Upgrading to the iPhone 5S is pointless [OPINION]

iphone 5s
I’ve bought every new iPhone since its debut in 2007, but for the first time, I’ve decided not to upgrade my iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5S. Here’s why.

The simple reason? It’s not worth it. But there are emotional reasons that go beyond that. Perhaps the most important is that my carrier is AT&T, and I think it’s a sleazy company that I don’t want to support any more than I have to.




Why isn’t it worth it? As I suspected and as I saw confirmed in a video comparing speeds of all the iPhones, the iPhone 5S is not much faster than its predecessor. As usual, Apple’s guff about processor speed is mostly bullshit.

Gaming might be faster on the iPhone 5S, but not much else. And I don’t care about gaming on my iPhone. The only game I really care about is Apple’s brilliant Texas Hold ‘Em, and it runs fast enough. The slight increase in speed will not affect the quality of my life in any way.

The new camera on the iPhone 5S has some tricky toys baked in, such slow-motion and rapid-fire picture taking, but that’s the kind of thing that — like Siri before it — was lots of fun on the first day I got it, and then I neglected it for the rest of the year. Not worth it.

When I first wrote about whether I would upgrade to the iPhone 5S or not, I was concerned about the reliability of Touch ID, the iPhone 5S’s new fingerprint recognition sensor. It turns out to be better than I thought it would be, but I’m still not so paranoid about security that it becomes a necessity for me. And I’m still not certain it’s going to be worthwhile. Let’s let someone else do the beta testing for Apple. It’s certainly not worth forking over more money to the dreaded AT&T.

Then there’s AT&T. It’s a crap company. Books have been written about how horrible wireless providers are in the U.S., and I think AT&T is one of the worst. So does Consumer Reports, rating AT&T the worst value in U.S. cellphone carriers. From my perspective, any company that charges you a $36 “upgrade fee” when your phone is due for a “free” upgrade, is sleazy. Any company that would add a useless time-wasting recording (“If you’d like to leave a message…”) at the end of every voicemail outgoing message just so you’ll use up extra talk time is sleazy. Any company that tells you it’s going to give you a $20 monthly discount and then conveniently “forgets” to do so is sleazy. Thanks, AT&T. You suck.

Finally, I’m tired of being an Apple fanboy. Like a fool, I shell out hundreds (or thousands) of dollars every time the company decides to hype up a new piece of hardware that won’t make any real difference to me. If it were something earth-shattering, I’d be more than happy to part with megabucks. This time, I say no. I’m satisfied with my iPhone 5, and not once have I wished it would be faster or more secure.

Yes, a few times I wished it had better low-light camera performance with my iPhone five — maybe once in a year — but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. For important photography, I have my world-class digital SLR that’s hundreds of times better than any smartphone camera. Is it worth it for me to hand over a $250 early upgrade fee to AT&T just for the privilege of owning a phone that’s almost the same as the one I have now?

Just who am I trying to impress?

My answer: no one. I’m not trying to impress anyone. In fact, I’m trying to impress myself, avoiding Apple’s reality distortion field for the first time since 2007. I feel like I’ve conquered an addiction. However, I’m starting to hear rumors about the iPhone 6. I have a feeling my Apple sobriety is only going to last a year.

Image: Apple, composite by Charlie White

  • I upgraded from the 5 to the 5s – my son is happy (he got my 5) and I’m loving the fingerprint sensor and low light capabilities of the camera. The 5s seems snappier than the 5 although this is a minor reason to upgrade (but may be in the near future as Apps that use the M7 chip are released.)

    • I have to admit, I felt a twinge of envy when you mentioned those low-light capabilities and snappiness. But I’ll stick with the iPhone 5.

  • If you’re happy with what you’ve got, I think that’s reason enough to not upgrade. Media (and Apple themselves) makes it seem as though we *must* upgrade if we want the best. But what you already have works so well, so why bother?

    I’m in the same boat. My iPhone 5 has a broken camera that has some grain over the lens, but it still works so I won’t be shilling out $500 (or really any dollars) for a little while.

    Now, when the free upgrade comes around I may change my tune. But right now, why bother?

    • I agree. My iPhone 5 is still every bit as good as the day I got it, in fact, it’s still close to greatness. But I don’t think the iPhone 5S gets closer enough to greatness to justify filling AT&T’s coffers any further.

  • Curtis Walker

    The reason I would go for the 5S:
    1. I have a 4S. the extra screen real estate and the faster guts make me want it. I skipped the 5, because I’m on the S-model update curve. Also, by the time the S model comes out, the accessories are a lot cheaper and plentiful.
    2. The fingerprint reader will keep my ex and my daughter out of my phone. For that guy who’s daughter spend $1400 on Smurfberries, this is a gate closed after the horse. But as someone with a child, I’m happy she can’t swipe my Apple ID and go on a spending spree anymore. Small touch, but ultimately very important and trendsetting, IMO.
    3. the camera, the “newness” (buttons working, battery in full electrochemical health, never been swimming, etc) are bonuses.

    Am I going to get one? No. That’s entirely a budget matter and because psychologically I don’t want another 2 year contract with AT&T. Though I can’t imagine switching to another network after the major infrastructure investments/improvements they made using our subscriber fees. Everywhere I go, AT&T works pretty much awesome nowadays.

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