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What are all the differences between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S? Is one best for me?
Please note that the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S both have been discontinued. However, this Q&A has been updated with current iOS support info and other details and is quite useful for anyone buying or selling either of these models on the used market.
However, even though they may not have major differences visible to the naked eye -- there nevertheless are major differences between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.
The iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models all use the same general all stainless steel body design and a thin "metal band" that wraps around the sides of each phone. However, the iPhone 4 (GSM) models and the iPhone 4S have an access panel on the right side (and an enclosed Micro SIM card) and the iPhone 4 (CDMA) does not have an access panel or a SIM card.
Additionally, the iPhone 4 (GSM) models have three antenna "breaks" in the metal band (one on the top and one on each side toward the bottom) and the iPhone 4 (CDMA) and iPhone 4S have four (two on both sides toward the top and bottom).
The rear camera also has considerably better specs on the iPhone 4S -- capable of shooting 8 megapixel stills and 1080p 30 FPS video. The older iPhone 4 models, by contrast, are capable of shooting 5 megapixel still photos and 720p 30 FPS video. Both lines have a VGA quality front-facing camera designed for use with Apple's "FaceTime" software (although it works equally well with third-party applications like Skype). The camera in the iPhone 4S is faster, too, and is ready to take photos within a second of launch and additional photos within a half second.
Specifically, the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S model numbers are:
|iPhone Model||Model Number|
|iPhone 4 (GSM)/(GSM, A)||A1332|
|iPhone 4 (CDMA)||A1349|
|iPhone 4S (Global)||A1387|
|iPhone 4S (China)||A1431|
If the iPhone will boot, it may be even easier to lookup any of these models by Order Number with Everyi.com's Ultimate iLookup feature or the EveryMac app (available for iOS 5 or later and Android). Apple refers to the order number as "Model" in software. To find the "Model" select the "Settings" app and then click General > About > and scroll until the field is visible.
Battery Life Differences
Battery life has changed a bit between the iPhone 4S and the previous iPhone 4 models. All of these models provide an Apple estimated 40 hours of audio playback, 10 hours of video playback and 6 hours of Internet use on 3G, but Apple has increased the official battery life estimates for the iPhone 4S to 8 hours of talk time on 3G (up from 7 hours on the iPhone 4 models) and reduced the official Internet use on Wi-Fi (9 hours down from 10 hours). Standby time also has been reduced from 300 hours to 200.
In "real world" testing, these differences are muted for most tasks, but the difference in battery life during 3D gaming use is the downside to the significantly improved performance of the iPhone 4S for graphics tasks.
Wireless Connectivity & Data Differences
A major point of differentiation is that the iPhone 4S is a dual-antenna equipped "world phone" that supports both GSM and CDMA networks -- UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), and CDMA EV-DO Rev. A (800, 1900 MHz) -- and the "antenna automatically switches between send and receive." It supports 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, too. HSDPA is up to a theoretical maximum of 14.4 Mbps.
By contrast, the earlier iPhone 4 models support either GSM or CDMA networks, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and only support a maximum theoretical HSDPA download speed of 7.2 Mbps.
Unfortunately, it also is worth noting that Apple has disabled the CDMA capability on unlocked iPhone 4S models purchased in the United States.
Internally, the iPhone 4S is considerably more powerful -- with a dual-core Apple A5 processor compared to a single core Apple A4 processor on the iPhone 4 models -- although the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S both have 512 MB of RAM. Apple reports that the iPhone 4S is twice as fast overall and has seven times the graphics performance, and independent benchmarks and testing largely confirm this claim.
Capacity was increased to 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB for the iPhone 4S, compared to 16 GB and 32 GB for the originally offered iPhone 4 models. However, Apple later offered 8 GB configurations of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S alike.
iOS Support & Software Differences
The iPhone 4 fully supports iOS 5, but only partially supports iOS 6 and iOS 7. The iPhone 4S, on the other hand, fully supports iOS 5 and iOS 6, but only partially supports iOS 7, iOS 8, and iOS 9. The iPhone 4 does not support iOS 8 or later at all and the iPhone 4S does not support iOS 10 or later at all.
Perhaps most notably, regardless of iOS version, only the iPhone 4S is capable officially of running "Siri," Apple's acquired "intelligent assistant" software program that endeavors to parse naturally spoken questions and provide voice answers using the web as its source and perform basic software tasks as well (like adding an appointment to a calendar or preparing and sending a text message). In the "real world," Siri doesn't always perform perfectly, but it still can be useful.
Running iOS 6, the iPhone 4 supports an "Offline Reading List" feature as well as Find My iPhone and Find My Friends capabilities, but it does not support Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Flyover, Panorama photographic mode, or "Made for iPhone" hearing aids like the iPhone 4S.
Running iOS 7, the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S alike do not support AirDrop. However, both devices support all basic functionality -- Control Center, Notification Center, and Multitasking, as well as Safari and iTunes Radio -- in addition to "Filters in Photos" and an assortment of photo functionality that Apple refers to as "Square and video formats and swipe to capture." Just as it does running iOS 6, the iPhone 4S still supports Panorama and Siri, and it supports new "Filters in Camera" functionality in iOS 7, whereas the iPhone 4 does not.
Running iOS 8, the iPhone 4S most notably is not compatible with the "Continuity" feature and running iOS 9, feature support is bare bones at best. It doesn't support advanced operating system features like predictive Siri, third-party Spotlight search, public transit directions in Maps and more. Performance also is slower running iOS 8 or iOS 9 compared to iOS 7.
iOS Performance Differences
Based on hands-on experience, if performance is most important to you, you should run iOS 7 on your iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S is a bit slower running iOS 8 and even slower running iOS 9. However, application support for iOS 7 has become more and more of an issue since it was discontinued. If application compatibility is more important to you than performance, iOS 8 or iOS 9 are your only option short of buying a newer iPhone.
This video from iAppleBytes does an excellent job demonstrating the performance difference between iOS 7 (on the left) and iOS 9 (on the right) running on the iPhone 4S and help you to decide whether or not you feel the performance loss is worth the compatibility gain:
Note that if you have upgraded your iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S to a newer version of the operating system, it is not possible to "downgrade" it to an earlier version without resorting to jailbreaking or other hacks.
These differences -- processor, storage, connectivity, battery life, software, cameras, and identifiers -- along with pricing information are summarized below for your convenience:
iPhone 4 (GSM)
iPhone 4 (CDMA)
|Processor:||Apple A4||Apple A4||Apple A5|
|Storage:||8, 16, 32 GB||8, 16, 32 GB||8, 16, 32, 64 GB|
|HSDPA:||Yes (7.2 Mbps)||No||Yes (14.4 Mbps)|
|Talk Time (3G):||7 Hours||7 Hours||8 Hours|
|Talk Time (2G):||14 Hours||None||14 Hours|
|Battery (3G Web):||6 Hours||6 Hours||6 Hours|
|Battery (Wi-Fi):||10 Hours||10 Hours||9 Hours|
|Battery (Music):||40 Hours||40 Hours||40 Hours|
|Battery (Video):||10 Hours||10 Hours||10 Hours|
|Standby Time:||300 Hours||300 Hours||200 Hours|
|Original iOS:||iOS 4.0||iOS 4.3||iOS 5|
|Fastest iOS:||iOS 6||iOS 6||iOS 7|
|Maximum iOS:||iOS 7 (Partial)||iOS 7 (Partial)||iOS 9 (Basic)|
|Siri Support:||No (Hacks Only)||No (Hacks Only)||Yes|
|iOS 6+ Read Offline:||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|iOS 6+ TBT:||No||No||Yes|
|iOS 6+ Flyover:||No||No||Yes|
|iOS 6+ Panorama:||No||No||Yes|
|iOS 7 Cam. Filters:||No||No||No|
|iOS 7 Photo Filters:||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|iOS 7 AirDrop:||No||No||No|
|iOS 8 Continuity:||No||No||No|
|Still Camera:||5 Megapixels||5 Megapixels||8 Megapixels|
*These prices all required a two-year contract in the US. Unlocked and contract free models were available at a premium.
For intro pricing in dozens of other countries, see the "Global Prices" on the specs page for each iPhone as well as the "By Global Original Prices" section of Everyi.com.
So, which one is best for me?
When an iPhone is new, the vast majority of the cost of owning the device is tied to the service plan, at least in countries where it is sold locked to -- and subsidized by -- a mobile carrier, as was the case when the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S were introduced in the United States.
If you're considering a now quite inexpensive iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S on the used market to save money, be sure that you have a sufficient budget to cover the monthly carrier costs. Note that if the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S is locked to a particular carrier, this may limit your options, as well.
Most users on a tight budget likely would be best off purchasing a newer, but still used, model like an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, or iPhone 5s (or even a new iPhone SE) as operating system support is more modern and they likely would provide service for longer if the device is cared for properly. However, for those who want a physically smaller iPhone or who are on a particularly tight budget, the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S remain worth consideration.
Of the two models alone, the newer, faster iPhone 4S is the better choice. However, those who find the faster performance, faster mobile data support, better camera, and additional software features of the iPhone 4S unnecessary -- and who don't mind the iPhone 4 model's limited iOS 7 support and lack of support for iOS 8 and later versions of the iOS altogether -- still might be able to get by with the increasingly vintage model and perhaps find a way to put the savings to better use.
Although, it also is quite important to note that because the iPhone 4 does not support iOS 8 or later, the latest version of many apps will not be compatible with the device and app support altogether will start to fade fairly quickly. If there are particular apps that you really want to use on your iPhone, be sure to verify compatibility prior to purchasing an iPhone 4 or an iPhone 4S, either one, to avoid potential disappointment. As the iPhone 4S also doesn't support the current version of the iOS, app support will start to wane quickly for it, too.
iPhone Purchase & Sale Options
There are any number of places to purchase used iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S. However, purchasing from a quality company with extensive iPhone knowledge -- and after sales support -- will provide the best experience and save you money and time, too.
In the US, site sponsor PowerMax has a good selection of used iPhones -- including the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S -- available for sale free of sales tax. PowerMax also accepts trade-ins on older iPhones toward the purchase of a newer iPhone or anything else they sell. If you just want money for your old iPhone, site sponsor BuyBackWorld will buy your iPhone 4, iPhone 4S or other iPhone directly for fast cash.
Please also see EveryiPhone.com's Ultimate iComparison feature to dynamically compare any iPhone model to any other iPod, iPhone, or iPad.