Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Contractual decisions

iPhone 4

As you will recall, I bought an iPhone 4 in September 2010. This means that, in almost exactly 2 months time, my 24 month contract will expire and I’ll be able to change networks, get a new handset or move to a different tariff.

I’m definitely planning to stick with an iPhone. There are some impressive Android and Windows Phone handsets out there, but I prefer Apple’s design aesthetic and I can keep everything in sync with my mac at home very easily. The big question is, whether to stick with my current handset, or get a new one. These are my options.

1. New iPhone and new contract

Most tech observers expect Apple to announce a new iPhone this year, as it has done every year since the phone was launched in 2007. Apple are supposedly working on a new, smaller dock connector, and a screen that is 0.5mm thinner, but we don’t know how close Apple is to launching a new model. It may decide to unveil something in the autumn, around the time of the iOS 6 release and roughly the same time frame as the launch of the iPhone 4S last year.

If Apple does launch a new iPhone, I’ll consider it, but it’ll need to be a decent upgrade from the iPhone 4. The 4S, for example, doesn’t offer much for iPhone 4 users – the only major features are support for HSPA+, a slightly better camera and Siri. If the new iPhone has better battery life, more features and can run more powerful apps, then I may be willing to commit to another 24 month contract to get it. But if it’s only another incremental improvement to the the 4S, then I’ll wait.

The new iPhone will almost certainly be a 4G LTE phone, as Apple launched a 4G LTE iPad earlier this year, but UK mobile networks are still trialling 4G at the moment so this isn’t something I’m particularly bothered about right now.

The one big advantage of getting a new phone is that I can sell my old one. has a site called which searches various phone recycling web sites to quickly show you who will offer the best price. Right now, several sites are offering over £200 for a 16 GB Black iPhone 4, and the high-street shop CeX is offering up to £230 at an in-store valuation.

2. Same phone, new contract

On the other hand, I could keep my existing handset, but get a different contract with a lower monthly cost (because I won’t also be paying for a new handset). My current iPhone works reasonably well – the battery isn’t quite what it used to be, and it has crashed a few times recently, but it’s in relatively condition despite almost 2 years of heavy usage. The web site billmonitor lets you review your current contract and see if you can make savings by moving networks or changing tariff, and it found a much cheaper tariff on my current network, Three. I’m paying £30 per month at the moment, but could knock this down to £12 with a 12 month SIM-only contract – that would still include all the minutes and texts that I need, and unlimited data.

This would be my preferred choice if the new iPhone is a bit underwhelming and would bind me over for another 12 months, by which time the 2013 model may be out. There’s also a higher possibility that we’ll have a 4G LTE service in parts of the UK by then, so having a 4G phone might actually be worth it.

The disadvantage is that I’d lose out on the extra income from selling my old phone, and I’d be locked into a 12 month contract; should my existing phone break down in that period, then I may end up having to pay over the odds for a new unlocked handset.

3. Same phone, rolling contract

A variation of the second option is to go for a 1 month rolling contract. It costs more – £15 per month, rather than £12 – but won’t lock me in for 12 months. So, if the time comes later on when I do want to change my handset, I can also get a new contract at the same time and not have to pay over the odds for an unlocked model.

Really, this all depends on what Apple announce over the next couple of months. We’ll see.

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