iPhone 4 versus iPhone 3G S: A buyer's guide

Apple will drop the price on its iPhone 3G S to $99. Is the iPhone 4 really worth the extra $100? Depends on what kind of iPhone user you are.

The iPhone 3G S. This week, Apple said it will drop the price of the iPhone 3G S to $99. So are you better off forking over the extra $100 for the iPhone 4?

As anticipated, Apple has announced it will drop prices on the iPhone 3G S, the predecessor to the shiny new iPhone 4. Beginning on June 21, you'll be able to buy an iPhone 3G S for $99, in black or in white, in a retail store or on the Web – and to make the pot a little sweeter, Apple will toss in free shipping if you order your 3G S through the online Apple Store.

So let's say you've been waiting to buy an iPhone. Should you go with the iPhone 3G S or fork over a hundred extra bucks to get your hands on an iPhone 4? It all depends on what kind of user you are. For instance, if you're like us, and you do a lot of gaming on your smartphone – if the thing practically doubles as a Nintendo DS – then you should gun for the iPhone 4, which will come packaged with a gyroscope, for improved motion control.

Ditto for folks who use their phone as their primary camera. Although the iPhone 3G S does come with digital zoom and video support, the iPhone 4 will reportedly ship with an 5-megapixel camera. The newest iteration of the iPhone will also record HD video at 30 frames-per-second. (Apple says it will release an on-the-fly video editing app for the iPhone 4.) Meanwhile, a front-facing camera on the iPhone 4 will let you video chat with your pals.

Then there's the category of user who just wants to be seen with the newest gadget. If you're an early adopter, well, there's probably not much we can say that will convince you not to buy an iPhone 4. It's sharp, it's new, it's lighter, and it has cache. But what if you're a price-conscious shopper, less interested in next-gen features than a good, solid smartphone? Our advice: Go with the iPhone 3G S.

For one, the voice quality will most likely be the same on the iPhone 4 as it is on the iPhone 3G S (for better or for worse). Ditto for the Internet connection. And although the new iPhone operating system ships on the iPhone 4, you can still download iOS 4 for the iPhone 3G S. It just requires a little extra work. Bottom line: if you're not a heavy gamer or if you swear by your current pocket-sized digital camera, go with the iPhone 3G S, and then use the extra $100 to buy yourself something special.

Like a super-deluxe case for your brand new Apple iPad.

Editor's note: The original version of this story misstated the megapixel count of the iPhone 4. Its back-facing camera has 5 megapixels.

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