $1896 + $199 = $2095

So, the moral of the story is that it will cost you an additional 5% of the total cost of owning the iPhone 4 to get the better phone. That breaks down to around $4 extra per month of your contract.

In other words, when you consider it as part of the total cost of owning an iPhone, the extra $100 paid for the newer phone is a negligible expense. Of course, not everybody can come up with the dough to do it and I’m sensitive to that; my point is this:

The iPhone 4S is a superior phone that will cost you substantially less than you think in the long run and is worth the extra dough up front, if you can swing it.

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