College student budget: Should you splurge on the Apple iPhone 5?

On Friday, September 21, 2012, the Apple iPhone 5 was unleashed. With it came a slew of college students flocking to retailers in hopes of getting their hands on the newest technology. Some had been waiting in line since Thursday. Others were disappointed to find sold-out stores. One student, a senior at Tufts University in Massachusetts, was not only able to get his hands on the new iPhone, he was also able to sell his spot in line for $460 as reported by the Tufts Daily. But what is so monumental about the newest iPhone? What does it have that the other iPhones don’t? Most importantly, is it worth dropping hundreds of dollars on this device?

The new (and improved?) iPhone

According to Apple, the iPhone 5 is “the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone” — and the only way to really understand what is so monumental about this new device is to see what it has to offer.

New iPhone 5 features include:

  • Revamped design — thinner (18%) and lighter (20%)
  • Larger display — 4-inch display screen with 326 pixels per inch
  • Faster wireless — LTE technology
  • A6 chip — faster downloads and graphics with a long battery life
  • EarPods and audio
  • Enhanced camera — take panoramic photos, better quality pictures and HD videos
  • iOS 6 operating system

The iOS 6 operating system offers the following changes (improvements?):

  • Siri — now you can get scores and restaurant menus without opening separate apps (just ask Siri!)
  • Apple Maps — replaced Google Maps
  • Facebook — post directly to Facebook without opening the Facebook app and sync your Facebook friends to your iPhone calendar and contact list
  • Photo Stream — instantly share your photos with friends and family on their Mac devices
  • Passbook — store tickets, coupons, boarding passes and more
  • Facetime — now you can Facetime over cellular networks (data usage plans may be required through your wireless provider)
  • Phone — now you can reply to a caller with a text message or enable a Do Not Disturb feature
  • Email — send photos and videos easily; VIP list

Visit Apple’s website to view all of the features of the iPhone 5 and the iOS 6 operating system.

Upgrade or not?

If you are solely interested in the new operating system, then you may be in luck — and you don’t have to spend a dime. Apple is offering a free software update for older models of the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. On the flip side, not all of the enhancements are available on all of the devices. To see what you will get on your Apple product, check out CNET‘s Apple iOS 6 Review.

If it is the new iPhone that grabs your attention, then you will need to drop at least $200 for a new one — and this is the basic model with only 16GB from the Apple Store. Expect to spend around $400 for 64 GB.

If you do decide to splurge on the newest Apple product — and, let’s be honest, many of us will — you might also want to reevaluate your current phone, texting and data plan to make sure you get the most for your money.

An article on SmartMoney, “Picking the Right iPhone 5 Plan,” breaks down the top five factors you need to consider before committing to a carrier:

  • Phone cost
  • Network speed
  • Call quality
  • Data plans
  • Early-termination fees

Most college students say, “Upgrade!”

According to an article posted on USA Today College, “Students flock to buy iPhone 5,” most college students would say that they plan to buy — or have already purchased or preordered — the new iPhone 5. And one student, Drew Ariana, explains his rationale behind such a large monetary purchase.

“‘Even though it’s called the iPhone, it really isn’t just a phone anymore,’ Ariana said. ‘I know personally I use my phone as a camera, as a GPS device and as a music player.’ He added that the ability for the iPhone to serve a variety of tasks ultimately saves students money by preventing the need to purchase multiple items. ‘If you would take all of those separate gadgets and have to buy them individually without the phone, it would cost so much more money than just having this phone, which could do it all,’ Arianna said. ‘It’s just a cool way to get all of your technologies together.'”

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