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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Apple's iPhone 4: What Buyers Need to Know

By: Chloe Albanesius

Apple's iPhone 4 is now official and will be in stores on June 24. Are video calling, a front-facing camera, and the iBooks app enough to make you buy one? If you're on the fence, or trying to figure out if you can afford to invest in Apple's latest gizmo, here's what you need to know about making the switch.

For more information and details of the new iPhone 4, check out our report of the launch of the Apple iPhone 4 as well as our hands on with the Apple iPhone 4.

How much will the iPhone 4 cost me?
The iPhone 4 will be offered in a 16 G-byte version and a 32GB version. For new and "upgrade eligible" customers who sign a two-year contract with AT&T, the 16-GB version will cost $199 and the 32-GB version will retail for $299.

Upgrades? I can't just buy a new iPhone 4?
In general, AT&T iPhone customers who spend more than $99 per month per line are eligible for an upgrade when they are between 12 and 18 months into their contract, so that AT&T doesn't lose money on the older iPhone model it has already subsidized. You're not locked out of a new iPhone, but if you do make the switch before your upgrade date, you'll pay $100 more than a new iPhone customer.

The good news is that Steve Jobs announced Monday that AT&T will subsidize iPhone customers upgrading to the iPhone 4 up to six months earlier than their current upgrade date. Now, if your upgrade date occurs before the end of 2010, you can buy the new iPhone 4 for $199 or $299.

How do I know if I'm "upgrade eligible"?
Check your status at or dial *639#.

I'm not eligible. Boo. How much will the iPhone 4 cost me?
If you opt for an "early upgrade," the 16GB will cost $399 and the 32GB will sell for $499.

Any options if I don't want to deal with a two-year AT&T contract?
If you're not jazzed at the prospect of a two-year commitment to AT&T, the 16GB iPhone 4 will cost $599 and the 32GB will retail for $699.

What type of data plans are offered for the iPhone 4?
If you are switching from another carrier or upgrading to a smartphone, AT&T will offer its new tiered data plan. DataPlus will provide 200MB for $15 per month, while DataPro will allow up to 2GB per month for $25. For more information on AT&T's new plan, check out PCMag's guide.

If I already have AT&T, do I need to switch to a tiered data plan?
No. If you are an existing AT&T smartphone user, you don't need to switch to a new plan. You might want to ask specifically about this when talking with AT&T, however. I have a BlackBerry through AT&T, and I called on Monday afternoon to see if my bill would change at all if I upgraded to an iPhone 4 later this month. The customer service rep quoted me the new tiered data plans – 200MB for $15 or $25 for 2GB. When I pointed out that AT&T's iPhone 4 press release said that existing smartphone customers do not have to switch to a new plan, the rep said I was correct and could keep my plan. Granted it's the first day these reps are dealing with iPhone 4 questions, but when it comes to unlimited vs. tiered, I want my unlimited plan.

Any other charges?
Customers with an iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, or iPhone 3G can add tethering for an extra $20 per month. If you're on a family plan, you can add another line starting at $24.99.

When can I get it?
The iPhone 4 will be available in Apple and AT&T retail stores on June 24. Customers can start pre-ordering the devices on June 15 on the AT&T and Apple Web sites.

The iPhone 4 is a bit pricey. Any deals on older models?
Yes, new and upgrade eligible customers can get the 8-GB version of the iPhone 3GS for $99 with a contract. Early upgraders will pay $299, and those who don't sign a two-year contract with AT&T can get the 8GB iPhone 3GS for $499.

Complete iPhone Coverage