Apple’s iPhone 4 reduced to £17/month: UK’s Cheapest iPhone Yet

May 20th, 2013

The iPhone 4 has been reduced to its lowest price yet: free on a £17/month contract. However, is it really worth it?

iphone4In the past week, the UK has seen some eye-catching price reductions on the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 is now available for free on a £17/month contract. This comes with 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 250MB of internet. The latest price cuts brings the cost of the iPhone down to its lowest ever level in the UK. Compared to the buying an iPhone 5, you could save £336 by opting for the iPhone 4.

If you’re picking up an iPhone 4 whilst it’s discounted, it’s worth being aware that the device is already 3 years old. Whilst it’s still a capable device, you’ll lack some of the advanced features found on the iPhone 5 such as HSPA+ and 4G connectivity. The iPhone 4 also lacks panoramic photos in the camera and the Siri virtual assistant. If these features aren’t essential for you, the iPhone 4 could provide good value.

What tariffs is the iPhone 4 available on?

This week, the Carphone Warehouse discounted the iPhone 4. It’s now free on a £17/month contract. In addition to a new iPhone 4, you’ll be given a monthly allowance of 300 minutes, unlimited texts and 250MB of mobile internet. There’s also 250MB of public Wi-Fi access included, via BT Openzone hotspots.

vodafoneWhilst the £17/month deal has a decent allowance of calls and texts, the main disadvantage is its small data allowance. The average consumer in the UK uses about 300MB of mobile internet each month. For heavy users who download a large number of apps or watch videos online (e.g. using YouTube), data consumption will be significantly higher. For this reason, we normally recommend most users to choose a tariff with at least 500MB of mobile internet.

If you’re a light user who mainly uses their smartphone for e-mail, messaging and social networking (e.g. apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter), the 250MB allowance could be workable. To keep your data use within the allowance, you should connect to your home wi-fi network whenever possible. Any data that’s transferred over wi-fi will not count towards your download allowance. If you need a bigger download allowance, it’s possible to pick up a deal with more data:

Network Monthly Cost Upfront Cost Minutes Texts Internet
Vodafone (Carphone Warehouse) £17/month Free 300 Unlimited 250MB
Orange £20.50/month Free 100 Unlimited 500MB
T-Mobile £21/month Free 100 Unlimited 1GB
Vodafone (Direct) £21/month Free 600 Unlimited 500MB
Three £24/month Free 500 5,000 Unlimited

For an all-round deal that offers more minutes and more data, Vodafone has a £21/month deal on their official website. This comes with 600 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB internet.

How does the iPhone 4 compare to the cost of an iPhone 5?

For the cheapest iPhone 4 tariff (£17/month via Carphone Warehouse), the total cost of ownership is £408 over 24 months.

For the iPhone 5, the cheapest comparable tariff costs £21/month plus £240 upfront (T-Mobile). Over 24 months, the total amount paid would be £744. This is £336 more than the iPhone 4.

For a full list of iPhone 5 tariffs, see our price comparison page.

What would I miss out on with an iPhone 4?

If you’re buying an iPhone 4 instead of the iPhone 5, you should be aware of the following differences:

iPhone 4 VS iPhone 5

To scale: iPhone 4 (left) and iPhone 5 (right)

  • The iPhone 4 has a smaller display. The iPhone 4 has a slightly smaller display at 3.5-inches (compared to 4-inches on the iPhone 5). This results in one less row of icons on the home screen (4 rows of icons instead of 5). Aside from the difference in screen size, both the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 have a Retina display with the same pixel density (326ppi). According to Apple, this is a high enough pixel density that the human eye cannot discern individual pixels.
  • The iPhone 4 is less powerful. It comes equipped with a 1GHz single-core processor (Apple A4). This is in contrast to the iPhone 5 which has a 1.2GHz dual-core processor (Apple A6). See this video on YouTube for an indication of how the two phones match up performance-wise.
  • The iPhone 4 is lacking some features. Both the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 5 run version 6.1 of the iOS operating system. Although you’ll have access to the same applications, the iPhone 4 lacks some of the more advanced features in iOS. This is because of the reduced processing power. Missing features on the iPhone 4 include the panorama feature in the camera, the Siri virtual assistant and turn-by-turn directions in Apple Maps. This can be remedied partly by downloading alternative apps e.g. you can download the Google Maps application for turn-by-turn directions on the iPhone 4.
  • The iPhone 4 has a less powerful camera. The rear camera is 5 megapixels and the front camera is VGA (0.3 megapixels). This compares to 8 megapixels and 1.2 megapixels on the iPhone 5. Both devices support video calling through FaceTime.
  • The iPhone 4 comes with less storage. The iPhone 4 comes with 8GB of memory. This is in contrast to the iPhone 5 which comes with 16GB of memory as standard (with options for either 32GB or 64GB). The iPhone 5 provides more space for photos, videos and music.

    Mobile Mast

    The iPhone 5 supports faster mobile networks including 4G networks.

  • The iPhone 4 provides slower download speeds. The iPhone 5 supports 4G connectivity (up to 100Mbit/s on a 4G network) and high-speed 3G connectivity (up to 42Mbit/s on a DC-HSPA+ network). In contrast, the iPhone 4 is limited to 3G connectivity at a maximum speed of 7.2Mbit/s. Whilst the download speeds on the iPhone 4 are perfectly acceptable, it can be beneficial to future-proof yourself with a 4G-capable device. See our guide to download speeds for more information.
  • The iPhone 4 is slightly heavier than the iPhone 5. The iPhone 4 weighs 25 grams more than the iPhone 5 (it weighs 137g whereas the iPhone 5 weighs 112g). Whilst this sounds to be a small difference, it’s noticeable from the moment you pick up the device.
  • The iPhone 4 uses a 30-pin connector. With the iPhone 5, Apple switched from using a 30-pin connector to the new “Lightning” connector. Because it preceded the change, the iPhone 4 still uses the old 30-pin connector. This is probably beneficial as there are many more accessories that support the 30-pin connector. This includes accessories such as an audio dock for your iPhone.

The following table shows a side-by-side comparison of the two devices:

Apple iPhone 4
Apple iPhone 5
Release Date2010, Flagship2012, Flagship
SoftwareApple iOS 7.0Apple iOS 7.0
Size3.5-inch display4.0-inch display
Resolution960x640 pixels1136x640 pixels
Pixel Density326 pixels per inch326 pixels per inch
Rear Camera5 megapixels8 megapixels
Flash LED flash LED flash
Front Camera0.3 megapixels1.2 megapixels
ProcessorApple A4Apple A6
Speed1.0GHz 1.2GHz dual-core
Internal Storage8/16/32GB16/32/64GB
External Storage
Handset Weight137g112g
Battery1,420mAh (7 hours talktime)1,440mAh (8 hours talktime)
Mobile Networks
3G Networks Up to 7.2Mbit/s Up to 42Mbit/s
4G Networks
SIM Card TypeMicro SIMNano SIM

There’s no doubt the iPhone 5 is a better device. The question is whether the extra features are worth the money. If you’re happy to live without the extra features on the iPhone 5, you could save several hundred pounds when choosing the iPhone 4.

Why is the iPhone 4 being discounted now?

Historically, Apple has released a new iPhone every year. The iPhone 4 was released in June 2010 and was followed by the release of the iPhone 4S in October 2011. Most recently, the iPhone 5 was released in September 2012. As we’re approaching the mid-point of 2013, a new iPhone is expected to be released soon. The rumour mill has already gone into overdrive: the next iPhone is rumoured to be the iPhone 5S or the iPhone 6 and an announcement is expected in the next few months. With the next iPhone just around the corner, retailers are looking for a way to shift stock of their oldest iPhones. This means the iPhone 4 is being sold at a much lower price.

It’s worth being aware that the iPhone 4 is already 3 years old. If you’re buying it today on a 24-month contract, the handset will be 5 years old by the time you reach the end of your contract. That said, the iPhone 4 is still a capable device. It runs the same apps as the iPhone 5 and it still has the ultra-sharp Retina display. If you’re not concerned with the extra features on the iPhone 5, the price cuts on the iPhone 4 can make this a good time to pick up a cheap iPhone.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more on the iPhone at Apple’s website. Alternatively, see the Carphone Warehouse site for more information on their offer.

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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+.

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