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iPhoning, the Next Generation

Saturday, November 12, 2011
Diligent readers may recall that, a few years ago, I bought myself an 32 GB iPhone 3GS in white. Shortly after that, I wrote about some of the strengths and weaknesses of the phone and of AT&T's "service". Well, this past week I went out and upgraded to a nice, white iPhone 4S (still the 32 GB model).

my new iPhone 4s

Why upgrade? Truth be told, my 3GS was working just fine. It was still new enough that it could run iOS 5 (which has a ton of improvements that I love), though occasionally it would hiccup or pause if I had too many apps open. I upgraded not just because I wanted some of the new features of the iPhone 4S, but because I was otherwise giving AT&T free money. They subsidize the phone over a 2-year contract with me. Some portion of my bill goes to pay for a new phone; if I hold onto my phone for more than two years and just keep paying on my contract, I'm just giving them free money. That doesn't sit so well with me, since they're making a ton off me anyway.

But here's the thing about my iPhone 4S. It's a fantastic phone, and Apple's done a marvelous job with it. The hardware is solid, the software is great, and, truth be told, it's just about everything I could want in a mobile device.

But...

It's no longer revolutionary. My iPhone 3GS was, for me, a massive technological step forward. It unlocked possibilities I hadn't even considered. The 4S is a fine evolution, but it's no longer earth shattering. It's hasn't changed my life - the 3GS did. I did add to the list of apps I use, but new apps I find truly useful are few and far between.
- I use the Apple Remote app with my Apple TV.
- Google Latitude is still a fun way to share location data with friends, though not too many use it.
- There's a Netflix app now, great for watching Top Gear over the wifi at the gym.
- The PDX Reporter app is a great way for me to report graffiti, potholes, and other city maintenance issues.
- The PDXBus app is invaluable in using Tri-Met to get around.
- Angry Birds, Scrabble, and Peggle are among the few games I've actually purchased.

Still, there are many upgrades. The dual-core A5 processor is quite fast, the retina display is beautiful, the 8 megapixel camera is amazing, the forward-facing phone is handy for Facetime, and I read somewhere that there's an extra accelerometer in the phone for added precision.

Finally, the astute reader might note that the iPhone is now available, in the US, on three different carriers: AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint. Which did I choose? I stayed with AT&T, thought not without considerable deliberation. Given 1) the speed advantage for the iPhone that AT&T offered (since Verizon and Sprint's LTE were not supported in this iteration), 2) the idea that the dual antenna design might resolve some of my connectivity issues with AT&T, and finally 3) that my contract with AT&T has unlimited data at a price I couldn't nearly match on any other service, I opted to stay. Time will tell if I'll regret this.

In conclusion, my iPhone 4S is a great phone. I like how it feels, I like the upgrades that it offers, and I it works well with the rest of my Apple products at home. It just doesn't feel like I'm getting the value for my money that I did when first bought my iPhone 3GS.

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