4 Reasons Not to Buy an iPhone 4 Today

Today's that special summer day, which has become dependable over the past few years, when you can see long lines outside your local Apple Store. The new iPhone 4 is hitting the shelves, and some estimates indicate that as many as one million could be sold in just one day. The pre-orders alone were around 600,000. It's pretty exciting to be one of the first to own a cool new device, so you might be considering joining the crowds clamoring for the shiny, fresh iPhone today. But exercising some patience might be a good idea.

The Prospect of a New Service Provider

There's some reason to believe that Apple could announce additional service provider coverage for the iPhone as soon as this year. Who that will be is a little unclear. Some say T-mobile. Others say Verizon. If you sign a new contract today for the iPhone, however, you'll be stuck with AT&T for the next two years. For those who dislike AT&T's network, it might pay off to wait six to nine months for the iPhone 4 if they could get it with a different carrier.

Not Fully Functional

The new iPhone has few truly new capabilities. The standout is videoconferencing. The problem, however, is that it will only work over WiFi throughout 2010. While that's better than nothing, it means that the device can't be used to its full capabilities this year. And besides, you can already enjoy videoconferencing for free over WiFi with Skype. The real innovation would be doing so over a mobile data network.

Avoid the Kinks

The introduction of many new devices includes lots of kinks to work out, so this isn't necessarily specific to the iPhone. But this new model is arguably the most significant design change since the original iPhone hit the market, but certainly the biggest since the 3G. It has lots of new components like its slick antennae band that runs along the edge. But early reports indicate that this design, in particular, might incorporate a little more form than function, as reception worsens if you touch the band -- which is hard to avoid when holding the phone to your ear. This is just one example and additional bugs will almost certainly be identified, as with any new gadget. As an early adopter, you're a guinea pig for such problems.

There's Little Reason for Rush

If you aren't a smartphone owner, then this point is less significant. But if you have an older version iPhone or different smartphone with similar functionality, the relatively few new capabilities reduce the urgency to upgrade. Yes, it has a better camera and another front-facing, but you can still take pictures with your old phone. Yes, it's a little thinner; it has a slightly sharper display; it has better battery life; and it's a little faster. But all of these aspects of recent versions of other smartphones, especially the iPhone 3G and 3Gs are clearly tolerable. The only capability that's a game-changer is teleconferencing, which as mentioned above you can only do over WiFi this year anyway. There's no other new functionality iPhone 4 provides that current smartphone owners can't live without.

Of course, this isn't to say that you shouldn't buy the iPhone 4. It appears to be a brilliant new device. You might just want to wait several months to see how the smartphone and its network evolve.

Presented by

Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.


Is Minneapolis the Best City in America?

No other place mixes affordability, opportunity, and wealth so well.

More in Technology

Just In