Feature Articles

Should You Upgrade to an iPhone 4?

Should You Upgrade to an iPhone 4?



Should You Upgrade to iOS 4?

Should You Upgrade to iOS 4?

Say you don't want to get a new iPhone 4 and want to keep your older model - how should you get the most bang for your buck out of it? Well, here's some contrary advice: Depending on which set you own, you might not want to upgrade to the latest iOS 4 (if you have already, then just read the bits below about the latest 4.0.1 update).

The biggest deal about Apple's upgrading process is that it's a one-way street, there is no going back to your previous iOS version after upgrading. If something goes wrong (and it has gone wrong before) then you're simply stuck until the next fix. So read this before you next plug your beloved iPhone into iTunes!

iPhone 3GS

We say upgrade! iPhone 3GS users get the perks enjoyed by iPhone 4 users with none of the speed hits seen by iPhone 3G users. You get multi-tasking, folders, a better email app, orientation lock and so on.

There is one gripe though: multi-tasking seems to drain the iPhone's battery faster, and the multi-tasking panel on iOS4 makes it a hassle to kill multiple apps running at once. How about a universal kill switch, Apple?

Now, about the latest 4.0.1 upgrade. It was supposed to change the signal indicator bars to reflect a more accurate measurement of signal strength. But it seems to cause bugs in the iPhone's photo albums, with some thumbnails showing up as black blocks. iPhone 3GS owners have reported success at eliminating the black blocks by simply rebooting, but 3G owners don't seem so lucky.

iPhone 3G

The cons may outweigh the pros if you're carrying an iPhone 3G.

iPhone 3G users don't get the key feature of iOS 4: multi-tasking. This is supposedly because the iPhone 3G's processing power isn't up to handling multiple apps running at the same time. Another visible exclusion is background wallpaper, iPhone 3G users can't customize their backgrounds the way other iOS4 users can.

The biggest gripe of iPhone 3G users though is the noticeable speed hit when running iOS4. It's aptly demonstrated in this video between an iPhone 3G running iOS 4 and iOS 3.1.3:

The iPhone 3G running iOS 4 is noticeably slower. Reading through the Apple support forums, this seems to be a matter of luck, some users seem to be affected, some don't - although we have to say it seems to us that more are seeing the speed drop than not. As with the iPhone 3GS, the latest 4.0.1 upgrade has appeared to cause bugs in iPhone 3G's photo albums, with some thumbnails showing up as black blocks. Reading through Apple's support forums, this problem seems to affect more iPhone 3G users than 3GS and 4 users.

The only real pro to upgrading an iPhone 3G to iOS 4 seems to be the inclusion of folders, so you can tidily organize your apps together.

We say if your iPhone 3G with iOS3 is serving you well, you don't see the need for folders and you don't need to have the latest in everything iOS - then you can comfortably hold off upgrading to iOS4 and have a snappier phone.

A Dose of Cruel Commercial Reality

The cruel, cruel truth is that like a Bullet train, technology waits for no one. While holding off on upgrades to more processor-intensive iOS versions can buy you some time with your older iPhone, Apple is the company that marches boldly onward (killing floppy disks on the first iMac, CD-ROMs on the MacBook Air, Flash on the iPad, need we say more), expecting you to keep up. iOS seems to bear this out, with the iPhone 3G barely keeping up with the upgrade.

So while you may be able to hold off on that hardware upgrade, save a few dollars and hold on to your beloved iPhone today, if you want to keep your investment on the platform (read: all the apps you paid for), you're going to have to upgrade some day. Time to start saving.