7 Points to Ponder Before You Pay Hundreds for a New iPhone

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Apple fans queue up for iPhone 6
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By Jim Gold

Could it really be time for a new iPhone?

Just a year after it revealed the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple is expected to unveil its latest incarnation Wednesday: the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, along with a slew of new products including Apple TV upgrades, tech industry analysts say.

The hype around Apple products is enough to exert a pull like few other brands. In the nine months ending June 2015, Apple reported in its most recent quarterly earnings statement, it sold 183 million iPhones.

Maybe you bought one; maybe you clung to an older model and you're ready for a big change; or maybe you're an Android or Windows phone fan. But before you are sucked into the Apple vortex, stop and think.

Deciding whether to plunk down hundreds of dollars for the latest iPhone starts with what is important to you, says Money Talks News tech expert Dan Schointuch.

"Unless they've already identified some specific feature that they know they want, or their current 6 or 6 Plus is broken and not covered under warranty, then most people will probably be just as happy with the 6 as they would be with the 6S," he said. The change from an iPhone 5 or 5S would be more substantial.

Still, if there is a feature that appeals to you, "it may be worth buying on that basis," Schointuch said. For him, that feature is the camera, one of seven points to consider about whether the new iPhone will be right for you.

1. How important is the camera to you? As earlier reported by Money Talks News, the new iPhone is expected to feature a 12-megapixel rear-facing camera, which allows users to take higher-resolution photos than the 6's 8-megapixel camera.

It's also expected to have enhanced 4K video, about four times higher resolution than the 1080p in current phones.

For MTN's Schointuch, the camera specs are important.

"I tend to upgrade my phone each year for the camera improvements," he said. "My feeling is that 10 years from now, when I can't even remember what made the 6S different from the 6, I'll still have all of the pictures I took with my phones, and I'd like those pictures to be as good as was possible at the time."

Also, big for selfie shooters, the front-facing camera will go to 5 megapixels and a flash, up from 1.2 megapixels and no flash, tech-watcher 9to5mac.com said. Software modes will allow for slow-motion video capture and panoramas, it said.

2. How much speed and battery life do you need? Apple's A9 chip coming inside the 6S and 6S Plus will pack thousands more transistors than the A8 chip in the 6 and 6 Plus. That means, says 9to5Mac, greater performance and more energy efficiency in a chip about the same size as the A8. It also will come with 2 GB RAM, instead of 1 GB. To you, it means the phone should handle the higher resolution photos and videos as well as improved game graphics with ease and without running down the battery faster.

Apple will continue to offer 16GB, 64GB and 128GB capacity phones, but the smallest will fill up pretty quickly if you keep a lot of 4K videos on it.

3. Concerned about getting 'the bends'? The new iPhones will likely look just like the current models. But remember reports of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus getting the bends? That may be solved with the use of something called Aluminum 7000, that's aluminum strengthened with zinc, says Lewis Hilsenteger in an Unbox Therapy video.

A new color will also be available, rose gold, says Mashable.

4. Looking for a different touch? Look for Force Touch, though not necessarily by that name, which is also on the Apple Watch and the trackpad on the MacBook and MacBook Pro, says Mashable. The phone will know how hard you're pressing on the glass, which could change the way you launch apps or access features.

5. Is the price right? These are the rumored prices and storage options, with and without two-year contracts from major carriers:
  • iPhone 6S, 16GB: $199; $649.
  • iPhone 6S, 64GB: $299; $749.
  • iPhone 6S, 128GB: $299; $849.
  • iPhone 6S Plus, 16GB: $299; $749.
  • iPhone 6S Plus, 64GB: $399; $849.
  • iPhone 6S Plus, 128GB: $499; $949.
Schointuch advised against subsidized deals with two-year contracts with AT&T (T) or Verizon (VZ) "unless you specifically need to use one of those providers" or get substantial discounts with them, perhaps through an employer.

"Time [magazine] ran the numbers, and most of the time you'll end up paying more than you would have had you purchased the phone outright and opted for a monthly plan from T-Mobile (TMUS), Sprint (S) or Cricket Wireless."

6. Can you trim the cost? You can offset the price by selling or trading in your old phone. Schointuch looked into some options.

MacRumors found that the best value came from selling your phone yourself through a site like eBay (EBAY) or Craigslist. It also had examples from Gazelle and NextWorth, each guaranteeing best prices.

"But if you're looking for a more convenient experience, Amazon's trade-in store was the next best thing offering $360 for a 16GB iPhone 6, $389 for an iPhone 6 Plus, and $175 for an iPhone 5S, assuming you're OK with receiving that money in the form of an Amazon gift card," Schointuch said.

If you want the iPhone experience without the 6S price, you could get a 6 or 6 Plus at a discount once the newest models are released, Schointuch said.

Apple (AAPL) will cut the price of a new iPhone 6 by $100, analysts said. Deals for new and used 6s can be found online.

7. What do you really value in a cellphone? Determining how you use your phone will go a long way toward figuring out if you need a new one. Do you take a lot of pictures? Do you rely on your phone's apps for information, games or productivity? Are you the type to use your phone to write papers and create spreadsheets? Or, are you really -- when you get right down to it -- a person who mainly uses a phone to make phone calls? Answer these questions honestly, and you may save yourself hundreds on unnecessary upgrades.

Are you going to spring for a new phone or wait? Share with us in the comment section or on our Facebook page.

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