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Apple has taken the wraps off its new iPhone 5C, but it turns out that the “C” doesn’t stand for cheap. The phone still sells for at least $99 on-contract (for a 16GB version) and off-contract versions are at least $549. Such pricing is far from unheard of in the mobile phone world, of course, but some were hoping (perhaps foolishly) for a new, free on-contract model.

The iPhone 4S has picked up that torch instead. Though ageing, the 4S offers many recent features that have become selling points, including 3D maps, Siri and a great camera. Buyers who want Apple’s quality without the “Apple tax” may find it appealing; but they should also be aware of its disadvantages.

Smaller Screen


The iPhone 4S has a 640×960 “Retina” display How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] These days, people are crazy about the Apple Retina Display. Supposedly, it does wonders! A completely non-pixelated screen? Who would have ever thought?! However, many questions loom the supposedly revolutionary technological advancement. Is it really... Read More , but it’s also the last of the breed to use a 3.5″ 1.5:1 display aspect ratio. Long touted as preferable, Apple finally relented with the larger 4″ widescreen found on the iPhone 5, and the new models have an identically sized screen.

While perhaps a tad more pocketable, the smaller display on the iPhone 4S is not the best for watching video. Most content is formatted for a 16:9 display, so 4S users will see a lot of black bars. Those same bars may also appear in some apps, as most developers will now be targeting the larger screens on the iPhone 5, 5S and 5C.

No Lightning Connector



One of the more controversial changes introduced by the iPhone 5 was the Lightning adapter, a replacement for the older 30-pin Apple Dock connector used on all previous iPhones and iPads, including the iPhone 4S. Anyone who buys the 4S today will be buying a product with an outdated connector, and while there are still plenty of older docks available, new ones are unlikely to come to market.

The new Lightning connection is also simply better. It’s smaller, easier to connect and detach, and can deliver more power (which, in turn, results in a quicker battery recharge). The Lightning port wasn’t game-changing, but the iPhone 4S’ reliance on the older 30-pin connection is another knock against it.

Less Durable Design


The iPhone 4S, as well as the iPhone 4, used a glass-back design unlike anything else available at the time. Apple also touted the glass as highly scratch resistant, a claim that the iPhone 5’s less scratch-resistant back seems to prove.

Unfortunately, whatever protection the 4S gained from scratches may have been paid for by a tendency to shatter when dropped iPhone Screen Broken? Here Are Your Repair Options iPhone Screen Broken? Here Are Your Repair Options A slight trip, a clutch at thin air and a sickening "pop". Bits of glass fall to the ground as you drop to your knees. A single bolt of lightning illuminates the sky and the... Read More . Many users reported seeing cracks or spiderweb shatters after seemingly minor falls, and while a case will greatly reduce the risk, it adds bulk to the phone’s slim frame. Why buy a small, inexpensive phone if it must be protected by a thick, expensive case?

Slower Processor


Apple’s shiny new iPhone 5S runs an A7 processor which is also the first 64-bit mobile processor in the world. The iPhone 4S on the other hand runs the A5, a chip that’s now outdated by two generations. Though it’d perhaps be harsh to call the A5 “slow,” the 1 GHz dual-core chip is certainly not the quickest kid on the block, and both the iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S provide dramatically better performance.

The real trouble with the iPhone 4S is not what we know, but what we don’t know. We don’t know how the transition to 64-bit will impact app availability and performance on the 4S. We don’t know if the 4S will be able to play the latest-and-greatest mobile games.

That’s a lot of unknowns. Owners of iPhones several generations out of date have experienced reduced performance when running a new version of iOS in the past. Will that happen again?



Another performance issue facing the iPhone 4S is its lack of support for 4G LTE What Is 4G, And Is Your Mobile Really Getting 4G Speeds? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is 4G, And Is Your Mobile Really Getting 4G Speeds? [MakeUseOf Explains] This ads will tell you that 4G is awesome. Fast as lightening, or a motorbike, or a race car. But what does that mean in the real world? Is a 4G phone really going to... Read More . Though rare when the 4S was announced, LTE support has expanded rapidly across North America, Europe and Asia, bringing Internet speeds on par with broadband to smartphones in most large cities and their surrounding suburbs.

Since the 4S lacks 4G, it can only connect via older 3G technologies. These can be very quick under the right conditions, but most cities will see 4G speeds that are at least several times quicker than 3G, and in some cases the gap can expand substantially. Web pages, podcasts, videos and files will download slowly compared to any post iPhone 5 model.

The iPhone 5C Might Be Better Value


Some pundits have, for whatever reason, decided that the iPhone 5C’s off-contract price of $549 is “ridiculous” or “absurd.” These pundits apparently could not be bothered to actually check the pricing of current smartphones. With the exception of the Nexus 4, which sells for $300 direct from Google, current mid-tier smartphones generally sell for $500 to $600, and top tier phones go for $600 or more.

The iPhone 4S is only $100 less than the iPhone 5C both on and off-contract. And the price is actually worse than it looks, because the 4S comes with just 8GB of storage, while the 5C comes with 16GB. Most people will find the extra capacity  a worthwhile investment.

So, for just $100 more, the 5C offers: more storage, bigger display, better performance, improved durability, quicker Internet connectivity and more future iOS updates. The 5C is also thinner, more attractive and newer; which, let’s face it, is more exciting.


Does this mean it’s a bit daft to buy the iPhone 4S instead? I’ll leave that up to you (but the correct answer is “yes!”). Leave us a comment and let us know what iPhone model you plan to buy.

Image Credit: Hans Kaniz/Flickr, Martin Hajek/Flickr, Brett Johnson/Wikipedia

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  1. Zecs
    October 13, 2013 at 1:33 am

    Updated my iphone 4 with IOS 7, and completely ruined it.. I miss IOS 6...

  2. Jon
    September 28, 2013 at 12:49 am

    "The iPhone 4S is only $100 less than the iPhone 5C both on and off-contract."

    What? You can get a lightly used 4S for right around $250 on ShmeBay easy. That's less than half of the 5C, even when that is lightly used. There is a perception that follows recently released phones and there is more to the story than looking up the retail prices.

    Also of note: There are 16GB versions of the 4S available, the one I am currently using is, and most of the ones I've seen on Verizon are as well...

  3. Peter H
    September 27, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Using a Nokia C8, Symbian orphan, which "ends" my calls while I speak because the button is right where my cheek hits the screen and which has a strange way of booting up among its other quirks, I'm looking for something I can use or learn to use more easily. A dedicated 182 pg user manual doesn't cut it and I've got too many decades of now useless computer knowledge fluffing my aging brain.

    I've been advised by a trusted source, an experienced male offspring , the new iPhone is the answer although it will frustrate me for a few weeks. Since Canada has no real competition and the 3 established communication pirates own 85% of the market and charge the world's highest rates for cellphones, internet and TV access, it is worth it to me to avoid our 3 year contracts and buy an unlocked phone at an Apple Store.

    But it is expensive and I've never used a cellpone for entertainment, total communications, camera and GPS. My expensive meagre bandwidth and airtime is wasted because I fear going over limits and paying by the kB. In fact, it is even cheaper if we could buy a phone in the US and roam in Canada than use a plan here! Can't without a verified US address and US credit card due to collaboration of companies.

    So it is very important not to get stuck with something even as marvellous as the iPhone 5x and not really need it. Thanks for the helpful comments but not knowing the mindset and lifestyle of the commenter, I'm going to quash my NameBrand bug and find out what I think I need and then ignore the next set of colors, shapes, styles, etc.

  4. Leonardo
    September 25, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I love my iPhone 5. It is a fantastic device!
    My last game is Magbaden World. It is free!

  5. Alvin Moore
    September 25, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Is this really a point? "We don’t know if the 4S will be able to play the latest-and-greatest mobile games." This seems very very low on my list of what I need to have in my phone, and hardly a reason to spring for the latest and greatest processor.

  6. Pete55
    September 25, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    My 4s will not charge since I updated it to IOS7. I have telephoned Apple help but they advised to go to the Genius Bar at the Apple store. I'm going there tomorrow. I have a feeling a 5s is on the cards!

  7. kimbrelyn mayo
    September 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    There's an error in this article, "Since the 4S lacks 4G, it can only connect via older 3G technologies. " This is incorrect. I have a 4S and use 4G and it works just fine. The iOS7 update worked just fine too. Also, got my 4S for a buck a year ago. That beats $100 or $200 any day. Is there anything the 5 set could do that I really can't live without until next year when it's a dollar? So many other good things to spend $$ on.

    • Tim B
      September 30, 2013 at 5:38 am

      Actually no, your iPhone 4S does not use "true" 4G, just what your carrier deems to call 4G. The term "4G" doesn't actually mean anything beside being a loose term to describe the fourth generation of mobile technology. LTE (long-term evolution) is one such 4G technology, but others exist (WiMax).

      Some mobile carriers choose to classify some of the higher-end 3G technologies (HSPA+) as 4G, which meant that when some iPhone 4S users upgraded to iOS 6 they were told they were using 4G all of a sudden. Loosely speaking, that's 4G, but it's not 4G in the context that it's being sold these days (i.e. ultra-fast 20-something-megabit cellular).

      The fact remains that the chip in your iPhone cannot receive LTE network coverage, and therefore is a 3G device. You'll need an iPhone 5 or later in order to use high-speed 4G on the go.

    • Anonymous
      December 29, 2013 at 6:09 pm

      AT&T has 4glte on the 4s

  8. Mike
    September 25, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Have had a 4S for the last 6 months. Living in a rural area 4G is a bit of an urban myth, so not an issue. And I don't play high-end games (too old!) so I don't mind if what I can access is a bit slow and clunky to play.
    It's fast, easy to use, is a perfect iOS7 vehicle, and does pretty much everything I want it to.
    iPhone 5? Probably not for 2-3 years, by which time I will no doubt be even further behind the curve - but who cares?!

    • Mike
      September 27, 2013 at 4:36 am

      Yep. I feel the same way iOS 7 working fine on my 4GS. I'm good for now boss

  9. Scott
    September 24, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Chances are that someone will build an adapter between the lightning connecter and the 30 pin connector.

  10. Zhong J
    September 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    I'm still crunching on why people kept buying the iphone fad, it's the same phone over the generation model it sold out and the current release exceeds its previous models. If people wanted a cheap smartphone then buy from a discounted retailer or ask for one from your friends. Despite advertisements reducing prices more than 50%, these are all contract based and would require you to spend additional money if you haven't attend your own plan.

  11. A. I. Sajib
    September 24, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    While iPhones are still pricey, and I like Apple cameras and wanna test some games on iOS environment, I think I'm opting for the lowest-priced iOS device with moderate specs: the iPod Touch 5th Generation 32 GB. Like I said, I want to test some iOS apps (for review writing purpose), play games sometimes, and mostly do all sorts of checking emails, chatting, and of course, taking pictures.

    I'm aware about WiFi only matter and I'm happy with that because I have an Android and I already use WiFi hotspot to connect my laptop to. With an iPod Touch, I can just connect that to my phone's hotspot without an issue.

    An iPhone 4S is available around that price but I just don't want another phone neither do I want to purchase a device for which updates maybe phased out soon (5th-gen iPod Touches are newer than 4S, right?).

  12. Mike
    September 24, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Should update the information in the article.

    Not the first 64bit chip in a phone, despite what apple would like people to believe.

  13. bjs
    September 24, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    My iPhone 4S has 4G capabilities. I'm not going to upgrade it to iOS 7 though. I'm perfectly happy with 6.1

  14. Manish
    September 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Don't know what to say, but this article is a complete scrap. Lets talk point-wise.

    1. If you 'really' want to watch videos, not a single iPhone is for you. Maybe you should try phones with bigger screen (lot are available), expandable memory (lot are available), better display (lot more are available)..

    Is this really a point, it wasn't a USP even for the company. No iPhone user (read 'lover') ever complained for it. Infact, every iPhone user was very very happy and delighted with that old '30-pin connector', until Apple announced the new one.

    3. This is probably the most foolish point in here. You yourself agree that Apple fooled people by making cheaper quality plastic body phones. I can say this after reading the author's lines "Many users reported cracks even on minor falls..". Well, time for people to get their money back from Apple!! :D :D

    4. Do you really think anybody, literally anybody, would have bought new iPhone5, if Apple hadn't introduced a newer processor. Apple had to put a processor gimmick, to sell their phones, and but obvious, all new phones, that would ever be launched, would have a better processor than its predecessor.

    5. 4G LTE - well this is the ONLY valid point in here..

    6. iPhone 5C: Phone that looks like lumias, with way cheap looking plastic body, even more cheaper colorful (cases), with task manager (multitasking) copied from Windows Phone 8, Power Control much like the Nexus, flat icons, etc etc., well I agree these iPhones can give you a lot new experience (similar to other phones :D)..

    My only point: Don't feel the obsession, find the necessity.

    Anyway, did anyone say anything or tested about the build quality of the new iPhone 5S & 5C. If not, then read this..

    • fancy pants
      September 25, 2013 at 1:11 am

      Mate, you are absolutely right. Pretty sure this is written by the kind of person who lines up days before a new iphone is released and tries to justify buying a brand new phone based purely on the "advanced" upgrades older phones don't have.

    • jojo
      September 26, 2013 at 4:33 am

      I agree 100%...that's why I have a Dell laptop with touch screen, # pad, and all the xtras except lighted keypad, but I need a good phone. What do you think in comparing the Galaxy III to the Iphone 4s?

    • Tim B
      September 30, 2013 at 5:30 am

      This article is clearly designed to advise people about buying the entry-level iPhone and their options with regards to it a) not being that cheap and b) the newer alternatives. It turns out that for the extra $100, a brand new iPhone 5C (instead of a new 4S) makes more sense for the connectivity and performance the extra money gets you.

      At no point is there a "buy an iPhone man it's so totally the best" angle to this. Which leaves me confused as to why you had to go on a point-by-point dissemination of the post. It makes you look like some blinded-by-hate individual who has nothing better to do than argue.

  15. Chantel
    September 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    My 4S has 16 GB and it was not an upgrade. I bought it right after the 5 was announced. Granted, 16 GB is still not enough for music and apps.

  16. cbdl97
    September 24, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    The Nexus 4 starts at $200 off contract

    • nihow
      September 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm

      Where? No 'buy' button on Google's site, and cheapest Amazon (US) price for an unlocked 16Gb Nexus 4 is $369.

      Seems like the Nexus 4 is now officially off the market.

  17. Audrey Heffner
    September 24, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Just paid $50 for it (w contract) and couldn't be happier. I'll load up on apps before they let any for the 4 go.

  18. Nero
    September 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    The Nexus4 is down to $199

  19. Charity
    September 24, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    I love my 4S. It's doing beautifully on iOS7.

    • Zee
      September 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      I have an iPHONE 4S with 4G capabilities...

  20. Sebastian S
    September 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    got a iPhone 4 with broken lock button for 80quid (120usd) from a mate and will get it fixed for 20 (30usd) not a bad deal