Buying guide: iPhone (posted 1 Jun 11)

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is scheduled to happen 6-10 June 2011, with the keynote on the 6th (San Francisco time), meaning it’d be next Monday midnight for us in Singapore. This time round, Apple will be focusing on software. From their press release:

At the keynote, Apple will unveil its next generation software – Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OS® X; iOS 5, the next version of Apple’s advanced mobile operating system which powers the iPad®, iPhone® and iPod touch®; and iCloud®, Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering.

According to John Gruber, Apple rarely releases their keynote agenda so its to

continue setting expectations that there will be no new hardware products announced.

So, when will the new iPhones come out and what will it be? Personally, I’m looking at the September timeframe* and a 4S**. Working with this, the new iPhone should hit Singapore earliest end September and more conservatively in November/December. The latter date is safer if you adjust for out-of-stock scenarios.


With all these as a backdrop, when should one get a new iPhone? Let’s consider the few scenarios:

1. Your phone is dead and you need one. Now.

Well, that is kinda of a no-brainer. Go get one now (through telcos if your contract is up; Apple distributors if your contract is not. Better still, from HK if your friends are there – it’s very much cheaper), though the default would be a 4 unless you intend to get a 3GS only to sell it when the 4S comes out. It’s not advisable to keep the 3GS because firstly it does not support Wi-Fi personal hotspot, and secondly it might not support iOS 5 (rumor). Of course, you can get a 4 to sell it when the 4S is out.

2. Your 3GS/4 is dying (between the next 5 min and the next 5 mth).

Hold out till it’s dead, and see scenario #1.

3. Your non-iPhone is dying (between the next 5 min and the next 5 mth).

Hold out till it’s dead, and see scenario #1.

4. You own a 4 and it’s not dying.

Well, if it’s dying see scenario #2. Otherwise, I say hold out till 5 (meaning next year’s phone). My guess is if you have a 4, you are either a new switcher, or someone who prefers the latest, meaning the 4S doesn’t suit you because the improvements will not be mind-blowing.

5. Your phone is fine but your telco contract is ending within the next 3 mths.

Recontract, get a 4 and sell it ASAP before the 4S is announced. Use the profit to buy the 4S.

6. Your phone is fine and your telco contract is not ending within the next 3 mths.

If you are in this scenario and still want a new phone, chances are you hate your phone or you are too rich. So get a new 4 anyway and a 4S when it’s out.


*That’s when Apple usually announce their new iPods; Apple rarely holds events out of their usual timeframes – the last being the iPad event in February and it has been about regular.  Furthermore, iPods are getting a little less exciting.

**I’m looking at the new phone to be something akin to an iPhone 4S instead of a 5, meaning it’s going to be an upgrade (as in 3G to 3GS) instead of a revamp (3GS to 4). This is because looking at Apple’s product and software launch, they seem to adopt the same tick-tock approach as Intel, where they interject major releases with updates, and alternate between major software releases and major hardware releases. 3GS was released when Snow Leopard was out; during the year of the iPhone 4 there was no major OS release (apart from iOS 4). Now there’s Lion AND iOS 5 AND iCloud, and Apple is known to pour everything into a major release.


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