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Which iPhone 4S is best for resale; Siri dead in older iPhones? (Ask Maggie)

This edition of Ask Maggie answers a question about choosing a carrier for the iPhone 4S based on resale value and explains why Apple may have removed Siri from its App Store.

The iPhone 4S hits store shelves today. But some potential customers are already thinking of the future and the resale value of the new device.

Like any smart consumer making an investment, one reader asks whether the resale value of a new iPhone 4S will be better if the device is bought for AT&T's network compared with an iPhone 4S from Verizon Wireless or Sprint Nextel. Another reader wants to know if Apple has killed the Siri personal assistant app in the App store for older iPhones because it is simply trying to get people to pony-up for the iPhone 4S.

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.

Which iPhone 4S is best for resale?

Dear Maggie,
I'm interested in getting the new iPhone 4S. But I'm sure I'll want to sell it and buy the iPhone 5 when it eventually comes out. I read in one of your previous columns that the Verizon version of the iPhone 4 has a lower resale value than the same phone from AT&T. I don't have a contract anymore and could buy an iPhone 4S on any of the three carriers offering it. Do you know if the iPhone 4S is likely to have a better resale value from AT&T versus one from Verizon or Sprint?

Thanks,
Tom

Dear Tom,
When I renovated my apartment a few years ago, I made sure that I didn't go too crazy with fancy colored tile in my bathroom or kitchen. Instead, I kept things simple. I did this mostly because I wanted to make sure that when I eventually sell my apartment that it would hold its value. I didn't want gaudy fixtures or dated-looking tile that would make a potential buyer turn up his nose.

Of course, a smartphone is not on the same scale when it comes to an investment. But to some degree it is an investment. And you are absolutely right about the previous iPhone and the difference in resale value. When I checked prices on a variety of different resale Web sites last week, I noticed that there was a huge difference in trade-in price for an iPhone 4 depending on whether it came from AT&T or Verizon Wireless.

The most you could get for the iPhone 4 from AT&T was $307 with eBay's Cash-in program. But Gazelle, which only offered $191 for the AT&T iPhone 4, would only give Verizon iPhone 4 owners $154, about half of what eBay will pay for an AT&T version of the iPhone 4.

The biggest difference between prices offered for the AT&T version and the Verizon version came from Nextworth. It said it would pay $250 for the AT&T version of the iPhone 4, but it only offered $165 for the Verizon version.

But I've got some good news for you. It looks like the resale value between the iPhone 4S from the three different U.S. carriers selling the device probably will be about the same. The reason is simple. The Verizon iPhone 4 was not a "world" phone. So it only operated on Verizon's CDMA network. Meanwhile, the AT&T version is a GSM phone and it can operate on more than 200 carrier networks around the world.

The fact that the iPhone 4 was locked to the U.S. CDMA market makes it less valuable in the resale market, because many of these older models of phones are sold overseas.

But since the new iPhone 4S is a "world" phone, which means that even ones bought for Verizon and Sprint, which are CDMA carriers, have a built in GSM radio too for overseas use. In fact, the iPhone 4S is the exact same phone on all three carriers.

"Thankfully, the iPhone 4S is a 'world' phone," said John Marks, vice president of Customer Service for the resale Web site, SellYourCell.com. "The descriptions I have read indicate that all of the phones are quad band (CDMA and GSM) and will have the capability to take out a SIM card. This will really level the playing field for resale value as the largest market for resale is outside the U.S."

Here is the unlock policy for each of the carriers when it comes to the iPhone 4S.

AT&T sells unlocked versions of the iPhone, but as a policy, it doesn't allow its subscribers to unlock their iPhones. That said, plenty of people have been able to find unlock codes online to do this for them, and T-Mobile claims that more than a million unlocked iPhones are operating on its network.

Verizon Wireless will unlock the GSM portion of the phone after 60 days. And the account must be in good standing. It will not unlock the phone so that it can be used on a competing CDMA network.

Sprint Nextel clarified its policy this week. The carrier will initially sell the iPhone 4S with the GSM portion of the phone unlocked. This means you are free to slot in a different SIM card and use it anywhere you like. But sometime in the not so distant future, the company plans to push an update that will lock the GSM portion. If customers want to unlock the GSM portion of their iPhone 4S in the future, a Sprint representative said the company will do that for customers who have paid their bills and are in good standing. But just like Verizon, Sprint will not unlock the CDMA portion of the phone so that it can be used on Verizon's network.

In any case, the fact that these iPhone all have a SIM slot, means that they can be unlocked and resold overseas.

"The fact that these phones can be unlocked for use internationally really helps the resale," SellYourCell.com's Marks said. "The issue with the current iPhone 4 on Verizon is that it does not have a SIM card slot so it is strictly a CDMA phone which limits its market."

So there you have it. You can buy either a Verizon or Sprint iPhone 4S, and you shouldn't be penalized in the future if you want to resell it. I hope that advice was helpful. And good luck!

Apple kills Siri App for older iPhones. What gives?

Dear Maggie,
I'm an iPhone 4 owner who early on embraced the Siri app--and I love it. It's terrific that Apple has grown Siri's technology to become an integral part of the iPhone 4S user experience. But I'm having a tough time working out why Apple would deactivate the original Siri app that works just fine on older devices like the iPhone 4. Am I wrong to cynically believe the only purpose is to prompt me to migrate to new equipment, even though neither I nor my carrier (based on my contractual obligation) think it's time? Can you reach out to Apple for an explanation?

Thanks,
Gary from New York

Dear Gary from New York,
The Siri Assistant that Apple demonstrated during its launch of the iPhone 4 is not a new app. In fact, the original Siri app has been in Apple's App strore since 2010. And shortly after it was introduced, Apple bought the company that developed the speech recognition technology.

Now, Apple is making the Siri technology an integral feature of the iPhone 4S. The version of the Siri app that Apple is including as part of the iPhone 4 is still in its beta version, the company has said. This presumably means that Apple will continue to improve it. And it is only available for the iPhone 4S.

Meanwhile, Apple has removed the original Siri app from the App store. And for current users who already have the app downloaded, there's a message that reads:

"I've been replaced! The new Siri is even smarter and better-looking than me, and waiting for you on the iPhone 4S. I'll be leaving for home Oct 15th."

I totally understand that this is a big bummer for you and for others who have used the Siri app. It seems unfair for Apple to remove the app now. After all, it was clear when it bought Siri that it would likely use the voice recognition technology in its products. And yet, Apple still left the app in the App store without making any more updates to it. And it only removed it when it announced it would include the technology as a feature in the iPhone 4S.

I reached out to Apple to ask them why they removed the app. Unfortunately, I did not hear back from them.

So why do I think they took down the app? First, let me say that it's perfectly understandable for you to think that Apple's reasons were driven by sales. And maybe you are right. Apple is in the business of selling hardware. And for people who already have the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S doesn't offer too many more bells and whistles. It has a faster processor and a better camera, but that's about it. The other big difference is the Siri feature.

But that may not be only reason behind this decision. For one, Apple may not have wanted to continue to support a third party app. It hadn't provided any updates to Siri since it bought the company that developed it. And second, as Apple develops Siri the feature for the iPhone 4S, it may not have wanted another app in the App store that could confuse people.

Whatever the reason, it will be interesting to see how much better and more refined Apple can make Siri the feature with respect to Siri the app. I've wanted my own personal assistant for years. If Apple could somehow get Siri to do my expense reports for work and pick up my dry cleaning, I'd buy two iPhone 4S's.