Should Travelers Upgrade to the iPhone 6?

  by Chris Backe6 Comments

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Apple’s recent announcement about the iPhone 6 ended up confirming what people who followed the leaks already knew — a bigger screen option with the 6 Plus, the introduction of iOS 8, a faster auto-focusing camera and processor, and so on.

The NFC (near-field communication, giving the phone wireless payment options) is a nice touch, even though it’ll have limited use to start with.

With every new generation of tech comes plenty of advances, but are there enough new features to make an upgrade worth your while?

If You Have an iPhone 3Gs

iPhone and iPhone 3G

First released in June 2009 and discontinued in September 2012, the operating system only goes to iOS 6.1.6. You might have picked up one of these from a second-hand (third-hand?) electronics dealer, or maybe you’ve somehow avoided breaking yours since you bought it brand new.

Perhaps you’ve been holding off because you wanted to see what was new in iPhone 6. Now that it’s been announced and released, the iPhone 6 is probably the one you want.

It might be a hit to your travel savings, but be honest with yourself – you’ve been bumming around with an ancient phone for too long. The new model will feel like a quantum leap in both speed and flexibility, and will likely end up being the phone you keep until the iPhone 8 or 9 comes out.

Final word: upgrade now.

If You Have an iPhone 4


First released in June 2010 and discontinued in September 2013, some elements of iOS 7 like Siri and turn-by-turn navigation don’t work on the iPhone 4. You probably didn’t care all that much , especially if you’re in a country with slow Internet that makes use of those two features almost impossible anyway.

In case you haven’t felt like the iPhone 4 is fading fast, it was confirmed earlier this year that iOS 8 won’t be available for it. Making matters worse, some newer games won’t work — or work well — due to the greater need for graphics power.

That means your next marathon bus ride might have a few less options. In short, you’re approaching the end of the line. Upgrade soon.

If You Have an iPhone 4S

4S Siri_iPhone

First released in October 2011 and discontinued in September 2014, this is the model of iPhone I have right now. It’s been trucking along just fine since buying it used in Bangkok back eighteen months ago. If you bought it new, three years is a long time for a smartphone these days.

While it’ll work with iOS 8, historically the last phone that’s still supported ends up feeling a little sluggish on it (and initial reviews suggest that’s the case here as well). It’s still supported by the newest games and apps, but again, it’s usually the oldest model mentioned that will work.

My 4S is ready for a new case, and it’s time to get rid of some apps, but there’s still plenty of life left in it. I’ll probably be using it until it’s time for the iPhone 7 to come out, assuming (knock on wood!) it doesn’t get lost, stolen, or broken.

Unless you really want the larger screen, do some spring cleaning on your phone and hang in there until the next model comes out.

If You Have an iPhone 5

iPhone 5 with Twitter app

First released in September 2012 and discontinued in September 2013, your iPhone 5 might be feeling old if you’re used to being on the bleeding edge of things. Sure, the extra bit of screen real estate was nice, but you might want an even larger screen. Perhaps you’ve traveled to Korea, or otherwise been tempted by the larger-screened phones Samsung has been putting out.

The main reasons to upgrade (beyond the screen size) would be the NFC tech and support for the Apple Watch, coming “early 2015” according to the announcement. The incremental speed boost and slight upgrades in hardware are nice, but the main thing that stands out is another size boost.

Don’t upgrade unless you particularly want the NFC or larger screen size.

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If You Have an iPhone 5C

iPhone 5C colors

First released in September 2013 and now Apple’s free / introductory phone, how long you’ve owned your 5C may determine your willingness to pick up the iPhone 6. It still has plenty of life left, and assuming you’re happy with it, the phone should easily last until the iPhone 7 comes out.

If you’re still under contract, of course, you’re probably already aware of your (lack of) upgrade options.

Simply being the free phone now doesn’t change its value, and it’ll play nice with Apple Watch and iOS8. Don’t upgrade unless you want NFC or the screen size boost.

If You Have an iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S with case

First released in September 2013 and still on sale, the 5S remains a kick-butt phone that’ll be around well into the reign of the iPhone 7 (and likely the 7S, if they stick to the naming scheme). No matter what you’re using it for, the 5S still has plenty of life left in it.

You’re likely either still under contract or not particularly interested in purchasing another unlocked phone in this price range so soon, and the 6 just isn’t all that different from the 5S. Don’t believe me? Compare on Apple’s official page.  Don’t upgrade.

Overall, now or soon is a good time to upgrade if your phone can’t run iOS 8. Not everyone needs to be on the latest and (supposedly) greatest, of course, but as time goes on fewer apps will support older versions of the operating system and your phone will become much less useful.

Photo credit: Kelvinsong vis Wikipedia (main image), Dan Taylor via Wikipedia (iPhone and iPhone 3G), Wikimedia (iPhone 4), Wikipedia (iPhone 4S), Health Gauge (iPhone 5), Apple (screenshot of iPhone 5C colors), Incase (iPhone 5S)

About the Author

Chris Backe

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Chris Backe is the avid traveler and blogger behind One Weird Globe, dedicated to highlighting offbeat destinations throughout the world. He's written over a dozen books and itineraries about Korea and Thailand beyond the blog, and considers technology an absolutely essential part of traveling.


  1. The only reason would upgrade would to have more memory – as I have a lot of social media apps my 16GB is not enough!

  2. Hi! Thanks for sharing your advice on upgrading.
    Would you say that, in terms of performance for browsing the web or using apps such as facebook, there is no difference between an iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 in countries where the bandwidth only supports 3G?

    1. Well, the hardware does get better each time. Faster processors and whatnot. If you’re ‘stuck’ on 3G then every little incremental speed boost does help. I remember seeing a video where a couple of guys tested every version of the iPhone to see which one booted up fastest, loaded a webpage fastest, etc. ( There’s also the matter of the real world – a three- or four-year-old device may start feeling sluggish for a number of reasons…

      1. Thanks for your advice and sharing the video. I guess I have no choice but to get my sister a new iphone for her birthday :/ haha!

  3. One other thing to keep in mind is LTE frequencies. the 5/5s models have different groupings of frequencies than the iPhone 6/6 . For me, going to Australia for a year, it made sense to upgrade from my 5s to a 6, if only because it would guarantee I could be on LTE in Oz (the better camera and bigger screen size were a plus for me, too).

    Of course, I’m an Apple fanboy, so there’s that, too. 🙂

    1. Yup, agreed. If you know you’re going places that have different LTE bands — and the new iPhones cover those bands — it’s something else in the ‘pros’ column. Is it a reason to upgrade by itself? Unless you *really* need that faster data, probably not… but if you’re on the fence, it’s enough to push you off it. 😉

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