$49 iPhone 3GS – Deal or Not?

If you have been itching to upgrade to an iPhone, and you are seriously considering this $49 deal, I would think again.  In fact, I would highly recommend forking over the extra money for the newer iPhone 4.

If you can wait a bit longer, then use your Motorola Razr a bit longer and wait for the release of the iPhone 5 in September.

Or even consider iPhone alternatives, such as Android phones.

Here are a few reasons why the 3GS is not so great a deal, even for under $50:

The iPhone 3GS was released two years ago, so the technology is old if not outdated.  The recent discount offered by Apple and AT&T most likely contributed significantly to the recent boost in total iPhone sales.   It’s a brilliant move by both companies:  Apple gets to provide budget-friendly cool & hip tech gadget to a large population of cost-conscious consumers, and AT&T gets to reel in more customers to its newer AND pricier no-longer-unlimited data plans.

The more significant aspect for both companies is that they get to dump their stock of 3GS phones onto the consumer (instead of the trash heap) at a deep discount and still earn enough to cover the cost of production.

The reality is that this is not as great a deal as one may think.

The iPhone 3GS hardware is severely outdated and underpowered.  It has a slower processor (600 MHz) than the mid-market smartphones currently available (1 GHz and up).  This was fine two years ago, but pathetic by today’s standards.  The iPhone 4 is already running a 1GHz processor, and the HTC Evo 3D has a dual-core 1GHz processor.  This means that the 3GS will have a difficult time running multiple apps simultaneously.

In the past, the 3GS had a difficult and buggy time upgrading to the iOS 4, mostly because of its slow, outdated hardware.  So how would it fare with the iOS5 upgrade?  Not really sure, but more than likely even worse than the previous upgrade, since iOS5 was designed mostly for the iPhone5 and iPad2, both sporting dual-core processors.

The 3GS lacks a front-facing camera and therefore cannot take advantage of features such video calling on FaceTime.

It is also missing a few features that are required for many of the current apps.  This includes a higher-resolution rear camera, the crystal clear Retina display, and the gyroscope.

Finally, you end up paying the same monthly bill through the life of the contract, but using a phone that is becoming less and less smart over the next two years.  Although you pay less upfront with the iPhone 3GS, you lose out by signing up for the next two years with a pricier contract with a sub-standard performing phone.

I would pay the extra for the iPhone4, or even consider the alternatives like the HTC surround or the Samsung Focus for AT&T, and the Samsung Continuum, Samsung Fascinate, or LG Vortex for Verizon.

These alternatives do not have the same cool factor as the iPhone 4 (or upcoming iPhone 5).  But if you really think about it, neither does an old 3GS.

At least that’s my opinion.


About Ask Conrad
I am a University Professor. A Neuroscientist by trade, and a technophile/geek on the side. My work and research is heavily dependent on computers and state-of-the-art technology. I like Jazz and Bossa Nova. I play the piano, guitar, and ukulele.

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