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Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Posted: , by John V.

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Software:

Thanks to the release of iOS 4, there is very little in regards to the look and feel of the platform on either handsets. But thanks to the faster A4 processor on board the iPhone 4, the meticulous eye can discern the subtle differences in how fluid and smooth the iPhone 4 runs versus the 3GS. However, it's only marginally better and almost insignificant when you look at the overall big picture. To tell you the truth, there is nothing that separates the two in terms of performance. The iPhone 3GS can hold its own ground even though it may not have the most up-to-date hardware running under the hood, but there is no denying that the experience is no different – but then again, don't you expect a faster performance out of a newer handset? Even after doing some comparisons on how long it took both smartphones to open up a specific app, say for an example the camera app, the iPhone 4 obviously loaded slightly faster – but not to the point blowing away the time that the 3GS put up. As far as the native apps are concerned, there is nothing different about them on either handsets thanks to iOS 4. If there are some reasons to side with the iPhone 4 over the 3GS, it has to be its ability to do video chat via FaceTime and its gaming prowess. Sure there is Fring that allows the iPhone 3GS to do one-way video chat, but the experience we had with FaceTime on the iPhone 4 makes it one compelling feature that stands out. In addition, we can foresee the front facing camera being used with a new level of innovative augmented reality apps. Even though the iPhone 3GS has been putting the heat on traditional portable console gaming manufacturers, the iPhone 4 adds in a gyroscope to enhance the gaming experience. Add in the fact that it sports faster internals, the iPhone 4 is a game developers dream handset thanks to its established user base and cutting edge hardware. You can read more about all the benefits of iOS 4 in our hands-on article with the iPhone 3GS. In the end, there's not much really separating the two in terms of the platform experience – it's still simple, straightforward, and just fast.

Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Interface - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Interface - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Interface - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 4Interface - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Interface - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Interface - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 4
Interface



Data and Connectivity:

Still sporting the Safari mobile web browser that was in use with the original iPhone, both handsets are equally capable in providing one of the best web browsing experiences out there. No, there's no new features to be found with the iPhone 4 except for a very minor speed boost which we would naturally expect with a newer handset. The iPhone 3GS can still compete toe-to-toe with some of the newer smartphones in the market right now, so it would be a very weak argument to move up to the iPhone 4 if you're all about the web browsing experience.

Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Safari browser - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 4
Safari browser


Aside from the iPhone 4's inclusion of 802.11n Wi-Fi, there is nothing else to make it stand above the iPhone 3GS. Thanks to iOS 4 and Bluetooth 2.1 on board both handsets, you can now connect items such as Bluetooth keyboards on top of traditional wireless headsets.


Multimedia:

Even to this day, Cover Flow continues to be the standard that all music player interfaces must live up to. Not only does it offer one eye catching presentation, but it manages to draw people in at how intuitively it's able to scroll through all of your albums. Both handsets provide for that rich and surreal experience that other mobile phone owners covet. However, the only difference can be found with the iPhone 4's slightly louder speaker – and that's about it.

Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Cover Flow - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 4
Cover Flow


Watching videos - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Watching videos - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Watching videos - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4 - Watching videos - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 4

Watching videos

Watching videos on either handsets is such a joy seeing that they don't lag at all during playback, but the iPhone 4 has a slight edge due mostly to its highly detailed Retina Display. Nonetheless, the experience is nearly identical.




The more time playing around with the iPhone 4 and using its 5-megapixel auto-focus camera, the more we realized how stunning its images are. There is such a huge difference in performance between the iPhone 3GS's 3.0-megapixel camera versus the iPhone 4's 5-megapixel shooter – it's absolutely night and day; polar opposites. Not only do images come out with more detail and natural colors on the iPhone 4, but they performed cunningly in low lighting conditions. Throw in the LED flash on the iPhone 4, and you can substantially comprehend why people choose to leave their traditional point and shoot digital cameras at home. Without a doubt, the iPhone 4's camera and internal optics provide for some of the most stunning photos that can easily put to shame some handsets boasting larger megapixel count cameras.

Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 4


Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4 - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 4


Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 3GS

Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Apple iPhone 4Samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Apple iPhone 4
Samples


Strong light - Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Indoor samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Medium light - Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Indoor samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Low light - Apple iPhone 3GS - Apple iPhone 4Indoor samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Strong light

Medium light

Low light

Apple iPhone 3GS

Strong light - Apple iPhone 4Indoor samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Medium light - Apple iPhone 4Indoor samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Low light - Apple iPhone 4Indoor samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side
Darkness with flash - Apple iPhone 4Indoor samples - Apple iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 3GS: side by side

Strong light

Medium light

Low light

Darkness with flash

Apple iPhone 4
Indoor samples


At the same time, media buffs will adore knowing that the iPhone 4 has the ability to shoot videos in 720p – making the iPhone 3GS's VGA videos look miniscule. However, it's worth noting that both phones shoot video at a steady 30 frames per second – making them look quite smooth as opposed to jerky. The iPhone 3GS managed to retain a good white balance throughout shooting, but the iPhone 4 can sometimes change white balances through the course of a continuous shot – so it depends largely on the lighting condition you're shooting in. Still, you can't deny that the iPhone 4's videos looked extremely more detailed – which can be seen as a major plus for those who want to preserve some precious memories.
Some would've thought that Apple would increase the internal storage for the iPhone 4 to 32GB and 64GB capacities, but instead, they decided to keep it the same at 16GB and 32GB – the same exact capacities offered for the iPhone 3GS.

11 Comments
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posted on 20 Oct 2010, 01:55

1. NOVAinc (Posts: 99; Member since: 24 Jun 2010)


I think a video would be extremely more useful this time, for a side by side performance comparison. But why loose the time with another iPhone? What we really want to see is a proper comparison between the iPhone 4 and the EVO (or the DROID X). You know, performance, camera, OS speed, etc. Even signal reception, I have no problem, I want a fair comparison... All the comparisons we have until now are only commenters with serious fanboysm either for apple or for google (or android)

posted on 29 Jun 2010, 12:01

2. ads496 (Posts: 2; Member since: 08 Dec 2009)


No big difference except the design and camera.

posted on 29 Jun 2010, 12:30

3. ace1122 (Posts: 237; Member since: 23 Mar 2009)


But that's no surprise.

posted on 29 Jun 2010, 12:59

4. Mark3 (Posts: 12; Member since: 10 Dec 2009)


You are forgetting the new display, and... well, nothing else.

posted on 01 Jul 2010, 01:04

5. RORYREVOLUTION (Posts: 2942; Member since: 12 Jan 2010)


Thank god they had captions on the photos with the iphone 3GS and iphone 4, I wouldn't have been able to tell them apart lol

posted on 19 Jul 2010, 12:41

6. nimo (Posts: 72; Member since: 11 Jun 2010)


I just got a free 3 GS on upgrade, Ebay here i come :-)

posted on 29 Sep 2010, 17:13

7. Simo (unregistered)


3GS is easy and pleasing to hold in your palm. One can not say that for 4.Big mistake in design.

posted on 07 Nov 2010, 22:41

8. bing j (unregistered)


i been using my 3gs for over a year now and you are very much correct, the 3gs can still hold water beside a iPhone4 and it feels more elegant to hold. Robyrevolution nailed it right- their photos are almost indistinguishable.. If i need serious photos and vids i wil use my EOS instead since i bought my 3gs first and foremost as a phone (i suppose thats why they called it iPhone and not iCamera) and in the phone signal department, the 3gs simply demolished the iPhone4.

posted on 22 Nov 2010, 05:49

9. Donnie (unregistered)


iPhone 3GS FTW! definitely more worth it. I used to condemn the 3GS when it first came out, criticising its lack of new features over the 3G. But now, the price is SUPER low. Without contract, you can get it really cheap now. Don't get me started on second hand pricing.
Only things I would find worthy of noting on the iPhone 4, are the 5mp camera with HD recording. But after a jailbreak, my 3GS is perfectly capable of 720p HD recording at 30fps too.
iPhone 4, feels really fragile. My mate plonked it onto his coffe table, and we couldnt hear the loud crack. When he lifted it up, there was a MASSIVE crack with a chip fallen out the back. my 3GS on the other hand, i have literally thrown it against a wall, and nothing really happened; cept fr minor scratches.
SUMMARY:
Reasons to upgrade from 3GS to 4: 5mp camera, and LED flash.

posted on 18 Sep 2011, 00:09

10. widi (unregistered)


hey @Donnie, but Throwing it is not the primary function.. LOL

posted on 27 Jan 2014, 22:43

11. IphoneGuy52 (Posts: 1; Member since: 27 Jan 2014)


wow, I bet you guys feel stupid now for saying bad things about the Iphone 4. Its what like 4 years later and all the new IPhones (exept the 5c) has been made like the Iphone 4. If the design was so bad then why would apple keep useing it. Also the Iphone 4 is way better than the 3Gs it can actually get IOS 7. And the screen is better the chips in it are better it has flash a better camera and a front camera the crappy old 3gs dosent have any of that.

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