Editors' note: This post was updated at 11 a.m. June 10, 2010, to correct the information about the unlimited data plan for existing customers, which they can choose to keep when upgrading to the iPhone 4.
Last year, I upgraded to the iPhone 3GS (from the 3G) without much deliberation. It was obviously a decision made against my better financial judgment. But this is not new. I, and generally those who buy Apple products, do that a lot.
Apart from the fact that I was a year younger (and therefore that much less wise and patient), it was also because the 3GS was significantly faster than the 3G, and it has a compass. For the former, if you have experience with both versions of the phone, you'd surely agree with me. About the latter, it's personal, as I tend to have no idea which direction I'm headed. Literally, of course.
This year, on the other hand, mulling over whether I should upgrade has given me a neck pain. The new iPhone 4 indeed offers some exciting new features. I am sold on the new screen; my co-worker Eric Franklin, who reviews computer monitors, said it "totally blows him away" (though he has never actually seen the device). I'm also sold on the new design and the front-facing camera. (Believe it or not, I am not too keen on the gyroscope.) In short, I am not going to argue why I want to upgrade.
Instead, here are the reasons I can't see rushing to upgrade just yet.
1. No unlimited data with tethering.
As it's been widely reported, starting June 7, AT&T killed the once-mandatory unlimited data plan for the iPhone. Instead you can opt for the 200MB or 2GB plans that cost $15 or $25 a month, respectively. Of course you'll have to pay extra if you go over the limit.
This, however, only applies to new subscribers. Existing iPhone users, like me, are grandfathered in. However there's a catch: you won't be able to use tethering, which requires a limited data plan plus another $20/month.
AT&T says that tethering will be made available together with the iOS 4 (iPhone OS 4.0). It's ironic, however, that it won't be allowed on phones with existing unlimited data plan. Not a good deal.
Now, most people are actually doing fine with just 200MB or 2GB a month, but savvy users could easily exceed that, even a few times over, especially if they tether.
A lot of iPhone owners use the phone's 3G connection to download apps, music, and podcasts, as the cellular connection allows for downloading files that are 20MB or less. If you do this or stream YouTube videos regularly, you will quickly see that your monthly ration of 200MB or even 2GB is far from enough. I didn't check mine, but I have friends who average 4GB or 6GB a month.
(Even though AT&T has disabled tethering starting with iPhone OS version 3.0.1, those who stay with version 3.0, which I do, can still use this feature. You can also have your phone jailbroken to use tethering, via a free third-party app, without AT&T being able to do anything about it.)
2. You won't miss much.
This only applies to owners of the iPhone 3GS. Your iPhone will be able to fully enjoy version 4.0 of the iPhone OS (now called iOS), the biggest benefit of which is multitasking. Yes, you'll miss the front-facing camera, and hence FaceTime, but it will be a while before there are apps/services that fully take advantage of this.
Also, FaceTime is most appealing, for me personally at least, when you can video-chat on the go via a cellular connection. However, at least in the beginning, the app will only be able to run using a Wi-Fi network. And even when it can be used with a 3G connection, this will directly affect your data plan. The lack of unlimited data plan makes this a feature that you wish you didn't have when you see the bill at the end of the month.
What I sure will miss, however, is the A4 chip that's slated to offer a significant boost in performance. But nonetheless, the iPhone 3GS is already pretty snappy. I can live with that.… Read more