Why You Shouldn’t Buy Apple’s New iPhone 5

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

We’re just hours away from what will certainly be one of the most massive hypefests of the year: the introduction of Apple’s newest iPhone. Even without the benefit of Steve Jobs to add that extra touch of magic reality distortion to the proceedings in San Francisco, the entire tech world will see a plunge in productivity for several hours starting at 10 a.m. Pacific while they watch and chew over the launch of what is all but now confirmed to be called the iPhone 5.

* Update: Catch Forbes’ liveblog of the event here. And here’s Apple’s own announcement.

No doubt Apple will sell a ton of the new iPhones. Indeed, though I find this hard to believe, iPhone sales could even add a big boost to this year’s Gross Domestic Product. Diehard Apple fans, and there are millions upon millions of them, won’t be able to resist lining up at Apple stores the night before they become available to be among the first to buy the latest and greatest iPhone.

But you shouldn’t be one of them. Here’s why I think most of you–not all, but most–would be better off not buying the new iPhone:

* It probably won’t be revolutionary. I know–blasphemy! The many leaks of what the new one will look like and the way it will work indicate the new iPhone will, of course, be thinner and faster and sport a bigger screen. So what else is new?

And think about the last time. The iPhone 4S had Siri, the voice assistant that was supposed to revolutionize the way we interact with devices and, oh, by the way, kill Google search. It did neither (though ask me again in a few years, as Siri no doubt steadily improves).

Anyway, let’s face it, smartphones in their current incarnation may not get much better fundamentally. As Steve Shankland at CNET recently pointed out, we’re in an era of incremental refinement more than revolutionary change. At some point, Apple may well come up with yet another product that actually resets the standard for computing and communication devices. But by all reports, the new iPhone isn’t that product. Simply put, you don’t need to own this phone.

* There’s always a risk that something won’t work quite right on the new model, leaving you with buyer’s remorse. Apple’s better than most at avoiding this sort of thing. But remember that faulty antenna in the iPhone 4 two years ago? Update: One word: Maps.

* The older iPhones are still great. Even though some reviewers criticized Apple for touting a machine that didn’t provide many advances, such as a larger screen, the iPhone 4S last year still was widely seen as the best iPhone yet, and still the best overall on the market.

* You will get several of the benefits of the new iPhone just by installing iOS 6–for free. No big screen, no fast LTE data, of course–two biggies, to be sure. But you won’t be left with lagging services like you do with many Android phones that can’t upgrade to the latest OS.

* The older iPhones are also cheap–or free! For one thing, used iPhones are flooding the market as people get ready to buy the new one. Last month, Sprint Nextel and even Apple itself discounted the iPhone 4S, and it doesn’t stretch the imagination to think that when the new model appears, prices for older iPhones will fall across the board. When the iPhone 4S came out, the iPhone 4’s price fell to just $100 and the 3G model was (and still is) free with at AT&T contract. If the pattern holds, doesn’t a free iPhone 4 sound pretty sweet?

* Update: Yes, it does sound sweet. The new iPhones will cost from $199 to $399 depending on the amount of memory, but the 4S will fall to $99. And the 4? With a two-year contract, it will indeed be free.

* If you go with an older model, you can also save bigtime on service plan costs. If you go with a prepaid carrier such as Virgin Mobile or Cricket, you have to pay more for the phone, but over a couple of years, their lower-cost data plans save hundreds of dollars. It’s not clear whether similar deals will be offered with the new iPhone, but it appears unlikely at the outset–so your only way to get those savings is to go with an older model.

* You may have fewer unlimited-data plan options with the new iPhone. Verizon and AT&T have ended their unlimited-data plans, so that’s not new. But on existing phones and contracts, they’re grandfathered in, a significant reason to think twice about an iPhone purchase that would require you to switch carriers. Sprint may offer an unlimited-data plan, but that means switching carriers if you’re not already on it.

* There are–yes–other smartphones out there. Android phones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S III, and even some Windows 8 phones such as Nokia’s Lumia 920, get rave reviews. …

Read the complete, Apple fanboy-inciting post at The New Persuaders.

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