Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) began taking pre-orders this morning for the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. It's a pretty exciting device, and the updated specs that include a better camera, display, and processor are made even sweeter since Apple is sticking to the same pricing tiers as last year's generation of smartphones.
You want an iPhone 6 or an iPhone 6 Plus, but you probably don't need one. Let's go over three questions that you should ask yourself before deciding to make a financial commitment to Apple's shiniest new toy.
1. How much more will you be paying a month?
Things used to be easy to figure out. Your wireless carrier would let you buy a subsidized iPhone for as little as $199 as long as you agreed to a two-year service commitment. Once your two years were up, it made perfect sense to upgrade. Your monthly rate remained the same, and all you had to do was take the $199 or more hit for a phone that retails for several hundreds of dollars more.
Things are different these days. Verizon and AT&T are trying to wean customers off traditional two-year contracts. AT&T Next and Verizon Edge find customers making installment payments on their devices on top of what is now lower monthly rates for connectivity. If your phone is paid off, it will cost you a lot more than $199 in installments to get your next iPhone.
Every carrier is different, and every carrier has a growing array of options. Do the math -- and that includes how much more you will be paying over time if you trade up to any new smartphone.
2. Can you wait a year to save $100?
Apple loves to shine a light on the new model that it rolls out every year, but just as a car dealer wants to clear out last year's models from the lot -- and is willing to do so at a lower price -- Apple offers last year's iPhones at a discount. The big difference here is that Apple is continuing to make last year's devices, knowing that there is a market for them.
Last year's iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus are now $100 cheaper than they were a week or a year ago. It's no longer a secret that Apple will lower the price of its current model by $100 when it introduces the next generation. In other words, if you can wait until next year when the iPhone 7 is introduced, your iPhone 6s will likely be available for $100 less than it is right now.
3. Are the new features worth the upgrade?
There was a clear difference between the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 6 last year, and that came in the form of size. The new iPhone 6 and especially the iPhone 6 Plus are larger. That's not the case with the newest versions. The real upgrades are inside the device, and that's where your considerations need to be measured against the upgrade costs.
The new processor is faster, but do you feel as if the processing speed of your current smartphone isn't enough for what you're doing? Moving up to a 12-megapixel camera will take better pictures than the iPhone 6 with its 8-megapixel lens, but are you really unhappy with your current camera? If photos are your thing, you do know that there are non-iPhone smartphones packing a lot more than 12 megapixels -- even if they lack Apple features that enhance photo quality? Have you also considered that higher-resolution snapshots and video clips will take up a lot more space on your device?
Weigh the benefits against the costs, and if at the end of the day you still decide to upgrade to the iPhone 6s, you will probably be happy. It's going to be a great phone. Just remember that you don't need it. You just need to negotiate with yourself to determine how badly you want it.
Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Apple, and recommends Verizon Communications. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.