Shiny and tempting as it might be, a new iPhone isn't necessarily for everyone. Here are five questions to ask before you jump aboard the iPhone bandwagon.
Am I eligible for an upgrade?
Smartphones are expensive. If you're at the end of your contract and are eligible for an upgrade, you'll be able to purchase the iPhone 5s or 5c at the lowest possible retail price: $199 for the 16-GB 5s and $99 for the 16-GB 5c. (Want more storage? You'll pay more.) If you're in the middle of your contract and not eligible for an upgrade, you're going to pay a whole lot more for that new iPhone, possibly as much as the full $549/$649 retail price. Though everyone has their own budget for new toys, shelling out full price for an iPhone will be painful.
[ For more iPhone buying tips, see Apple iPhone 5s, 5c: Pros And Cons. ]
Can I trade in my old phone?
Yes and no. Some stores, such as Best Buy and Walmart, will accept trade-ins. To get some cash at Best Buy or Walmart for your old device, however, you must be willing to sign a new contract with one of the four major network operators: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon. Some third-party stores will let you trade the device in even if you're in the middle of your contract, but carrier stores probably won't. This is something that will vary widely by carrier and store. Your best chance to offset the price of a new device is to sell your old one. The problem is, you can't sell a device that's still on contract; you must own it outright.
What is the new iPhone really going to give me?
This depends on the device you're switching from. If you're on an older iPhone 4 or 4S, there are plenty of reasons to upgrade. If you have an iPhone 5, the incentive isn't so great. The iPhone 4 and 4S, for example, have older cameras (5 megapixels for iPhone 4, 8 MP for iPhone 4S), no LTE 4G, and smaller screens. Updating to the iPhone 5s or 5c will improve all three of those features. The iPhone 5, however, has LTE and the same screen as the iPhone 5s/5c. Jumping from the iPhone 5 to the 5c or 5s doesn't make too much sense, as the increase in hardware performance is not as significant as if you're upgrading from an iPhone 4 or 4S.
Can I get the new iPhone features on my older iPhone?
You bet! Many of the new features for the iPhone 5c and 5s are found in the operating system, iOS 7. The iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S will both have access to iOS 7 and all the features therein. iOS 7 adds hundreds of new features to both new and old iOS devices alike. You'll be missing out only on the new hardware-specific features, such as the camera or processor.
Can I switch if I'm coming from another platform?
If you're currently using an Android, BlackBerry or Windows-based device, don't fret too much. There are definitely tradeoffs between all the mobile platforms, but Apple's ecosystem is one of the strongest. It has hundreds of thousands of apps -- including any app you might be worried about leaving behind on your old device -- and more third-party accessories and add-ons than any other device. Things such as your contacts, emails and photos can be transferred easily from your old device to a new iPhone.
Buying a new iPhone will be easier and cheaper if you're coming from an older iPhone that is eligible for an upgrade. You'll enjoy the improvements more and won't spend as much cash to get the new smartphone. If you're stuck in the middle of a contact, however, consider trading or selling some old gear to offset the cost of the new device.