Why I'm Keeping my iPhone 5 for One More Year

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

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.

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15 Comments

#1 This actually makes a lot of sense

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts on upgrading. I've been on the fense regarding whether or notI'll trade in my 5S for a 6. I even went as far as buying an otterbox defender case, just in case I end up getting a 6, but after reading your post, I think I will exercise some patience/self-control. My 5S is still working perfectly, and at the moment, I don't have any genuine need for anything the iphone 6 has to offer. So, the smart thing to do is wait and see what next year's models have to offer. After all, if the design remains the same, the otterbox I purchased will still be useable a year from now.
Thanks again for the words of wisdom.

#2 I agree completely with your points.

Hi. There will always be a bigger better something, coming down the pipeline, no matter what company you are. I'm happy with my 5 as well, and when it becomes sluggish as my four did when even sending one text would take forever, I finally got the five, not wanting the four S. I can't upgrade until July of next year, and I don't mind because I like watching Apple Pay come out. I'm glad i'll have six months of its implication before jumping on the, I gotta have it, band wagon. If there's anything I've learned its that as long as your tech is functioning, just wait until iether it's dead or the magic money fairy comes and hands you the upgrade price.

#3 The iPhone 6 Plus tipped the balance for me

Starting from a 4S, I was using a pretty dated phone that was starting to freeze every so often and have some networking issues. Add that to the fact that I foolishly bought the 16GB model thinking it would be all the storage I could possibly want on a phone, and the iPhone 6 Plus's significant improvements over the 4S, and I had the perfect excuse to upgrade straight away. A shortage of money hasn't been a significant problem for me for several years now, plus the magic money fairy paid me a visit twice this year with enough money to buy a couple of iPhones, so I pulled the trigger on an upgrade.

The "must have" features of the S releases aren't that big in the grand scheme of things. If anything, they're gimmicks added to an existing design in the hope that someone who bought the previous iPhone will be so enthralled by the new "must have" feature that they'll dump their year old iPhone in favor of the new one. A lot of iPhone releases are like that, but I think the S releases are the worst offenders in that regard. The introduction of Apple Pay (even though it's not in Australia yet) was more of a significant feature to me than either Siri or touch ID, but I got that plus touch ID and a bigger screen, so it was a win all round.

In the end, it comes down to what you can afford, what the new features are worth to you, and if you're willing to potentially miss out on a huge ground breaking feature if you buy now instead of next year. That being said, it would make no sense to buy the latest iPhone a month or 2 out from the next iPhone as you would pay the high price of the latest model and miss out on new features at the same time.

#4 Same conclusion for a different reason.

I too am holding off upgrading my five, but for a different reason. Simply put, I do not want IOS 8. There are just still too many major bugs that I do not think are worth the better hard wear.

I have been an apple user for a while now and it is my experience that with every update, on an IOS device or a mac, the result is a slower system with lag. I am not saying that this is Apple's fault, but I do think they push new OS updates to quicken the pace at which hard wear becomes obsolete.

Honestly If I could go back to my first IOS and Mac OS I might consider it.

#5 iPhone 6

Club AppleVis Member

I have the 6, I hate it. Not because the hardware. But the software. I'm so disappointed with 8 from accessibility aspect. There are so many bugs this update. Manageable, but extremely annoying.
Going foreword, I will not buy when first released. Test the new software first.

#6 Make the software work first

I'm also a S person, for the same reasons as noted above. I agree with J.P., although I love the predictive keyboard, and in theory, the new zoom and addition of Speak Screen but there are so many bugs, I find myself doing resets all the time. For example, if you use zoom and Speak Screen together, eventually not only will Speak Screen stop working, but so will swipe up for control center and swipe down for notifications. I'm trying to help my elderly low vision friends, but it's very frustrating to have to tell them, "here's this really neat feature, but not only do you have to learn how to use it, but you have to learn how to reset your iPad when it stops working. That is if you can be sure it's not something you are doing wrong because you are old and forget and your fingers are bent and weak and you can't really see the screen. I'm very frustrated with iOS 8.

#7 I can understand everyone's logic here

Hi! I can understand the logic of everyone who has posted here, not just the writer of the blog post but also the people expressing different opinions in the comments. Having said that, I have only owned two iPhones so far, the 4S and the 6, and I've been happy with both. Getting the 4S was a learning curve for me, of course, with it being my first touch-screen phone, but I soon got used to that, and to the changes to IOS between versions 5 and 7: I never installed IOS 8 on my 4S because I'd read and heard so many opinions against doing so. As for the 6, admittedly I have IOS 8 bugs to put up with, but most of the time they don't bother me too much: having said that, the first time I ever had to do the big reboot with the Home and Power buttons occurred when my iPhone 6 froze recently, something which never happened to my 4S and hopefully won't happen again to my 6. But even a big scare like that hasn't made me regret buying the 6, which I like for its speed and for features I never had on the 4S because it either didn't have them or because I never upgraded to IOS 8 on my old iPhone. Speaking for myself, I think three years is a good length of time to own an iPhone, if it can fit in with contracts: judging from my own experience with the 4S, an iPhone can easily last that long. But I've no idea whether the average iPhone can keep going for four years or more, and I didn't want to be left without a phone, that's why I got a 6 this year while my 4S still worked, and I feel I made a good decision, even if that means missing out on some fab new feature when the 6S is released in 2015.

#8 Making it Last

I recently got an iPhone 6. It is my first iPhone. But I have had a Touch 4 since the first day it as available. When the Touch 5 came out two years later, I was not swayed to upgrade. The improvements were incremental, and I chose not to toss out a device that performed the same tasks it did from day one. I wanted to delay the tossing to a landfill, or whatever final resting place these go to, as long as i could.

This fall, now 4 years into the Touch, I decided it was time for a new device. I replaced my old flip phone with an iPhone, and the Touch is now just a music player, instead of my portable computing device. While it's nice to have mobile, and not just WiFi data, I mostly appreciate the iPhone's speed, camera, and updated software options. I haven't experienced much instability of issues other than not getting FLeksy as I had hoped. When I read others posts that ask questions like, "Does your device crash when you do X Y Z?? " I usually find that i don't.

My flip phone lives on as an emergency 9 1 1 phone in case I need it. I'll charge it now and then to keep the battery working but otherwise leave it off. My Touch continues to get use as a music player and a backup should something happen to my iPhone. My iphone is my daily driver. I hope to get as many years out of it as I did the Touch. I'm really happy with what it does, and assuming it doesn't break, I hope it does that for years.

Like the original poster, I may be attracted to new shiny stuff, but try to be pragmatic, and think beyond a cool feature to to how long can I use the device.

#9 Agree with this opinion article

I myself am doing just this, keeping the 5S and avoiding the 6/6+. I see no reason, plus I can pay off the 5S early and have a good year of low-cost calls.

#10 Upgrading

If I'd had a 5S, I wouldn't have gone for the upgrade. But I made the mistake of putting iOS 8 on my 5, and once I did that, it was never quite the same. It was sluggish, crashed repeatedly, and although I'd had to do the soft reset several times before, I was doing it almost weekly with iOS 8. I was pretty confident my phone wouldn't make it until next year. I decided to go for it now, while I still had a working phone that I could get some money for.

#11 upgrading not for me

For myself I am not upgrading and here's why: first, I have a 5S which I purchased in december last year. When I say purchased, I mean purchased outright on a sim only deal. The reason why is because I became fed up of my carrier having so much of a say in if and when I upgraded. I think part of that was because of when I started my phone contract. Typically, an upgrade would come down the line just as I was a couple of months into my new deal. Anyhow, I like the freedom of a sim only deal and am very pleased I did it. The drawback is spending £709 in my case on the 5S.

Are there features on the 6 that I like? Absolutely, there are some great features, Apple Pay being one (although it isn't in the UK yet), and apparently better audio another. But, call me old-fashioned if you will, when I've spent £709 less than a year ago on a device, I would feel that upgrading might suggest I had more money than sense and didn't know the true value of money. my mother certainly would say such things! she often does, only this time she would probably have a point. It would have taken something very special indeed (an iPhone 6 that cooks for you, always gets in a round of drinks and pays off your mortgage out of its own pocket) to make me upgrade. Sadly, I didn't see any of those features in any of Apple's literature though.

The original poster really has a point about the S issue. Perhaps these features on the S releases are just designed to get you to buy one if you didn't the year before, but I have to say the new features introduced into the S series I have often found very attractive.

So, Hurrah for my iPhone 5s! For one more year, at least.

#12 Going plus

I was going to do the same thing, but the 6 Plus (and a good deal from Sprint) convinced me to upgrade a year early.
I hope Otterbox stocks more defender cases before my phone gets to the store... Apple severely underestimated the demand for the Plus, so basically noone has it in stock, and they said it could take three or four weeks to get one for me.
I ordered the 64GB space gray Plus.

#13 I'm also have the same thoughts with Mehgcap on the upgrades

I'm fine with my iPhone 5 and I will keep it as long as it could last.

#14 upgrading

I got my 5S after using an iPhone 4 for 3+ years and my plan was to not upgrade again for 3 years, but I doubt I'll make it that long, not because the phone won't last, just that I'll probably won't resist the lure of whatever comes out next year - so unless feedback on next year's model is underwhelming I'll probably will go for the 6s - by the way I still use my iPhone 4 for music and BARD and other reading apps around the house, it's replaced my Victor Stream for those uses, these are well made, durable products besides being so useful and cool. My iPhone 4 is now 4 and a half years old and still works great running 7.1.12.

#15 According to AT&T's My AT&T

According to AT&T's My AT&T app, I'm eligeable for early upgrading, I got my iPhone 5s in December of last year so I'm only about half way through my two year contract.

The only upgrade I'd be willing to consider at this point is another iPhone 5s but with more storage than what I have now, 64GB would be nice. I'm also thinking that, if I got another 5s, chances are it would still have IOS 7 on it, for me IOS 8 doesn't have anything I urgently need or want to make dealing with the bugs worth having it. . And finally, I often use the phone one handed and the size of the 5s seems perfect, I'm not sure I'd want a phone that's physically larger.

A little off topic, but since somebody mentioned it, here's my two cents worth...

Apple Pay? As far as I can tell that's just a programmable RFID chip in the phone. RFID chips have been in debit/credit cards for many years and yet I have yet to find a single store that uses the technology. The get your card information for a purchase. In fact, the only place I've ever seen RFID technology in active use was for the Chicago Plus card to pay train and bus fares in Chicagoland (Chicago and suburbs). So, if nobody's using RFID technology to access payment information, What good is it?