10 Things You Should Know Before Buying iPhone 4

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-06-10

10 Things You Should Know Before Buying iPhone 4

With Apple's iPhone 4 just a few weeks away, it's time for consumers and enterprise customers to decide if the device is worth buying. Making that decision is getting more difficult. Years ago, the iPhone was the only "next-gen" smartphone on the market.

If consumers wanted to be able to use their fingers to control the device and have access to an App Store to extend its functionality, the iPhone was the way to go. But today, with stiff competition from Google, HTC, RIM and so many other major players in the mobile market, consumers have many more alternatives to choose from.

Realizing that, it's important for customers to be as informed as possible before they head out to the store on June 24 and pick up an iPhone 4. That means that they should evaluate alternatives, realize that the iPhone 4 has some shortcomings, and determine if some future products that will be hitting store shelves later this year might attract them more than those devices that are already available. These are some things that customers need to know before they pick up an iPhone 4.

1. Alternatives are awfully nice

Whether it's the HTC Droid Incredible or the Sprint Evo 4G, there are some outstanding alternatives to the iPhone 4 on the market. For example, the HTC Droid Incredible currently boasts Android OS and features an 8-megapixel camera. It runs on Verizon's network, which should make those who don't like AT&T or its service happy. The Sprint Evo 4G might not have all the bells and whistles that consumers have to come to expect from the iPhone, but it runs on the ultra-high-speed 4G network. Unfortunately, 4G isn't nearly as ubiquitous as it could be, but if the Evo does well, the technology should be available in many more places in the coming months and years.

2. AT&T's upgrade policy

AT&T's upgrade policy must be understood before consumers head out to the AT&T store to pick up an iPhone 4. According to the carrier, those that have contract-expiration dates that are within six months will be eligible to buy Apple's latest smartphone for the advertised prices of $199 and $299. Those that want an iPhone 4, but are not within the six-month period, will be required to pay $399 or $499 for a 16GB or 32GB iPhone 4, respectively. Also worth noting: AT&T subscribers that currently don't have an iPhone are not able to capitalize on AT&T's six-month waiver.

3. Data caps are in place

AT&T's new caps on data are officially in place. It's important for customers to remember that when deciding if the iPhone 4 is really for them. AT&T now charges $15 per month for 200MB of monthly data. The carrier charges $25 per month for 2GB of data. Those that wish to add more data to a 200MB plan during a month will be forced to pay another $15 to do so. Although many folks won't use up 2GB of data in a month, those that wish to have unlimited data can either stay in their current AT&T iPhone plan or opt for another carrier. Currently, Verizon Wireless and most of AT&T's competition offer unlimited plans.

4. Android is coming to AT&T

A key issue for AT&T is that it doesn't have any Android-based devices available. But they are coming. That's an important milestone for the company. After all, Android outsold the iPhone in the first quarter of 2010. And although that trend may or may not continue, Google's success in the mobile market is making it clear that it's here to stay. Plus, customers are starting to warm up to it. Too often, the issue of availability focuses on the iPhone not being available on Verizon's network. When will that attention shift to Android and the fact that it isn't available to AT&T customers?  Android is coming to AT&T. And for those folks that have been waiting to get their hands on Google's operating system, it might be worth waiting for.

The iPhone 3GS Is a Bargain by Comparison

5. The iPad is now a competitor

Apple has gone out of its way to make sure that customers don't believe that the iPad competes with the iPhone. But it's becoming clear that it just might. After all, how many devices do consumers really need to simply access the Web, check e-mail, and watch videos? As appealing as the iPhone might be, it's a costly product. And aside from placing calls, the iPad can do everything the iPhone 4 can. What it lacks in calling, it makes up for in a larger display and better ease-of-use when sitting on a couch at home. If consumers want the iPhone solely for all the extras, the iPad might be a better bet.

6. Waiting isn't such a bad idea

Reliability is always an issue with new tech products. And although the iPhone 4 is a fourth-generation iPhone, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made it abundantly clear that the latest device in the venerable phone line is one of the biggest upgrades Apple has offered since the iPhone launched. Realizing that, there could be some growing pains with the iPhone 4. As with any newly upgraded product, it's sometimes better to wait and see if early adopters are having trouble with the device before running to the store and picking one up. That's admittedly difficult for tech fanatics, but when it comes to peace of mind, it's typically the best move.

7. Windows Phone 7 is around the corner

Microsoft is way behind in the mobile market. The company has been toiling away with Windows Mobile for far too long. But later this year, Windows Phone 7 devices will start hitting store shelves. And when that happens, consumers will have another option to consider when they decide they want a next-generation smartphone. Granted, Microsoft doesn't have the best track record in the mobile market, but it promises some excitement with Windows Phone 7. And for enterprise customers, being able to integrate a new smartphone with the company computer will likely be much easier with a Windows Phone 7 device than any other product. It's worth considering.

8. The iPhone 3GS isn't a bad alternative

All the attention in the mobile space is being dedicated to the iPhone 4 right now. But that doesn't mean that it's necessarily the best option for Apple customers. Apple's iPhone 3GS is still an outstanding smartphone that will be running iOS 4, the same version of Apple's mobile operating system that will run on iPhone 4. Even better, the device is available for just $99 - a far cry from the $199 and $299 customers will need to pay for Apple's latest smartphone. There is something to be said for buying last year's top iPhone model.

9. Android 2.2 is worth waiting for

Android 2.2 has yet to launch, but already the promise of the platform is enough for some consumers to think twice about buying iPhone 4. Aside from an improved browser, the software will support Flash. That means that those who browse frequently on their smartphones will be able to access practically any Web site on the Internet without worry of some elements of a page not working. That's more than can be said for the iPhone 4, which currently supports HTML 5 and not Flash. Android 2.2 also includes some nice design tweaks that should make Android veterans happy. The iPhone 4 might be nice, but Android 2.2 is just as viable.

10. This is a serious upgrade

As important as it is to know about the alternatives out there that could challenge iPhone 4, it's worth noting that Apple's new smartphone is a major upgrade. And based on what Apple has revealed about the new device, it's the most capable version of the iPhone ever released. That's no small feat. The iPhone 4 features a new, better processor, a stellar design, and the ability (finally) to place video calls from one iPhone 4 to another over Wi-Fi. It's a major step up over the iPhone 3G. Consumers looking to buy an iPhone 4 have a tough decision. But whether they buy a new iPhone or opt for an alternative, they should take their time with their buying decision and be happy with their ultimate choice.

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