Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moving Forward Behind The Curve

On Sunday, June 13, 2010, ten days before the iPhone 4 street date, I went into an AT&T store to ask some questions. I had been using a Windows Mobile 6.5 HTC Fuze for at least 18 months (I was eligible for an upgrade) and knew I wanted to upgrade to an iPhone but which iPhone should I choose?

I had watched several other Windows Mobile users around me move into the Apple camp and every one of them said they had no desire to look back. What I wanted to know was if I should go ahead and buy a 16GB 3Gs for $99, a newly announced price, or wait and buy the 16GB 4 for $199. What was so compelling about the 4 that made it better than the 3Gs?

During the course of my queries, the AT&T employee happened to mention that they had some stock of 3Gs units and had them on clearance. If I was willing to spend $199, he could get me into a 32GB 3Gs... but he only had black. I had been working with a 16GB Zune HD for several months by that time and knew that 16GB was a little underneath my usage. I often found myself having to manage my media to keep from filling the thing up. If white were the only choice it might have been a different decision (I hate white) but I dove on the opportunity and, like so many of my friends, never looked back.

Fast-forward to yesterday. My 3Gs has been showing its age and it was time to upgrade. I knew AT&T would probably be offering the iPhone 4s at clearance prices I just wasn't sure if they had dropped yet. The likelihood that I might get an iPhone 5 any time soon was pretty slim. Availability was going to be an obvious problem but so was price. Money has been extremely tight lately but between a Google AdWords check and selling an old computer I had close to that $199 mark where I hoped the 4s would be. I seemed to recall an upgrade/buy-back plan and hoped I could get $50 or $60 for my 3Gs.

Like before, the iPhone 5 does not have anything over the 4s that I must have. Here's how I broke it down.

iPhone 5 v 4s
Feature / Importance / Score (scale -10 to +10)
Larger screen / 2 / 4
Improved camera / 3 / 4
CPU 2x faster than the 4s / 9 / 7
4G LTE / 5 / 9 [Note: 4G LTE availability in my city is still at least a year off, by my estimation]
3 mics - noise cancellation / 6 / 5
Battery life improvement / 9 / ?
Lightning dock connector / -8 / -5
[Note: I have a few accessories with the 30-pin connector and the adapter compatibility is untested as yet]
32GB capacity price / 10 / 6

iPhone 4s v 3Gs
Feature / Importance / Score (scale -10 to +10)
Retina Display / 5 / 8
Improved camera / 5 / 6
FaceTime camera / 5 / 5
Camera flash / 9 / 8
CPU 4x? faster than the 3Gs / 9 / 9
Gyroscope / 5 / 5
Siri / 4 / 4
Battery life improvement / 9 / 8
30-pin dock connector / 9 / 7
32GB capacity price / 10 / 9

So, my first question was about the buy-back program. AT&T does, in fact, have a buy-back program. My 3Gs is in near-mint condition, 100% operational with an unblemished screen. He looked it up and told me they would give $84 for it. That's a 42% return after 2 years! Maybe I could get a little more off eBay or Craigslist but then I'd have to hassle with listing it and shipping it and I had $84 of value being offered right here and now. I told them I'd take the 32GB 4s.

I had set my 3Gs to backup to iCloud while we were waiting for our turn so that part was done. Before clearing the 3Gs we waited for the restore to the 4s - that took a little longer. About half way through the time remaining started counting up. At the 3/4 mark it started coming back down and eventually finished after about 30 minutes. It still needed to download all of my purchased apps and I would have to restore my music files but other than that it was absolutely seamless. Once I got home even iTunes accepted the new hardware as if nothing had changed. Beautiful and painless.

Once I'd given the 4s the once-over we wiped the 3Gs and I went home to play with my new toy a bit. Actually, connecting to iTunes and getting all of my apps and over 3,600 songs back onto it took a good chunk of that time. With both devices running iOS 5.1.1 the experience is almost identical. I have a few extras available to me now but it operates exactly the same - only faster, which is something very important.

I called my friend, Kevin, via FaceTime as soon as I got home. The conversation went a little something like this:

Kevin: Hey, what's up?
Joe: I got a new toy.
K: What'd you get?
J: How am I calling you?
K: Via FaceTime
J: And what do I need to call you via FaceTime?
K: COOL! You got a new phone!

Now I eagerly await iOS 6 (instead of dreading how much it's going to cripple my phone)

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