I got my iPhone 5 in December of 2012, almost two years ago as of the time of this writing. Last year, the iPhone 5S came out, and it was really cool, but not worth paying an early upgrade fee on top of the price of the phone. Now, the iPhone 6/6 Plus is out, and way cooler than the 5S, and my upgrade is coming due… But I'm not making the switch. Why, you ask? Good question!
The iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus, but you know what I mean) offers a lot over the 5, from a larger screen, to the Touch ID fingerprint reader, to NFC for Apple Pay, to a better battery life, to a superior camera, and more. My mother has one, so I've been able to use the 6 for a while and really get a feel for it. Even though I'm a VoiceOver user, the increased screen size feels great, and I would definitely like to have that. Plus, it supports the Alex speech synthesizer (new in iOS8), which my iPhone does not, and offers all the other benefits of its vastly superior internal components and overall form factor. Yet I'm not upgrading to this amazing new device?
No, I'm not, and here's why: if Apple sticks to the system it has used since the iPhone 3GS, next year will see an iPhone 6 with some amazing new feature that the 2014 model lacks. One year, Apple redesigns their iPhones completely, but the parts inside are similar to the previous generation. The next year, they keep that new design, but add a feature that last year's model didn't have and that everyone will want. Picture the iPhone 3G compared to the 4, the 4 to the 5, and now the 5 to the 6: each model looked different, but had similar internals to the previous generation. The years they don't upgrade to a new design, they take the previous design and add a killer new feature to it, as well as offering modest updates to the internals. The 4 and the 4S look identical, but the 4S introduced Siri; the 5 and the 5S look the same, but the 5S offered Touch ID and the first 64-bit CPU in a smartphone. In my mind, the "S years" (when Apple brings a new feature to last year's design) are the bigger updates, because of the amazing new features they introduce.
You can see where this is going. If I replace my iPhone 5, which still works perfectly and even recently had its battery replaced for free, I'm stuck with a 6 for the next two years. While the 6 is certainly a fine device, what happens next fall? The 6S (for lack of a better name) will come along, with, I don't know, a tactile feedback touch screen or the ability to make me pancakes every morning. I'll almost definitely want whatever "killer feature" Apple puts into the 2015 iPhone update, but if I upgrade now, I can't get it. If I wait, and keep using the same phone that has served me well for two years, I can upgrade next fall and have the latest phone with that mystery feature that will make people want it even more than they wanted the 6.
"But what about…" Yes, I know, there are problems with my scheme, and the one that comes to mind first is trade-in value. This year, had I updated, I could have gotten $200 for my iPhone 5 from Verizon, netting me a 16GB iPhone 6 with no out-of-pocket cost to me. Next year, will companies be so generous? Will I still get such a great deal trading a phone from 2012? I don't know, but the price is worth it to me if it means I have that 6S.
The idea that I could keep putting it off, always saying that next year's model is worth waiting for and thus never upgrading, is also a valid point. The form factor upgrades, though, tend to be mostly that: form factor. Sure, the processor is more powerful or the camera is better, but the big selling point is the new design. I'm waiting for that world-changing addition in the next S year, the Siri or Touch ID that makes last year's design so much better than it was. When the iPhone 7 drops in 2016, it will look different, but have most of the features of the iPhone 6S, so I won't want it as badly. I can contentedly wait two years with my 6S until the 7S comes along, by which time I can upgrade again.
Isn't this a lot of speculation? Yes, of course it is. I'm assuming that carrier upgrade plans won't change much, that I'll still be using Verizon, that Apple sticks to its past upgrade cycle and patterns, that I'll still want an iPhone in two or more years… But in planning this kind of thing, speculation based on the past is all any of us have.
What if an amazing deal comes along? I'll do my best to ignore it. My plan right now is to not lock myself into another contract until the 6S is out, and I'll do my best to stick to it. If I had a chance for an unlocked iPhone 6, I'd absolutely take it; I could sell the phone, or keep it in reserve, or use it on wifi only. All the good sales (where good means the trade up is free or almost free) happen on the understanding that you lock yourself into a contract. I really want my contract to be with a 6S, instead of watching as Apple unveils a must-have feature I can't get until a year or more after it's released.
So, that's my plan. Keep my faithful iPhone 5 until fall of 2015, at which point I'll upgrade to the 6S. The 2016 model will probably have similar features to the 6S, but in a different form, so the temptation to update will be far less than it is in one of the S years. Besides, I've lived with the slower processor, pin code unlocking, and other "old" technology for two years. It may be outdated, but my iPhone is still a life-changing device that works well and does what I need it to do. Sure, some things would be faster or easier on a 6, but I'm not willing to upgrade now, only to watch the amazing new features of the 6S pass me by. Feel free to agree, call me nuts, or anything in between in the comments.