All indications are that the launch of the iPhone 5 today will set new sales records for Apple. Carriers in the US sold out of pre-orders within hours while Gazelle and Glyde reported record phone trade-in activity surrounding the announcement of the iPhone 5 (*see below).
It’s easy to get caught up in the fervor, but before you get in line to get your new iPhone, there are some things you should know.
Are You Eligible for an Upgrade?
If you’re going to stay with your current carrier, check here to see if you’re eligible for an upgrade. If you are, then you can buy a new iPhone at a substantial discount in exchange for entering into a two-year contract for service. The discounted price for the iPhone 5 is:
- $199 for 16 GB
- $299 for 32 GB
- $399 for 64 GB
If you’re not eligible for an upgrade, you can still get a new iPhone, and perhaps trade in your old phone, but you’ll have to pay full retail price for the iPhone 5:
- $649 for 16 GB
- $749 for 32 GB
- $849 for 64 GB
Buying a phone isn’t like buying a TV. Your phone is, after all, a phone (though you may use it more as a computer for you than a phone), and your phone most likely will be locked to a cell phone carrier. Choosing a carrier is important and you may be committing to that carrier for two years so consider each carrier’s unique features when choosing your plan.
The addition of 4G/LTE (the fastest data speeds) to the iPhone 5 matters to you only if you have 4G/LTE coverage in your area. Make sure to check a carrier’s 4G/LTE data coverage map before making your selection.
Unlimited Data Plans
Unlimited data plans were once common, but now are harder to find. With the 4G/LTE capabilities of the iPhone 5, having an unlimited data plan may come in very handy. Faster data speeds mean that you could use up your month’s allowance of data quickly if you stream a lot of video when not connected to Wi-Fi.
If you want an iPhone with an unlimited data plan, your choices are:
- Virgin Mobile
- Grandfathered plans on AT&T and Verizon (meaning you can keep them if you already have them, not that they are restricted to grandfathers)
Sprint offers an “Unlimited Everything” plan for the iPhone 5, but Sprint’s 4G/LTE coverage is quite limited so your data speeds may be slower if you’re outside their 4G/LTE range. If you prefer quantity of data versus speed, Sprint would be a good choice for you.
T-Mobile has launched its 4G/HSPA+ network so that people who bring an unlocked iPhone to T-Mobile can get fast data speeds. 4G/HSPA+ speeds aren’t as fast as 4G/LTE speeds, but T-Mobile offers an unlimited talk, text and data plan for $69.99/month, saving you $40/ month over Sprint’s Unlimited Everything Plan for $109/month and $50/month over AT&T’s unlimited talk and text plan with 3 GB of data. Your iPhone must be compatible with AT&T’s network (Sprint and Verizon iPhones won’t work on T-Mobile’s network) and unlocked for it to work on T-Mobile’s network. Make sure to check T-Mobile’s data coverage map to make sure 4G/HSPA+ is available in your area. If it isn’t available for you, then you will be using 2G/EDGE speeds which will be extremely slow.
Virgin Mobile offers unlimited data plans, unlimited texts and 300 minutes of talk time for $30/month (with automatic credit card billing), the lowest price plan for the iPhone. As of this writing, the iPhone 5 isn’t available through Virgin Mobile and iPhone 4 and 4S prices have yet to drop. If you’re considering getting an iPhone on Virgin Mobile, you may want to wait just a bit to see if the iPhone prices drop. Also, note that you will be getting 3G data speeds on Virgin Mobile with the iPhone 4S.
If you have a grandfathered unlimited data plan with Verizon, you can keep the plan, but Verizon won’t give you a discount on your new iPhone (nor any other phone). Verizon wants to nudge its customers towards its shared data plans by requiring customers who keep their old plans pay full retail price for new phones.
You can keep your grandfathered unlimited data plan on AT&T when you upgrade to the iPhone 5 and get the discounted price, if you are eligible for an upgrade and willing to enter into a two-year commitment. Like Verizon, AT&T wants to nudge its customers onto a shared plan, but AT&T’s nudge is about as gentle as they come: AT&T won’t let you use FaceTime over its data network unless you’re on a shared plan.
Which iPhone to Get?
Your choices of iPhones are black or white, 16, 32 or 64 GB and whether it’s locked to a carrier.
The color is a personal preference, but if you don’t care about color, research resale values. In my research for How to Get the Best Deal for Your Used Tech!, I found that black iPhones generally had higher resale values than white ones.
If you’re replacing a previous iPhone, look to see how much space you used on that phone. If you almost have it full, definitely increase your storage space. Panoramic photos and updated apps will probably take up more space on a phone than you currently use.
Where to Buy Your iPhone
You may already be in line to buy your iPhone, but if you’re not, you should know there are ways to get an iPhone without standing in line.
If you love lines, and some people do, the Apple Store is your best bet. You can enjoy the camaraderie of hanging out with other fans of Apple and swapping tips, tricks and app recommendations. Take pictures of the long lines and post them on Facebook and/or Twitter. You can revel in enjoying the full Apple experience and go home with a new iPhone.
Carrier stores will be selling the new iPhone. Be sure to call ahead to check on their inventory.
Other stores have not been vocal about carrying the iPhone 5. That’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that their inventory might be very low. The good news is that fewer people may be shopping for an iPhone 5 at those stores.
Best Buy, Walmart, Radio Shack, and Target all have sold iPhones in the past on launch day. Call your local store to find out their inventory before you head over there.
Stores may also have taken pre-orders for the iPhone 5. Call ahead to see if a store has excess inventory beyond pre-orders.
If you want to avoid the stores, you can order your iPhone online, either from Apple or your carrier. Be prepared for a wait, but your delight will not be diminished when your parcel arrives and you unbox your shiny new iPhone.
If all else fails, and you have to have your iPhone 5 today but can’t leave the office, check out Task Rabbit. They will stand in line for you to get the iPhone 5 for $55. That way you can avoid being like Brian:
Offer only available in San Francisco, Palo Alto and New York City.
If you’re sticking with your older iPhone, it will feel like a new phone after you upgrade to iOS 6. iOS 6, the updated operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch was released on Wednesday. The update adds many new features, but replaces Google Maps with Apple’s Maps app. If you use Google Maps app a lot, or even a little, you will be disappointed with Apple’s Maps app. You may want to wait to update to iOS 6 until a Google Maps app appears in the iTunes App Store. If you can’t wait or have already updated, you can still use Google Maps on your iOS device by going to maps.google.com.
Stay tuned to The Wonder of Tech for more news about iOS 6, coming soon!
Are you getting a new iPhone 5? Vote in today’s Wonder of Tech poll and let us know!
What do you think of the iPhone 5? Does it deserve all the buzz it’s getting? Are you craving one or scratching your head trying to understand the hoopla? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below!
* Both Gazelle and Glyde provided me with information about trade-ins in anticipation of the launch iPhone 5, indicating that sales of the phone were going to be massive.
Gazelle saw the biggest peak in iPhone offers in the hour following the iPhone 5 announcement Wednesday, evidenced by the 1550% increase in web traffic. In that one hour timeframe, we were buying about 30 iPhones per minute, more than 3x the volume in the first hour after last year’s iPhone 4S announcement. We had more than 500,000 offers Wednesday, a 1200% increase compared to announcement day last year. Perhaps fittingly, the iPhone 5 announcement seemed to be around 5x bigger than the 4S in just about every way.
Total offers from September 12 = 500k, half a million offers presented
Percentage increase of trades (Wednesday was 480% or just under 5x the amount from announcement day last year)
57% of iPhones traded were iPhone 4/ The 4S was 35%
Most popular model traded on Gazelle was the iPhone 4 16GB for AT&T (31% of entire volume)
85% of iPhones traded to Gazelle were AT&T models.
Presented over 2.5 million offers in the past 30 days.
Presented over 1.3 million offers since announcement day. That is a 700% increase compared to the launch of the 4S last year.
The first week of of iPhone trades since the announcement has shown us a 500% increase in trade in volume compared to the first launch week of last year’s iPhone 4S.
From Wednesday through Sunday of last week, Glyde saw a 581% increase in listings, compared to the same time period the previous week. This increase is more than double what Glyde saw during the iPad 3 launch, showing a much higher level of consumer excitement for the iPhone 5 than the iPad 3.
* Apple Choices image by FreeDigitalPhotos.net