Which smartphone should I buy before the iPhone 5S launches?

Is it just the hardware or does the operating system matter?

Like every nerd out there, I get asked a lot about buying tips for gadgets and electronics. My friend is changing jobs and is leaving her company phone with her. This is her first real chance to get a modern smartphone for her personal use in five years. She knows I've had an iPhone since it launched and wants to know my buying advice.

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"I would like to get a smartphone now and can't wait for the new iPhone to release. Which one would you recommend? Should I go straight to the iPhone 5 or just a Samsung for the time being without a contract? Thanks."

I'm sharing my response here with some additional context. I don't want to pretend I'm absolutely right; I want to validate my recommendation with you and hopefully get some feedback or tips for my friend. This is what I replied:

  1. If you can wait for the new iPhone to come out, wait. Then you can get the newest model, and if you don't think it's much different, you will be able to get the current iPhone 5 cheaper.

  2. Otherwise, you should get the iPhone 5 on a contract right now. Moving from your old Nokia you used at work will make a big difference and you'll be able to use apps like Viber, Line and WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends overseas.

  3. All the 'pay as you go' phones (that's how we call prepaid in the UK) are either overpriced or pretty disappointing. Even the Samsung Galaxy range is pretty bad when you have to pay £500 for the device. With all the recent releases, you can probably bag a good deal with things like this phone finder

  4. If you want a smartphone while you wait, I have an old iPhone 3GS with a broken screen that you can fix cheaply. It's a bit old but it runs the free messaging apps you told me you wanted to use.

These are my suggestions in order of preference. According to [MacRumors Buying guide] the iPhone 5 was released 222 days ago. Since 2009 it has been updated roughly every year, every 383 days. It's reasonable to think we won't see a new model until September and that the current model it's already halfway it's cycle.

Note to readers: I'm sharing this for fun and to test new formats on the blog. I get some reader questions like this on the contact form and I'm happy to share if there's some interest. Please let me know what you think on Twitter.

Top image by Andalib.