written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/23/2011
The iPhone remains the top of the line in smart phones, but was the iPhone 3GS really a step up?
slide 1 of 6
Introduction: Unwrapping the iPhone
The iPhone itself was a revelation when it was first released in 2007. Smartphones had already made their way into the American consciousness, but the iPhone brought with it the pedigree of the iPod. The iPod had already defined youth culture and ushered media consumption into the new millennium, completely reshaping the music and film industries. The iPhone exists as the integration between the smartphone and this portable media model, now with apps. The number of applications for the iPhone has quickly grown into the hundreds of thousands, and is increasing every day. Now that the iPhone is firmly set as the leader in pretty much every area of this technology we see a significant shift forward every year as Apple releases the newest version onto the market. In 2009 Apple released the iPhone 3GS, the successor to the previous iPhone 3G model. With the iPhone 3GS Apple has delivered the most defining set of features that were markedly absent from the previous models.
slide 2 of 6
The design of the iPhone has remained constant in terms of physical casing and touch screen. It remains thin and smooth, but it is not the most durable when exposed to trauma. You will likely want to continue to use a hard case on the iPhone 3GS and even secure something over the touch screen to reduce the chance of scratches and cracks, which happen often. You will also want to protect the buttons as dust gets in behind the Home button and often causes problems. It would be best if the design of the iPhone 3GS had been altered to respond to these issues, but possibly on the iPhone 4G.
slide 3 of 6
The interface of the iPhone 3GS is the same as previous releases and it really helps to sell the device. In reality this is a vacant touch screen that allows you to select built in iPhone features, like calling or text messaging, or the numerous iPhone games and applications that you can go through on a regular basis. This is a nice way to push the iPhone more in the direction of a palm computer whose usefulness is based on what you put on it. The design remains pretty much the same on the iPhone 3GS as compared to the iPhone 3G, but the interface is so locked down right from the start that it is hard to see what else would have been added.
slide 4 of 6
The iPhone is the most capable smartphone out there, but it is missing two essential components that even lesser phones include as standard. The iPhone did not allow for multimedia messages and did not allow you to take video. This has been markedly added to with the iPhone 3GS as the camera has been increased to a three megapixel capability and you have the ability to toggle back and forth between photo and video. The video the iPhone 3GS does take is relatively good and you have the ability to send it online or alter it with applications so it really feels like a treat. Along with this is the addition of multimedia messaging to their text messaging service, which was already top of the line as it had been modeled after instant messaging services like AIM.
Another aspect that had been missing from the iPhone for its first two incarnations was a cut and paste feature. Since the iPhone was working much like a computer with many of the same web and communication expectations you would reason that a copy and paste function would be included. This is not only allowed on the iPhone 3GS, but it is included on the iPhone 3.0 update. The iPhone 3.0 update, which ran parallel to the release of the iPhone 3GS was a major overhaul in the iPhone's firmware. iPhone 3.0, and its further updates, come standard on the iPhone 3GS and do not require you to go through updates of your older iPhone.
slide 5 of 6
The hardware looks the same but it has undergone surgery underneath that exterior. The iPhone 3GS has been stated to be twice as fast as the previous versions of the iPhone, which is saying quite a bit. This iPhone 3GS speed refers to how it deals with running applications, looking at three dimensional graphics, getting attachments from email, and the like. Though this speed does affect much of what you do online, it does not act as a complete revolution here as this requires AT&T to do an update to the 3G network. Either way it is still an improvement to the iPhone 3G, which could definitely run sluggishly at times.
On a fundamental level the iPhone 3GS is cheaper than the iPhone 3G, but not if you were buying one today. Instead the iPhone 3GS is cheaper for what you get when it was released than the iPhone 3G was a year earlier. This is to say that what is considered standard in terms of size to price has been moved up. The smaller size is the 16GB version, while the 32 GB version is considered the big daddy of the iPhone 3GS line. The pricing remains the same as it was when the iPhone 3G was released, which means that if you were waiting until the price dropped you may just want to go now because it feels like a better deal. 32GB compared to older 8GB iPhone models is a big deal, and you can now feel comfortable in using your iPhone as a full iPod and application vessel.
slide 6 of 6
All the new features on the iPhone 3GS are nice, but there may be times that you feel disappointed. Voice control features are nice, but there are more things that could have bumped it to the next level. The iPhone itself has not seen a major overhaul and most things remain the same. If you are already sold on the iPhone's design then the iPhone 3GS is a no brainer, but it would have been nice to see Apple really take the iPhone in a more diversified direction. This may happen when the iPhone 3GS finds its successor in the iPhone 4G.