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Cheaper? Sure. But a discounted iPhone 4S is no bargain

commentary Don't buy Apple's aging iPhone 4S now; you're going to feel pretty silly when the new iPhone shows up just a few weeks later.


Now is not the time to buy Apple's iPhone 4S.

It may seem obvious to some, but it's advice worth repeating as a public service announcement: ignore the recent discounts from Sprint Nextel and Apple on the iPhone 4S. If you're interested in an iPhone, wait a few weeks until the next iPhone is released, then make your call.

After Sprint dropped the price of its flagship phone to $149 from $199 last week, it is now bundling a $100 gift card to anyone who buys a smartphone online. Apple will reportedly match the deal by offering Apple Store credit in the same amount.

It's an attractive offer, right? But there's a reason why Sprint and Apple are engaging in some heavy discounting. Sprint is likely hoping to move some inventory before Apple unveils its next iPhone, widely expected to happen in the middle of next month. I can't blame them; the iPhone 4S isn't going to be such a hot seller once the new version arrives.

Some consumers will inevitably be lured in by the sweetened offer. But they risk seeing their iPhone 4S models relegated to yesterday's news as all of the focus and attention goes to the new version in just a span of weeks.

It may seem clear to gadget enthusiasts that buying a consumer electronics product right before a new version emerges is a bad idea, but it happens all the time. While sales of the iPhone 4 dropped significantly ahead of the iPhone 4S launch, they were still hot sellers. In the third quarter of 2011, AT&T sold 2.7 million iPhones and Verizon Wireless sold 2 million iPhones.

That means a lot of people were still buying the phone despite the wave of reports indicating another iPhone was coming.

There's nothing like buying a phone only to see the shiny new model come out moments later. It's like that Best Buy commercial mocking the hyperfast tech product cycle -- you don't want to be caught on the wrong end.

Given the two-year contract required for most of these phones, that's a long time to regret not sticking it out for a few more weeks.

I'm not saying you absolutely shouldn't buy the iPhone 4S. Rather, I would wait the few weeks to see what new features the next iPhone will come packing. It's widely believed that the next version will have a larger display, the ability to connect to faster 4G LTE networks, and a new design.

Even if the next iPhone isn't right for you, odds are the iPhone 4S will remain discounted. The iPhone 4 dropped to $100 when the iPhone 4S arrived, and you can expect a similar price drop to occur in the iPhone 4S once the new version hits stores. And it won't just be at Sprint; all of the carriers will offer the iPhone 4S at a discounted price in a few weeks. The point is you'll shortly have more options than you do now.

For now, I would suggest exercising some patience. You've waited this long; why not wait a little longer?

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