The biggest and most obvious reason to plump for the older iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S is the price. Apple has positioned the iPhone as a luxury brand and with that comes a premium price tag, as the iPhone 5 retails SIM free for around £500- and that’ll only get you the smaller, 16GB model. On the other hand a new iPhone 4S comes in at around £450, a good £50 cheaper than an iPhone 5. Dropping the price even further, an iPhone 4 can be yours from around £300.
The iPhone 4 and 4S both have a 3.5 inch 640 x 960 display, while the iPhone 5 has a 4 inch 640 x 1136 display. That might sound like a win for the iPhone 5, but there are a couple of things to consider. First off not everyone wants a big screen, Steve Jobs always considered 3.5 inches to be the perfect size for a smartphone display and many people agreed with him. Ultimately it will depend on what you want to use it for and how you plan to carry it, but if you don’t subscribe to ‘bigger is better’ then you shouldn’t overlook the smaller iPhone 4 and 4S.
Secondly, even if you do want a bigger screen you should be aware that the dimensions of the iPhone 5’s display are slightly odd. It’s longer and thinner than most 4 inch phones, creating a true 16:9 widescreen experience. That’s fine if you’re watching a movie on it, but for everything else it can seem a little strange and certainly takes some getting used to.
You might expect that along with being bigger the iPhone 5 would have a greater pixel density than the previous two models, but it doesn’t, in fact surprisingly at 326 ppi it’s actually got an ever so slightly lower pixel density than the 330 ppi iPhone 4 and 4S.
In real terms that’s not enough to make any noticeable difference, but it does highlight the fact that the only ‘improvement’ to the iPhone 5’s display is its size- and that won’t be for everyone.
The biggest addition that Apple has made to the iPhone’s software over the last few years is arguably Siri- a voiced personal assistant built into your phone. It’s debatable how useful it actually is and talking to your phone in a public place hasn’t got any less weird in the interim period, but some people swear by it.
If it’s something that you think you want then don’t get an iPhone 4, because it doesn’t have it. On the other hand the iPhone 4S does, so there’s no need to splash out on an iPhone 5 to experience it.
iOS 6 is the latest version of the operating system used by iPhones and as with Siri you don’t need an iPhone 5 to experience it. In fact in this case both the iPhone 4 and 4S can get it.
If you want a future proofed phone then it’s worth bearing in mind that iOS 7 or 8 may not be compatible with the iPhone 4, but given that even the iPhone 3GS can get iOS 6, the iPhone 4S should be safe for a good while yet.
The iPhone 5 has a dual-core 1.2 GHz Apple A6 processor, while the iPhone 4S has a dual-core 1 GHz Apple A5 processor and the iPhone 4 has a single-core 1 GHz Apple A4 processor. In real terms the iPhone 4S is up to 7 times faster than the iPhone 4, while the iPhone 5 is at least twice as fast as the iPhone 4S.
They’re all very impressive improvements, but unless you’re planning to do a lot of HD gaming or other intensive tasks then the iPhone 4 doesn’t feel slow at all, and you’ll be hard pushed to tell much difference between the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S.
If specs matter to you but you don’t want to spend iPhone 5 prices, then an iPhone 4S should still do the job just fine, while if you’re not that bothered about specs you can get an iPhone 4 and save yourself a substantial amount of money.
The iPhone 4S and 5 both have 8 megapixel cameras capable of 1080p video at 30fps, while the iPhone 4 has a slightly worse 5 megapixel camera which can shoot 720p video. If you want a good camera then this might reason enough to rule out the iPhone 4, but the iPhone 4S can still stand shoulder to shoulder with the iPhone 5.
The iPhone 4 and 4S have the exact same dimensions of 115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3mm, with a weight of 137g on the iPhone 4 and 140g on the 4S. The iPhone 5 is longer, thinner and lighter than either of them at 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm and 112g, making it both look and feel sleeker and better. In this area the iPhone 5 is undoubtedly the best, but both the 4 and 4S still look and feel like premium devices.
The iPhone 4 comes with either 8, 16 or 32GB of storage, while both the iPhone 4S and 5 come with 16, 32 or 64GB. So if you want as much as 64GB you have to rule the iPhone 4 out.
The iPhone 5 also has substantially more RAM than these earlier models, with 1 GB rather than 512 MB. While neither the 4 nor 4S seem to struggle on that little RAM, it is a disappointingly small amount, particularly when Android phones now have up to 2GB.
All three phones have similar sized batteries, but in terms of performance the iPhone 4 and 4S actually top the iPhone 5, with up to 14 hours of talk time compared to around 8. That’s a big deal, as battery life is the bane of many smartphones, though even the iPhone 5 is far from being one of the worst offenders.
Which phone to go for depends on what you want from it, if you’re not convinced by the screen size on the iPhone 5 then you can safely go for an iPhone 4S without missing out on much- and even enjoy better battery life. The iPhone 4 on the other hand looks rather more dated, as it lacks Siri, has a worse camera and doesn’t impress as much on the specs front, but if you can live with that then it’s still a solid handset and a whole lot cheaper than even the iPhone 4S.
By Simon Thomas on 15th February, 2013