iPhone 3GS - So far, so good

This post is more than 2 years old.

I wanted to give folks a quick update on my experience with the new iPhone 3GS. With the expensive (for some) upgrade price, I know people aren't sure if it is worth the upgrade. Here is what I've found so far. First though - note that I had a first generation iPhone. What seems really great for me may not be so great for folks already on a 3G phone.

  1. Network Speed I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, but, I had heard that 3G wasn't "too big" of a jump over Edge. Maybe it isn't, but it certainly feels a heck of a lot zippier. The main applications I use with a lot of network activity are Twitterific, Maps, and Safari. All of them run much faster now. I was particularly surprised by Maps. I had it tracking my car and it updated our position in real time. (I wasn't driving. :) I was also impressed by the directions. I hadn't used it before, but I can see using it a lot more now that I know how it works.

Unfortunately, the main site I use for mail, GMail, has recently taken a step back in functionality. A few weeks ago they changed things up a bit, and since then, I've seen some odd behavior. Sometimes simple mail messages just refuse to load. Sometimes the entire web site refuses to load. This isn't 3GS issue, but whatever they did recently seems to have made things a bit flakey. When it works, it works great.

  1. Application Speed This seems to be a bit hit and miss, and probably depends a lot more on the application's code base then anything else. Peggle (darn good addictive game) loaded up 10X faster than it normally did. Other applications seem a bit faster, but in general, I'd say things feel about 2X faster. 2X faster is nice - real nice, just don't expect the same boost over everything. The camera is nicer - but I still wish it ran faster.

  2. Compass It works. Meh. If I get lost, I'll appreciate it.

  3. Video It works, and works well. I was surprised with how nicely it handled offering to upload the video to YouTube. The whole conversion and upload process took about 3 minutes. The quality isn't great, but I'll have my iPhone around a lot more than my Flip camera (and the quality seems about the same).

  1. Battery Life I don't know about others, but this seems to be the biggest disappointment. I haven't done any scientific testing, but it just seems like it hasn't improved at all. Whereas everything else seems nicer, faster, shinier, the battery seems to be the exact same as before. My real "test" for this was my last flight to California. I watched video for a good chunk of the trip like I normally do ("Last Man on Earth", good Vincent Price film, and the last 40 minutes of the Dark Knight) and the battery seemed just as drained as it normally is (around 45%). I expected a lot more here.

  2. Misc Not that it's important, but the speaker is way loud. Loud as in the first time I got a text message I jumped about five feet. I guess that's good, but I've always relied on vibrate to notice incoming calls.

So overall, I'm very happy with the upgrade. I was lucky enough to get a good price for it (299), and I probably would have paid a bit more too (although as a consultant I can write it off as a business expense).

p.s. Some "apps" that I really need to pick up but haven't yet - Wolfenstein3D and Space Ace. Anyone tried them yet?

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About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

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Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Michael Long posted on 6/29/2009 at 11:51 AM

My favorite feature by far is voice command/dial. It's extremely accurate and, since it also works off the headset button, lets me call anyone I want without even pulling my phone from my pocket.

Just in case you missed it, the 3GS also works with the new headset and in-ear headphones that have volume controls built into the microphone section.

Comment 2 by Raymond Camden posted on 6/29/2009 at 3:54 PM

Thanks Michael for pointing this out - I forgot to mention it in my review. Unfortunately, voice dial is a complete failure for me. It has yet to recognize one name correctly yet. :(

Comment 3 by Robert Owen posted on 6/29/2009 at 5:56 PM

The video quality looked really pretty good... Quite surprising for a phone actually.

Comment 4 by Raymond Camden posted on 6/29/2009 at 6:02 PM

The 'native' video, straight from the iPhone, copied to my computer, is even crisper.

It bugs me though that I still have to use iPhoto to work with crap. I should be able to drag photos/videos off the phone directly.

Comment 5 by David Betz posted on 6/29/2009 at 9:16 PM

But how does it work as a phone? 'Cause otherwise what's the point.

Comment 6 by Raymond Camden posted on 6/29/2009 at 9:49 PM

It's always been good as a phone. I guess I didn't bother commenting on that as it just works as expected. Love the visual voice mail.

Comment 7 by Michael Long posted on 6/29/2009 at 10:25 PM

Ray, there's a program on the Mac called "Image Capture". (Do a Spotlight search.)

Run it and plug in the iPhone and it should show up as a browsable device. Click "Download Some..." and you can select which photos/videos to download to your computer and the destination.

No iPhoto needed.

Comment 8 by Raymond Camden posted on 6/29/2009 at 10:28 PM

@ML: Sorry, I should have been clearer. I have iPhone. I can use it. It just surprised me that when I clicked on Movies in iTunes, under my device, that it wasn't there. I guess it treats the 'ipod' area as different. Since I use iTunes as the main program for interacting with the iPhone, it would be nice if I could use _only_ that at times.

Comment 9 by Michael Long posted on 6/29/2009 at 11:49 PM

Like I said, this let you bypass iPhoto to get at movies on the phone. As an added bonus, it pulls them off at full resolution, unlike emailing them or posting them to YouTube.

Comment 10 by Raymond Camden posted on 6/29/2009 at 11:54 PM

Yeah but iPhoto too let's me do that. Not sure why I'd use that if I have iPhoto. It gives me the full resolution as well. Again - my real point was - it would be kind of cool if _one_ tool did everything for the iPhone. I'd expect that of iTunes.

Comment 11 by Ludovico Clemente posted on 7/7/2009 at 1:05 PM

Wolf3D is really addictive, if you loved the PC game you'll love this one. You need to tweak the controls a bit to really feel 'at home', but they've done an impressive job with this (basically, you can move controls and status panels all over the place :)