Opinion: You already have an iPhone, should you buy a new one?

If you want faster speeds and GPS and you talk a lot, the answer is probably yes

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That doesn't work well for determining your location, showing you where friends are, finding restaurants, or getting directions if you're lost. That makes GPS a compelling feature, particularly since it means you're getting a powerful navigation tool in addition to the faster 3G data service.

Better battery life

Another major feature that Apple has touted in the iPhone 3G is improved battery life. While the battery life on the original iPhone wasn't bad, it certainly wasn't as solid as some other phones on the market. Increased battery life means more talk and standby time as well as more time listening to music, surfing the Internet and using all those new games and apps. So, while it's not a must-have update, it's surely worth factoring into the decision-making process.

More space

Although not a new feature, a new iPhone could give you more storage capacity. If you currently own a 4GB or 8GB iPhone, you can use this as a chance to move up to an 8GB or 16GB model. Sure, you could've done that before now, but it would've been more expensive and wouldn't have gotten you any new features -- just more room to grow.

If you're one of the people who bought the 4GB iPhone model before Apple discontinued it last fall, this could be a major upgrade for you. It might even be needed, depending on how many photos, music files and videos you're taking with you. In today's media-filled world, 4GB isn't a lot of space to begin with, but each iPhone update that Apple has shipped has used more of that space for the version of Mac OS X powering the iPhone; it's no stretch to imagine that the iPhone 2.0 update will take up more. And I'm not even taking into consideration the space you sacrifice to download and install third-party applications. When you consider that over half a gigabyte of space already gets used, the prospect of losing more for system and application files can make the decision to either stick with a 4GB iPhone or upgrade similar to choosing between a studio apartment and a town house.

Is the price right?

New features aside, price may be the ultimate factor in determining whether you upgrade. Starting at $199 -- $299 if you go for the 16GB model -- the iPhone 3G will be priced lower than any iPhone model to date by a sizable margin. The price point is also very close to or lower than that of most current iPods. The lower cost and combination of new features make a compelling case for upgrading -- and an even more compelling case for buying your first iPhone.

Sure, those who paid $599 for an iPhone just a year ago will feel the sting, as will those who paid a little less later in the year. As for me, the 4GB iPhone I bought last fall is going to someone else in slightly used condition. Having weighed the advantages and costs, I'm upgrading to the 16GB model in black.

Ryan Faas is a frequent Computerworld contributor specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. You can find more information about him at RyanFaas.com.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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