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What are all the differences between the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S? Which one is best for my needs?
Please note that with the exception of mainland China and Brazil, the iPhone 4 has been discontinued. The iPhone 4S is available new from Apple. This Q&A has been updated with the latest on iOS support and more and is quite useful for anyone buying or selling either of these models whether new or used.
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 4S and iPhone 4 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 4S and iPhone 4 (GSM) 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) has 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 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.
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 4S and iPhone 4 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 has been increased to 16 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB for the iPhone 4S (16 GB for the current model), compared to 16 GB and 32 GB for the originally offered iPhone 4 models (and 8 GB for the current low-end models).
iOS Support & Software Differences
Both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S are capable of running iOS 5, iOS 6, and iOS 7, but specific features supported by each operating system are different on each device. 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.
The iPhone 4S will support iOS 8 to some extent, but the iPhone 4 does not support iOS 8 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.
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|
|Original Storage:||16, 32 GB||16, 32 GB||16, 32, 64 GB|
|Current Storage:||8 GB||8 GB||16 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|
|Maximum iOS:||iOS 7 (Partial)||iOS 7 (Partial)||iOS 8 (Pending)|
|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|
|Still Camera:||5 Megapixels||5 Megapixels||8 Megapixels|
These prices all require, or required, a two-year contract in the US. Unlocked and contract free models are available at a premium.
So, which one is best for me?
Ultimately, as the vast majority of the cost of owning an iPhone is tied to the plan rather than the upfront cost of the device -- at least in countries where it is sold locked and subsidized -- it makes little sense to not purchase an iPhone 4S (or a newer model like the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, or iPhone 5s) should you wish to purchase an iPhone.
However, those who find the faster performance, larger storage capacity, 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 -- still could be happy with the older model and perhaps find a way to put the savings to better use.
In particular, a frugal user who purchases an unlocked iPhone 4 on the used market and chooses an inexpensive prepaid mobile phone plan rather than an often costly monthly contract plan tied to a new iPhone 4S definitely could save significant money over a year or two year period.
iPhone Purchase & Repair Options
There are any number of places to purchase a new or used iPhone as well as services. 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.
Site sponsor Mission Repair offers free diagnosis and 24-hour repair for cracked displays, dead batteries, broken buttons and more for all iPhone models in the US and ships parts worldwide for self-replacement.
Please also see EveryiPhone.com's Ultimate iComparison feature to dynamically compare any iPhone model to any other iPod, iPhone, or iPad.