10 Things You Should Know Before Buying iPhone 4

News Analysis: The iPhone 4 is scheduled to hit store shelves on June 24. But before that happens, customers will need to evaluate if Apple's new device is really for them. Take a look at 10 things worth considering before deciding if the iPhone 4 is really the right purchase.

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.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...