The iPhone 5 vs. iPhone 4S

The iPhone 5, which debuted Wednesday, comes with a number of upgrades. But how do you decide if it's worth purchasing the new iPhone over the last version, the iPhone 4S?

Apple released the iPhone 4S in October 2011, accompanied by a key new feature: Siri, a voice-activated personal assistant that lets you talk to your phone to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and find nearby restaurants, among other tasks. The 4S looked exactly like the iPhone 4, but it also came with an A5 dual-core processor and an upgraded 8-megapixel camera.

[See Buying the iPhone 5? Here's What to do With Your Old iPhone]

However, not everyone was pleased with the iPhone 4S. About 39 percent of adults identified the battery life (up to eight hours of talk time on 3G, according to Apple) as the feature they most disliked, followed by the keyboard (21 percent), phone reception (20 percent), Siri limitations (11 percent), and volume controls (11 percent), according to a recent survey by Ipsos Public Affairs.

Some of those concerns have been addressed with the iPhone 5, but not all.

Pricing is also a consideration. The iPhone 5 is available for pre-order on September 14 and will be on sale September 21, with a starting price of $199 for a 16GB model and a two-year contract through AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. Apple has also slashed the price of the iPhone 4S to $99 for a 16GB model on a two-year contract. If you buy the iPhone 5 out of contract, you'll likely pay somewhere between $600 to $700 (the no-contract price for the 4S was $649.)

It's been five years since the first iPhone was released, and the iPhone 5 marks Apple's first change to the cell phone's hardware design since 2010.

[See Why Mutual Fund Investors Should Care About the iPhone 5.]

The company has made a number of improvements to the iPhone 5. A close comparison of the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 4S will help you decide which phone is right for you:

Screen size: The iPhone 5's is a larger 4-inch (diagonal) screen than the 4S's 3.5-inch, meaning it can now fit five rows of icons instead of four.

Depth: At 7.6 millimeters, it's 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S, leading Apple to claim that the iPhone 5 is the world's thinnest smartphone.

Weight: At 112 grams, the iPhone 5 is 20 percent lighter than the 4S.

Siri: The iPhone 5 has expanded Siri's entertainment knowledge, with more information on sports scores and movie options. Users can also now use Siri to post status updates to Facebook and make restaurant reservations.

Internet speed: The 4G on the iPhone 5 is faster than the 3G on the 4S.

Camera: It's still an 8-megapixel camera, but it's 25 percent smaller and has better low-light performance, high-res panoramas (up to 28 megapixels), and improved noise reduction not offered on the 4S. It also takes pictures 40 percent faster.

[See How to Lower Your Cell Phone Bill]

Operating system: The iPhone 5 will run on iOS 6, but that will be available as a free upgrade on the 4S and on iPhones released since 2009.

Battery life: The iPhone 5 and the 4S both have eight hours of talk time, but the iPhone 5 can browse the Web for 10 hours instead of eight using LTE, which enables faster downloads. The viewing time for video is still 10 hours, but the iPhone 5 can maintain power on standby for 225 hours (200 hours on the 4S).

Dock connector: The new connector, called Lightning, is an all-digital, 8-signal design. It's smaller, more durable, and reversible compared to the old 30-pin version. The dock connector's design hadn't been changed since the first generation of the iPod was released in 2001.

Audio: The iPhone 5 comes with three microphones--front, back, and bottom--compared with just one on the bottom of the 4S.

Color: The iPhone 5 has 44 percent more color saturation than the 4S.

Processor: It has been upgraded from the 4S's Apple A5 to the Apple 46, which is 22 percent smaller and up to twice as fast as the A5.

Resolution: 1136 x 640 pixel resolution on the iPhone 5, compared to 960-by-640 resolution on the 4S.

The bottom line: If faster downloads and technical upgrades are important to you, then you might want to consider getting the newest version. Which will you opt for: the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 4S? If you're a 4S owner, do you think it's worth it to upgrade? If you don't own an iPhone, will you spring for the iPhone 5?



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