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Should You Wait for the iPhone 5?

For most companies, selling 26 million of any product would be reason to jump for joy. For Apple, however, when it posted iPhone sales of just 26 million in the previous quarter, it was a disappointment.

As CEO Tim Cook himself observed on Apple’s earnings call, speculation about the next iPhone — the so-called “iPhone 5″— may have played a part. After all, if you’re thinking about buying an iPhone, and you’re convinced Apple will debut its latest and greatest smartphone in a few short months, why wouldn’t you wait?

So if you’re in the market for a smartphone today, is it a good idea to still wait patiently for the iPhone 5 (which, based on past history, is due to launch in the early fall) or should you start eyeing the competition? And why not get an iPhone 4S anyway? It’s still relatively new. Here’s what you should be thinking about:

Leaps in technology

Apple, of course, hasn’t said one word about what the next iPhone will be, or even if there’ll be one. However, per usual, there are dozens if not hundreds of rumors and alleged leaks about what features the iPhone 5 will have. A couple of the most talked-about abilities the iPhone 5 might have are 4G LTE and NFC (near-field communication).

Anyone who’s used an LTE phone can tell you it’s a huge leap in connection speed over 3G technologies, which are what current iPhones all have (misleading indicators on the AT&T version be damned). There’s simply no way the iPhone 5 doesn’t have LTE. The connections give a speed boost to all data tasks — from watching HD videos to downloading email attachments.

Besides the addition of LTE and NFC, there looks to be a strong chance Apple will pump up the size of the iPhone’s screen to at least 4 inches and shrink the dock connector to a mini-size proprietary plug. Both upgrades have obvious advantages, although a smaller jack would present an issue for anyone who uses a lot of legacy iPhone accessories.

Waiting: Smarter than usual

While it’s generally a bad idea to wait for a mythical product with phantom features, the iPhone 5 is a special case. We can reasonably predict what some of the major upgrades will be over the iPhone 4S, and they are indeed major (LTE being the biggie).

The iPhone 4S is still a fine phone — it’s thin, it has a well-performing processor in the dual-core Apple A5 chipand of course there’s Siri. But speaking as someone who reviews competing phones regularly, it’s starting to look, well, old. In addition to obvious advantage of LTE, competing handsets are thinner, faster, lighter and have bigger screens.

The iPhone 5 looks sure to have most, if not all of those things, too, but it won’t get here for a few months. Should you wait? If you were thinking about an iPhone 4S, I’d say yes — at least for most people. But if you’re not yet married to Apple, the latest Android phones already have pretty much everything that will make the next iPhone special (probably).

Apple can blame rumors and speculation all it wants, but the bottom line is that the current iPhone is now a generation behind, technologically, the state-of-the-art phones of today. LTE, NFC and big screens aren’t incremental upgrades — they’re the features that will define smartphones for the next few years. For anyone dead-set on buying an Apple phone that will stay current for more than a few months, though, the smart choice is to wait.

Courtesy (Peter Pachal)

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