iPhone 3GS: The First Weekend

I want to start things off with a quick review of the iPhone 3GS which I happily took ownership of this past weekend.  Coming from the original 8GB iPhone, there was a lot to look forward to now that the platform has evolved over two years.  While there wasn't enough for me to get the 3G, I felt the 3GS proved a worthy upgrade (even with the looming possibility of a major upgrade by Apple in a year's time).  For some perspective, before my iPhone I owned a Nokia N80. 


The 3GS remains virtually unchanged from the 3G which may be both good and bad depending on your perspective.  Coming from the original phone, I welcome the fact that the phone is lighter than before.  It's obviously great for your pocket and when just holding the phone for web browsing, interacting with the apps, and other activities where you aren't holding it to your ear.  When you are holding it to your ear, though, it does feel a little less substantial than the original.  I think this is something that I'll simply get used to over time, but it doesn't feel quite right just yet.

The screen has been great in terms of the oleophobic coating.  While I can faintly detect fingerprints, for the most part the screen has been relatively clear and smudge-free.  The colors are richer than before and the resolution seems a little bit better, but that might just be me.

I decided to go with the white to match my MacBook and think it gives it a little more pizazz than the old aluminum back.  I also think the phone fits better in my hand thanks to the curved back.

I may be imagining it, but the speaker seems to be louder than on the original.  Playing music and videos seemed to result in a much higher quality experience than before.

The change back to a 3.5mm headphone jack is also a very welcome change, even though I invested in a headphone adapter for my old one (all $.99 of it!)


The 3GS benefits from a number of new features that obviously were unfound on the original iPhone.  These really helped convince me to upgrade.

  • Speed:  The speed of the new phone is significantly faster, from booting up to moving through and launching applications to typing, everything is noticeably faster.  I'm certainly not using a stopwatch, but the improvement is nothing to scoff at.
  • Camera: The upgrade in quality is something a lot of people have been excited for and I'm no different.  The quality of still images does seem to be improved, but I am yet to put the two head-to-head in an official test.  One of the big upgrades obviously is the video recording capability.  So far, the video recording on the 3GS has been simply awesome!  I was previously using a Flip Ultra video camera that lounged in my backpack ready at a moment's notice.  After using the 3GS's camera for two days, I've now put the Flip up for sale on eBay.  I think the 3GS makes a perfect replacement for the standard Flip.  For shooting quick videos and then being able to upload them, the 3GS really outshines the Ultra.  You can edit the footage right on the phone or sync back to iPhoto when you get to your computer.  I won't for a minute pretend that the iPhone can compete with any sort of dedicated HD video camera.  But for what it does, I think this is great.  Despite all the gadgets I own, a point-and-shoot camera is not among them.  I'm currently rocking a Nikon D-SLR and a SONY HD Handycam.  The 3GS will be my daily go-to and I think it will do a fine job for taking quick snapshots and videos.
  • Voice Control:  The voice control feature has worked so-so thus far.  Most of the time the matches have been spot-on but there have been several times so far where the phone just did not get it right.  I haven't played around with it enough but it doesn't sound like you can do anything besides make calls or launch music with it.  I think that's unfortunate- the voice control feature of OS X on laptops/desktops works great so it's disappointing that you can't use it to launch apps or, say, tell it to launch a new e-mail to a certain contact.  Hopefully Apple can add more functionality in a software update.
  • Compass:  I feel this is more of a gimmick than anything.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that there is a compass functionality built into the maps application.  I'm one of those people who when exiting a New York City subway station, usually has to take a moment to orient myself.  The ability to see exactly which way you are going when you come out is great.  But I really don't see the need to have an entire application devoted to this.  I suppose if you're the outdoorsy type and you're on a hike and you don't have cell service you could use it to guide yourself along a trail, but then again the iPhone has GPS built in so I'm not sure what the point would be.


Ah, where to begin?!  Coming from the original iPhone it appears I have been super spoiled in terms of battery life.  The new phone can't hold a candle to the original batteries.  With low to moderate usage of my original phone, I could easily get through the day and have juice to spare the next day (of course by using proper battery-usage techniques.)  The battery life of the 3GS is abysmal compared to the original.  From what I have read, the battery is supposed to be better than the 3G, but it's still disappointing.  I've had to be extra diligent in terms of monitoring what I do.  I am constantly turning off WiFi when not in range and even keeping 3G off when I don't actively need data.  When I'm using WiFi, I've got 3G turned off as well.  I think I may be playing with my phone a bit more than usual since it's a new toy, so I don't have a great frame for average useage, but so far things have not been encouraging.  I am definitely planning to invest in an extra battery pack but I haven't yet decided whether I'll get a traditional spare battery that hooks up to the dock connector or if I'll spring for something like one of the Mophie cases with a built-in battery.

Overall Impressions:

Overall, I've been pretty pleased with the 3GS thus far.  The new features and improved performance made it pretty easy to upgrade coming from the original iPhone.  If you don't have an iPhone and are looking for a new phone- get it.  If you have an original iPhone- get it.  But if you're coming from an iPhone 3G- wait.  I think the features are certainly evolutionary and not revolutionary compared to the 3G.  Will Apple come out with something crazy next June?  Probably.  But I wouldn't let that hold you back if you need a new phone.  I didn't need this version but I'm glad I have it.  Coming from an N80, many of the features of the iPhone are things I had several years ago.  If you're a number-cruncher and live for tech-specs, then, no, the iPhone does not thing revolutionary.  But I think the way it brings everything together is fantastic. 

In my next post, I'll talk about the 3GS and its impact on communications.  I think there's a lot of great stuff there and I'll address how I think this device will be HUGE for communications.


If you have an original iPhone (or any gadget for that matter) and you want to get some cash for the 3GS, use these guys.  I've sold a number of gadgets back to them when I didn't feel like using eBay.  You won't get as much cash as you would selling it on your own, but you'll definitely get paid and it's super easy to use.  I set up my old phone for sale yesterday and they offered me $128 for my 8GB- not bad at all considering a new 3G goes for $99!