Apple iPhone 4S: UK Tariff Comparison & Compared to iPhone 3G S, iPhone 4

October 8th, 2011

Apple has announced their latest smartphone: the Apple iPhone 4S. We look at the UK availability of the iPhone 4S and the differences compared to the iPhone 3G S and iPhone 4.

Apple have earlier this week announced the iPhone 4S – their latest smartphone. Coming a whole 18 months after the original iPhone 4, the new iPhone 4S shares the same design as its predecessor but features some updated specifications such as a dual-core 1GHz processor (as opposed to single-core), partial support for HSPA+ networks (up to 14.4Mbit/s) and a higher resolution 8 megapixel camera (as opposed to 5 megapixels).

The new iPhone 4S also comes bundled with iOS 5. Compared to iOS 4, iOS 5 comes with improved notifications, iMessage, Twitter integration and several user interface enhancements. iOS5 is also available to iPhone 3G S and iPhone 4 owners but performance will be a bit more sluggish due to the slower processors found in both of the older devices.

What are the differences between the iPhone 3G S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S?

The iPhone 4S is only a very incremental small upgrade to the iPhone 4 whereas the differences between the iPhone 3G S and the iPhone 4 are much more significant. Comparing the iPhone 4 with the 3G S: the iPhone 4 has a higher-resolution “Retina” display, a faster processor, a higher-resolution camera with flash and a larger capacity battery. The iPhone 4S is much more similar to the iPhone 4: it shares the same design and only features small incremental improvements to the specifications (a dual-core processor, HSPA+ support and a higher resolution 8 megapixel camera).

Apple iPhone 3G S Apple iPhone 4 Apple iPhone 4S
Processor 600MHz single core 1GHz single core 1GHz dual-core
Display 3.5-inch touchscreen
320×480 resolution
3.5-inch touchscreen
640×960 resolution
3.5-inch touchscreen
640×960 resolution
Memory 8GB 16GB or 32GB 16GB, 32GB or 64GB
Network HSDPA (up to 7.2Mbps) HSDPA (up to 7.2Mbps) HSPA+ (up to 14.4Mbps)
Camera 3.2 megapixels 5 megapixels with LED flash 8 megapixels with LED flash
Battery 1150mAh (5 hours talk time) 1420mAh (8 hours talk time) 1420mAh (7 hours talk time)

When will the iPhone 4S and iOS 5 be available?

The iPhone 4S will be available in the UK on October 14th. In the UK, it is being stocked at launch by Three, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone. All four networks are currently accepting pre-orders. O2 are only offering it to existing customers as an upgrade. You can also purchase an iPhone 4S directly from Apple SIM-free. If you do this, you’ll need to buy a SIM Only contract for your iPhone.

If you own either an iPhone 3G S or iPhone 4, iOS 5 will be available for download through iTunes on October 12th. As iTunes only checks for updates on a weekly basis by default, you should click on the “Check for updates” button to manually check for an update to iOS 5.

What deals will the iPhone 4S be available on?

Three, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone are offering the iPhone 4S on a myriad of different contract plans.

For a typical mobile phone user who uses 300 minutes per month, Three offer the best deal on a 32GB iPhone 4S:

Network Minutes Texts Internet Upfront Cost Monthly Cost Total Cost of Ownership
Three 300 5000 500MB £219 £30 £939
Orange 600 Unlimited 500MB £220 £36 £1084
T-Mobile 300 Unlimited 500MB £270 £30.64 £1055
Vodafone 300 Unlimited 500MB £339 £31 £1083

For a heavier mobile phone user who around 600 minutes per month, Three once again offers the best deal. For £35/month plus £189 upfront, you’ll get a 32GB iPhone 4S with 2000 minutes, 5000 texts and all-you-can-eat internet with no download limits. You’ll also get a free mobile broadband service included via tethering.

Network Minutes Texts Internet Upfront Cost Monthly Cost Total Cost of Ownership
Three 2000 5000 All-you-can-eat & tethering £189 £35 £1029
Orange 600 Unlimited 500MB £220 £36 £1084
T-Mobile 600 Unlimited 500MB £220 £35.75 £1078
Vodafone 600 Unlimited 500MB £239 £36 £1103

How much internet will I need for the iPhone 4S?

Unfortunately there isn’t really a simple answer to this – it depends very much on how you use your phone. According to the chaps at billmonitor, average data usage is 147MB per month (for all phones, not just the iPhone). The guys at Three claim that the average iPhone user on their network uses 1.2GB every month (that’s 1200MB per month).

We’ve got a complete guide to download limits and what terms such as 500MB mean in reality. If you’re unsure, something like Three’s iPhone 4S all-you-can-eat data plan will give you the reassurance of not having to worry about your download limit and any additional charges which could be incurred.

SIM-only tariffs are ideal if you purchase your own iPhone 4S without a contract.

How much will the iPhone 4S cost without a contract?

If you’re looking to buy the iPhone 4S directly from Apple without a contract, it’ll cost you:

  • 16GB iPhone 4S: £499
  • 32GB iPhone 4S: £599
  • 64GB iPhone 4S: £699

You’ll still need to buy an airtime contract for your iPhone 4S in order to make and receive calls and texts and to use the internet on-the-go. SIM Only tariffs are ideal for people who purchase a phone separately from an airtime contract. You’ll need a micro-SIM in order for it to be compatible with the iPhone 4S. Examples of micro-SIM tariffs include Three’s offer of 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB internet for £15/month on a 1 month rolling contract.

Which networks will be stocking the iPhone 4S at launch?

From launch, the iPhone 4S is being stocked at launch by Three, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone. All four networks are currently accepting pre-orders. O2 are only offering the iPhone 4S to existing customers as an upgrade.

What’s the difference between iPhone 4 with iOS 5 and iPhone 4S?

If you purchase an iPhone 4 and upgrade it to iOS 5, it should be reasonably similar to the iPhone 4S: the entire user interface of the phones and the apps available will be the same as on iPhone 4S. The only difference will be in the hardware specifications: the iPhone 4S has a dual-core processor rather than a single core processor, an 8 megapixel camera instead of a 5 megapixel camera and support for faster downloads through HSPA+ networks. You’ll also need an iPhone 4S to make use of the Siri voice control feature.

If I’m buying an iPhone 4S on a different network, can I keep my existing mobile phone number?

Yes – it is simple to transfer your mobile phone number to your new iPhone 4S – even if you are switching networks. You simply need to ask your existing network for a PAC Code which should then be provided to your new mobile network. The entire process should take no more than 24 hours and you’ll continue to receive service on your old phone during those 24 hours. Our PAC Code Finder will take you through the process of transferring your number step-by-step.


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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 4 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Pete said:

    You missed out one more difference between the two handsets – Siri is only available on the iPhone 4S.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Pete,

      Good point – thanks. I fail to see why they couldn't backport Siri to iPhone 4 – it's a software-only solution as far as I can see. Do you think they're holding back Siri from iPhone 4 in order to boost sales for the iPhone 4S?


      1. Jonathan replied:

        Most likely!

        Thanks for this post by the way – I have found it rather helpful. Just ordered a 32GB version on Three's One Plan. Cracking deal when you factor in cashback from Quidco!

      2. Pete replied:

        I think it's highly likely. I believe their argument is that it needs the A5 processor to run. But then you'd expect it to be available on the iPad 2 too… but I'm not sure that's going to be the case.

        I guess we'll find out on Wednesday!

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