iPhone Deals: iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S?

Choosing an iPhone on contract can be a costly process

The iPhone, for many people has become almost a necessity, particularly those constantly on the move, those with busy schedules and those requiring more from their phone than the norm.

The choice as to whether a 3GS will suffice, or whether the improved power and functionality makes the iPhone 4 and 4S worth the extra expense is still up for debate.

For some, the wide variety of applications and the compatibility with other apple products is their reason for choosing an iPhone, for others it is the sleek design and ease of operation.

The demand has soared internationally, and network providers are growing very much aware of the ways to exploit this, imposing higher rate tariffs, longer contracts and upfront fees to help cover the cost of the expensive handset.

Top iPhone Deals
Get the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and 3GS

Top iPhone Deals

£99 handset cost
£35 a month for all you can eat data
What are the benefits?
The One Plan from Three gives you all you can eat data - something no one else does.
In a nutshell:
  • All you can eat data for £35/month
  • £99 for a 16GB iPhone 4S
  • Excellent 3G coverage
Contract free iPhone 4S
PAYG top up
What are the benefits?
Tesco Mobile offer the iPhone 4 (and soon iPhone 4S) on a SIM free basis, which means you just pay for your credit.
In a nutshell:
  • Save by using a PAYG SIM card in a SIM free phone
  • For both iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S
FREE iPhone 4S
18 month contract
What are the benefits?
iPhone 4S on an 18 month contract. Free iPhone 4S.
In a nutshell:
  • Free iPhone 4S
  • Only an 18 monh contract
  • Limited data
Handset cost is £310
£20 a month
24 month contract
What are the benefits?
Cheapest monthly contract for an iPhone 4S is with Orange.
In a nutshell:
  • Great 3G coverage as partnered with T-Mobile

What are the current iPhone deals?

Here are some of the most cost effective deals currently on the market

Cheapest Value iPhone 3GS: Three Mobile

Three currently provide the iPhone 3GS 8GB model completely free for anyone taking out their two-year, £20 per month contract. This is the cheapest method to obtain one of Apples iPhones.

Contract Length Monthly Tariff Cost Inclusive Minutes/Texts/Data Upfront Handset Cost Total Cost Average Cost Per Month
24 months £20 100 Mins
5000 Texts
500 MB Data
FREE £480 £20.00

Cheapest 12-month contract for iPhone 4: Tesco Mobile

A cheap monthly fee and short contract makes the Tesco Mobile deal very inviting. It does come with a rather large upfront cost, but the total cost makes this one of the cheapest ways to get your hands on the latest iPhone 4 with a realistic usage included.

Contract Length Monthly Tariff Cost Inclusive Minutes/Texts/Data Upfront Handset Cost Total Cost Average Cost Per Month
12 months £25 250 Mins
5000 Texts
1 GB Data
£335 £635 £52.92

Cheapest overall cost for iPhone 4S: SIM free and GiffGaff PAYG

Apple currently sells an unlocked version of the 16GB iPhone 4S for £499. When used alongside a PAYG from GiffGafff this provides the cheapest overall method for obtaining the latest, most powerful iPhone.

Contract Length Monthly Tariff Cost Inclusive Minutes/Texts/Data Upfront Handset Cost Total Cost Average Cost Per Month
12 months £10 250 Mins
Unlimited Texts
Unlimited Data
£499 £619 £51.58

Cheapest no upfront iPhone 4S cost: Vodafone

Although an expensive monthly tariff, the package details are very comprehensive, offering a massive 3000 minutes, 1200 texts and 750MB data, meaning it is unlikely you will exceed your allowed usage.

Contract Length Monthly Tariff Cost Inclusive Minutes/Texts/Data Upfront Handset Cost Total Cost Average Cost Per Month
18 months £51 3000 Mins
1200 Texts
750 MB Data
FREE £918 £51

Cheapest monthly contract: Orange

Although the cheapest monthly tariff, the inclusive minutes, texts and data are extremely low. T-Mobile are offering a slightly better deal inclusive deal for £36 per month, with 100 minutes, 100 texts and 500MB data.

Contract Length Monthly Tariff Cost Inclusive Minutes/Texts/Data Upfront Handset Cost Total Cost Average Cost Per Month
24 months £20 50 Mins
50 Texts
100 MB Data
£310 £790 £32.92

Tell me more about the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S

When opting for an iPhone, it is important to consider the benefits and disadvantages of the various different models and assess which handset, long term, is going to get you the most for your money, whilst providing you with the services you require.

For some that will mean getting the latest and greatest is essential, but for others, the iPhone 3GS may provide all the facilities you require at a much lesser cost.

When comparing models, you should observe the upfront cost (if any), plus the cost of the tariff over the full duration of your contract, thus providing the total cost for the handset. In some instances, it may be worth opting for a second hand unit from eBay or a refurbished model directly from your network provider and pairing it with a SIM only deal to maximise savings.

A plethora of options exist, and this article will illustrate some of the best deals and alternative methods of getting that illustrious iPhone.

If you can’t afford to buy the phone directly from Apple, signing up to a contract will be the best way to spread the load, but it is far from cheap. If it is an 18 or 24 month contract, find out if it is possible to downgrade after 12 months, as many providers allow you to lower your minutes/internet usage tariff after the first year, but wont necessarily advertise this fact up front. Be careful however, if you downgrade then exceed your usage, the charges can be high.

Below we will look at the main features of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S and listed at the bottom of the page are the cheapest deals currently available on the market.

iPhone 4S

This is Apple’s flagship Smartphone, made available in October 2011. It comes in a variety of models, a 16GB, 32GB and 64GB version.

Whilst being the most expensive of the three iPhones, it is well at the forefront of phone technology and should be a strong contender for some time (the heavily delayed iPhone 5 being not expected until late 2012). It is also the first iPhone to provide a Blackberry type messenger service (it is as yet unknown as to whether the previous iPhone will be able to run this app) and features a dual core processor similar to the iPad 2.

Main features of the iPhone 4S

  • Available in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB in either white or black
  • Powered by the new dual-core 1Ghz A5 chip, which is claimed to provide two times more power and seven times more graphic performance than the iPhone 4, running Apple IOS 5.
  • 3.5-inch 960x640 screen with Retina Display.
  • Upgraded 8-megapixel camera, back illuminated (so works well in low light conditions), capable of shooting 1080p video.
  • A front facing camera, for using video calling via the FaceTime application
  • Advanced voice recognition control technology ‘Siri’, enabling you to ask questions to your iPhone such as ‘what’s the weather like today’ and it automatically displaying the latest weather in your area.
  • Download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps
  • Airplay Mirroring (wireless connectivity to your TV allowing your screen to mirror that of your iPhone – ideal for gaming)
  • 8 Hours of 3G battery life

iPhone 4

Although recently superseded, the iPhone 4 is by all means still a very modern iPhone, and is identical cosmetically to the iPhone 4S. It originally attracted bad publicity due to problems with its antenna, however Apple assured customers that this had been resolved in phones manufactured a few weeks after release.

It is widely renowned as being a superb smartphone and was a huge step forward from the iPhone 3GS.

  • Now available in 8GB model (meaning reduced cost – currently £430 from Apple, or around £40 on contract) as well as 16GB and 32GB, also in white and black.
  • Powered by 1Ghz Apple A4, running Apple IOS 5
  • 3.5 inch 960x640 screen with Retina Display
  • 5 megapixel camera, capable of shooting 720p video
  • A front facing camera, for using video calling via the FaceTime application
  • Download speeds of up to 10Mbps
  • Wireless streaming to Airplay enabled speakers
  • 7 Hours 3G battery life

iPhone 3GS

The main advantage to currently opting for the earlier iPhone 3GS over the iPhone 4 is that most network provides will provide this handset completely free on many of their lower £15 - £20 tariffs, meaning it is a very cost effective way to experience Apple’s Smartphone technology.

  • 8GB, available in black (or white from some retailers, but not direct)
  • Powered by 600Mhz Cortex A8, running Apple IOS 5
  • 3.5 inch 480x320 Capacitive Touch Screen
  • 3 megapixel camera (but no flash, so taking photos in the dark is pretty much out of the question), VGA video capture
  • Video calling not available as no forward facing camera
  • Price direct from apple is currently £320 or free on most networks from around £15 - £20 per month.
  • Download speeds of 7.2Mbps
  • Wireless streaming to AirPlay enabled speakers
  • 5 hours 30 minutes 3G battery life

Which iPhone should I go for?

Carefully analyse the total cost of the handset over the duration of the contract. See if it is possible to downgrade after an initial period, thus saving money for the last 6 – 12 months if you’re not using as many minutes/ MB as you’re paying for.

Be aware that a shorter contract will mean an upfront cost, but the handset will be yours a lot quicker, meaning you change to another networks sooner (if you get the handset unlocked) or simply get a SIM only deal.

Then, ask yourself some questions...

  • Do you really need the latest model? If you can afford to wait, the iPhone 4 may soon become superseded and so rapidly fall in price, particularly as competitors catch up with technology and better tariffs. If an iPhone 3GS provides enough functionality and applications as you require, it may well be worth you saving and waiting.
  • Do you need a new iPhone? Countless second hand units exist on online auction sites in addition to the second-user refurbished handsets available from your service provider. Make sure the handset, if bought from a network, comes with a good warranty period though.
  • Conversely, if bought from a website such as eBay, check to see the handset will run on a standard SIM-only tariff (otherwise you will need to get the handset unlocked, thus incurring further cost).