It’s a little bit late, but here’s my take on the new iPhone 3GS.
The 3GS is virtually identical to the 3G. There is no fancy “S” that brands it as the newer phone, no new trim, nor are there any weight/size cuts. The 3GS is actually a tiny bit heavier than the 3G, but the difference is negligible. Side by side, they are identical, but 3GS users can still snicker at their 3G buddies because while there are no differences in physical appearance, there are still significant changes that are hidden from plain sight.
The first noticeable change regards the new screen that the 3GS uses. Called an oleophobic screen, it is essentially a screen that is impervious to the sweaty, oily fingers that assault it every day. Granted fingerprints still do show, but with one swipe of your t-shirt, the screen is magically clear. Gone are the smudges that plagued 3G users. This devil magic is explained in all of its scientific glory by Bill Nye the Science Guy on Gizmodo.com. Unfortunately for the 3GS, it still uses the same back cover as the 3G which still attracts fingerprints like crazy. Why they didn’t go with a matte color option I’ll never know.
Now for the meat and potatoes of the 3GS. The “S” as you probably know by now stands for speed. Both the CPU and GPU for the 3GS have been upgraded. The CPU goes from 400mhz to 600mhz and the ram has increased from 128 to 256. Couple that with a new GPU architecture, and you get a much, much quicker iPhone. Webpages using wifi loaded more than 2x as quickly as the 3G, and apps that require heavy preload were noticeably faster as well. Look around the web, and you have many developers salivating at the chance to test the 3GS’s power. Already there are videos on youtube where the 3GS is seen playing a Final Fantasy VII rom at a buttery smooth 60fps. Using spotlight search (left flick from home screen), queries came up much faster, and the phone in general feels like it’s been reformatted afresh. The 3GS also comes with support for AT&T’s eventual upgrade to their 3G network (up to 7.2mbps).
Along with an upgrade to the CPU/GPU, the 3GS also gets a camera upgrade. It now sports a 3.0-megapixel camera that you can auto-focus by tapping on the screen. The 3GS also better compensates in terms of white/color balance and exposure. Unfortunately, low light conditions still can trip up the 3GS just like the 3G. The 3GS also comes with video recording. Although it can’t record in HD, it still pulls a respectable 30fps video (perfect for youtube). With the ability to directly upload to youtube, as well as on the spot video trimming (no splicing), the 3GS will satisfy most of the demand for a functional/basic video recorder.
The 3GS also comes with a compass. Although not as sexy as an accelerometer, the compass shows some extremely useful qualities particularly with google maps. After google maps finds your position, you can tap the find me button once again, and it will show you a “pov cone” that points in the direction you’re facing. It also reorients the map so that it shows you exactly what part of the map you are facing. When you’re walking around a city with grids like NYC, or coming out of a subway, this can easily save you a ton of time should you happen to get lost, and get forced to walk down a block just to see where you are. Unfortunately, the compass seems to lose its accuracy when you’re in a car. Whether it’s due to interference, or just the speed, the compass loses its bearing easily and just spins around.
Along with the 3GS release is the release of OS 3.0 for all iPhones/iPod Touches. The most significant addition to the OS was support for copy/paste, and it works gloriously. Selecting entire paragraphs is just as easy as selecting one word. Now that the iPhone has native support for video recording, and copy paste, Apple is probably trying to discourage any more people from trying to jailbreak their iPhones. With AT&T promising support for MMS and tethering within a couple months, it should eliminate some of the most compelling reasons for users to jailbreak their phones. Apple has already released a beta version of 3.0.1 which when released fully, will address some of the battery life issues that 3.0 seemed to bring. The new OS seems to drain battery life much more quickly than the older OS. However, even if the new OS drains the battery quicker, the new 3GS has improved battery life when it comes to wifi use as well as audio playback and 3G talk time.
The 3GS also comes with voice control support that works pretty well, but is probably limited to car use. Personally, I don’t see myself talking out loud in the middle of a street commanding my iPhone to call or to skip a track, but if that’s your thing more power to you.
All in all the 3GS is one hell of a phone. If you’re looking for a smartphone that can act as your one stop multimedia machine, the 3GS has just about everything you could ever need. If you’re a first time buyer, there is no question that you should drop the extra 100$ to buy the 199$ 3GS over the 99$ 3G. There is also good news for existing 3G users who are not eligible for the “early upgrade” price. Even though you are not yet eligible for an upgrade, AT&T has offered to subsidize the 3GS for all existing 3G users up until September of 09. So instead of paying the 399$ to purchase the 3GS, 3G users will be able to purchase at the same early upgrade cost as the others. This is great because it sets the stage for those 3GS users who might want to upgrade when the next generation iPhone comes out in the future. Because let’s face it, once you use an iPhone, it’s hard to ever go back to a regular phone.