iPhone 4S Upgrade: Where, How, and Should You?

Today is preorder day for the new iPhone 4S. The phone features an improved camera, faster processor and other improvements. You can read more about it here.

The iPhone 4S streets on October 14. A limited number of them (huge, but limited) will be available on that day. To ensure you don’t have to wait several weeks to get yours, you should preorder it now. Right now. Go!

Here’s what you’ll need, what you can expect, and some of my own experiences in getting an upgrade. Read through to get some handy upgrade tips.

The easiest way to preorder your iPhone 4S is online. You can upgrade through Apple, AT&T, and Verizon here in the US. If you’re with Sprint here, you can upgrade your current device by ordering online as well. Here are links to the preorder pages:





You can also order srtaight from your iPhone using the Apple Store app. | Apple Store - Apple

Be prepared to pay $199-$649 for a 16GB, $299-$749 for a 32GB, and $399-$849 for the roomy new 64GB. Apple and AT&T will both put a hold on your credit card for the full amount which then charges when the device ships. I suspect that Verizon and Sprint will do the same.

If you bought your iPhone 4 on its first day on AT&T, you’re several months short of the 24 month contract renewal to be able to upgrade at the one, two, or three hundred dollar level. If you spend a lot of money with AT&T and your account is in good standing, AT&T is offering an early upgrade for a reduced rate, but odds are you will have to wait anywhere from 2-6 additional weeks before you get the phone in hand.

For example, I bought my iPhone 4 in June, 2010 when they were first released and signed a two year service contract. To get the upgrade to the 32 GB iPhone 4S, it would cost me $549 — a $200 discount off buying the phone outright — and I would be eligible to get the phone on November 30.

If you’ve still got a lot of time left on your AT&T contract or you’ve been late on your bill, you may have to wait a while or pay the full, unsubsidized price for a new 4S.

If you are a Verizon US customer and bought the iPhone 4 when it was released, you’re pretty much limited to dropping the cash for the full price of the 4S right now. I spoke with a local Verizon representative here and unless Verizon announces a “roll-up” upgrade program (which they haven’t yet), you are eligible to upgrade your iPhone 4 after 12 months. That means you won’t be eligible to upgrade your device until February 2012.

Tips For Getting an Earlier, Cheaper Upgrade on AT&T

If you’re like me and immediately went to the Apple site to check upgrade eligibility, you were probably informed that you did not qualify immediately for any upgrade pricing, and qualified for reduced iPhone 4S pricing — $200 off the full price — with a November delivery date.

Call AT&T Customer Service to request an early upgrade. If your account is in good standing, they might be able to move your upgrade eligibility date up a couple of months, making you eligible for the $200 discount now, even though you still have over 8 months left on your current iPhone 4 contract.

If that doesn’t work, go to an AT&T Mobility Store to order an upgrade. Not an authorized reseller, but an actual, company-owned store. I found out that AT&T Store employees may have better luck in getting you better upgrade pricing. Plus, you get to plead your case in front of a real live person, not just a voice or two on the phone.

Should You Upgrade to the iPhone 4S?

If you currently own an iPhone 4, have a lot of time left on your contract, and it will have to pay full price for an upgrade, probably not. The iPhone 4 is still an excellent camera and iOS 5 runs great on the 4. You won’t have the Siri Personal Assistant, but can still take advantage of all of iOS 5’s other features. The iPhone 4 is still a sexy, fast phone. Plus, you’ll be in great upgrade position when the real iPhone 5 is released, probably in a year or so.

If you’re a current iPhone 4 Verizon customer, travel often and need the world phone functionality of the iPhone 4S, the full-price investment to upgrade may be worthwhile for you.

If you own any older iPhone, such as a 3GS, 3G, or 2G and have been with AT&T for a while, you probably qualify for the sweet, low upgrade pricing of $199, $299, and $399. It’s a no-brainer — upgrade if you are entertaining the idea and your budget can afford it. The iPhone 4S is so much more advanced than the devices your are currently using and the camera is so superior to even the iPhone 3GS, it will feel like your first iPhone all over again.

If history is any guide, there will be lines and waits when the iPhone 4S streets next week. Preorder now to minimize any delays. Good luck!

Got any other tips for upgrading? Are you a US Verizon customer? How about iPhone 4 owners in other countries? Share your tips below.



Disclosure: These are my recommendations for ordering a new iPhone 4S. Life In LoFi gets no compensation of any kind from the links or purchase recommendations in this post.

About Marty Yawnick 1808 Articles
Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.
  • http://twitter.com/The_BORG @The_BORG

    We feel each other's pain. I have to wait until 11/25 to get an iPhone 4S. I might try calling AT&T and see what they can do for me.

  • http://twitter.com/skiphunt @skiphunt

    Good info! I checked my own eligibility and it's not until after Jan 21st. Otherwise, I'd have to sign a new 2yr contrant AND pay an additional $250 +$18 upgrade fee AND the cost of the subsidized phone. I know I could likely find a way to get it earlier (I have in the past with no problem) but, I decided that I'll wait and see what all the early adopters say about it first.

    That's what I did with the iPhone 4, so when I bought it I knew all about the antennae, etc. and didn't get any surprises.

    I'm very happy with the iPhone 4 as it is, so I don't mind waiting a bit longer to see how everything shakes out. Particularly, I want to see how it performs in low light, if the fact the lens isn't as wide as the 4 is a big deal or not… and, if the apps I use show a significant boost in performance with the new chip. I also want to see if the 4S really delivers true 1080p and dosen't jitter or freeze up in the process. Really don't care about the Siri stuff, but wireless mirroring has me salivating a bit.

    Might just go ahead and pull the trigger on an iPad2 since it doesn't appear that the next one will be coming out until the Spring.

    Looking forward to what all you early adopters say about the new iPhone 4S! :)

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      I was able to get an early upgrade at a very good price. If you were closer to DFW, Skip, I'd recommend visiting the North Arlington AT&T Store. See my other post today.

      I'll be getting the 4S on or very near its release day. I'll be posting preliminary thoughts from just taking it for a spin, as well as a thorough review of the phone and how it performs from an iPhoneographer's perspective. Keep in mind that I love my iPhone 4, so I'll be looking to see if the 4S is $200, $300, or $850 better than the 4.


  • http://twitter.com/PositivePauly @PositivePauly

    Fortunately my wife & I are on staggering plans. One phone is generally eligible for upgrade. This time it was my phone number's turn. We're both happy because we both get upgraded phones. My wife doesn't use her phone for a camera like I do mine, and she doesn't need the latest & greatest features (and has nowhere near the storage issues that I do), so she doesn't mind me always getting the new one.

    I ordered my upgrade this morning.

    One huge bit of advice & caution – I've heard more than one tale of people who were grandfathered into the unlimited data plan (as I am) who tried to upgrade online but noticed that their dataplan would change. If that's the case, and you already pulled the trigger, you may want to contact AT&T to make sure this doesn't happen.

    I used the free app ("AT&T Upgrade" or something like that) & didn't have any problem with that. Was pretty easy to do directly from my iPhone.

  • http://twitter.com/JasonR @JasonR

    I pre-ordered my iPhone 4 the first day it was available,. Received it on release day. I have been full upgrade eligible (no extra fees) since june 2011 (less than 12 full calendar months). I got my wires iPhone 4 (same family account) 6 weeks later. She isn't upgrade eligible till march.

  • Luxtra

    Sigh. I called AT&T and before 11/2012 it will cost $550 (more or less) to get the new phone. Looks like I'll be waiting to see what others think about the new camera also. :(

  • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1219604430 Keith Higgins

    I pre-ordered yesterday and ran into a bit of a snag that I thought worth mentioning. Went through all the steps on the Apple website and had no problems. I was able to keep my grandfathered unlimited data plan for the same thing I've been paying, $30. All good.

    Got an email from Apple several hours later saying that they were unable to process my payment. Called my credit card company and found out that they'd blocked the purchase "for my protection". They said that Apple sent a $0.00 charge to verify my address, then sent a charge for the Apple care, then sent a separate charge for the phone. Three transactions in one minute were enough to flag Chase's fraud protection and the third transaction, the phone itself, was held. (They approved the purchase of the extended warranty, but not the product itself.)

    I see this as a shared problem with Apple's method of sending charges to the bank and the bank holding a transaction from a company that I've done online business with for years with no issues. One phone call to Chase and hitting resubmit on the Apple order page fixed it, but just thought I'd offer a heads-up to make sure your purchase goes through.

    • http://lifeinlofi.com lifeinlofiblog

      Great tip, Keith. Thanks for sharing. I hope this doesn't delay the delivery date of your 4S.


      • https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1219604430 Keith Higgins

        Me too. The email from Apple advised me to get this resolved within 24 hours if I still wanted it on the 14th. I hope it worked.

  • http://foto-apps.com/ foto-apps blog

    i'm wondering if the better camera (backlit sensor and 8mp) is worth the change. i'm quite happy with my iPhone 4 and the camera of it. as long as there is enough light around or the pictures get terribly noisy. if the backlit sensor brings here improvements, that would almost make me think about going for the 4S instead waiting for the iPhone 5.

  • JAG

    I ordered on Friday afternoon through the Apple Store app on my iPhone 4. Went too smoothly and I got nervous that something was wrong. But I got my confirmation from Chase that the charge went through, then received the confirmation email that my iPhone 4S was ordered. I checked, then double checked, then rechecked that I had ordered the unlimited data plan. Been an AT&T customer for years and I use my iPhone a — lot. All is well so far. Can't wait to get it. I mainly decided to upgrade for the improved camera specks. The increased speed seems great and the Siri feature sounds cool, but, will it be a hit in real life use…?..we'll see.