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RIP, iPhone 3GS, you redefined the meaning of superb software support

Posted: , by Ray S.

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RIP, iPhone 3GS, you redefined the meaning of superb software support
With yesterday's announcement of the iPhone 5, it became known that the iPhone 3GS will no longer be sold. During the past year, it was offered at the lovely price of free on contract, which made it arguably the best smartphone at that price-point. However, as it will no longer be found on store shelves, we wanted to take a few minutes to express our fascination with the superb support that this handset got (and continues to get) from Apple.

It wouldn't be an overstatement if we say that the iPhone 3GS was the best-supported smartphone in recent memory. It was launched in 2009, but is currently rocking the latest version of Apple's mobile OS - iOS 5. And guess what, it's going to receive an update to iOS 6 on September 19. That means that Apple is still supporting a 3-year old handset. In comparison, the Motorola DROID, which was released later in 2009, and was the signature Android smartphone for quite some time, never god updated past Android 2.2 Froyo - a platform released in 2010.

Of course, when Apple updates its older devices, it often leaves some of the main new features out, due to hardware (and other) reasons. But even then, it's way better to receive a watered-down update, rather than no update at all. That's because major updates carry so many subtle improvements and optimizations, that they can visibly improve the performance of important apps like the browser or e-mail. But perhaps even more importantly, software updates bring support for the latest applications. That's why the iPhone 3GS, a device from 2009, can flawlessly run the latest titles like ShadowGun, Dead Trigger, Infinity Blade II, EPOCH, N.O.V.A. 3 and so on. But it's not all about games. Many productivity and lifestyle apps also require the latest version of iOS in order to run. This is where the value of these software updates is. Sure, you don't get stuff like Siri or turn-by-turn navigation, but you get numerous system improvements and seamless support for all these lovely new applications that are constantly redefining what's possible on a cell phone. You simply do not get the feeling that you're left behind, and you really aren't.

It's just something we wanted to acknowledge, because we haven't seen anything like that with Android or Windows Phone. Support for devices running on these OS's often continues for up to a year, and is surrounded by delays, lack of information and silence on the manufacturer's part. Once again, it's a matter of doing it great, or doing it so-so. At the end of the day, why do you need the best hardware, if you can't have the latest software?

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posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:15 33

1. dragonscourgex (Posts: 307; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)

I do not like Apple, but this one thing I would have to agree on. I would love to see Android maker give the same support to their devices that Apple does to their.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 09:42 10

21. frydaexiii (Posts: 1475; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)

The thing is the hardware just can't support it. The fact that the 3GS can still support iOS (alas,very laggy) isn't a good thing, it just shows how little iOS has changed (yes changed, not improved) over the years.

For the Nexus 1 for example, if I'm not wrong there were some Alpha ICS and Jellybean ROMs released for it, but it was quite laggy and slow. Sure Google could take away a crapload of features just to support it, but whats the point?

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 10:02 6

25. dragonscourgex (Posts: 307; Member since: 16 Jan 2012)

I would have to agree with you point. I would like them to speed up the updating process thou. There should be no reason why my Droid Razr should not be running JB right now.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 11:07 1

31. Volcomguy51 (Posts: 18; Member since: 23 Jan 2011)

I agree with you, just like iPhone, Google should have at least one or two dedicated devices. If Asus could make a sweet tablet like the Nexus 7, a dedicated phone would be great such as the Nexus models.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 18:47 1

46. jroc74 (Posts: 6019; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

But....if every other phone manufacture only released one phone...of course it could and should be supported very good.

I dont think its so much that Apple supported it very good....it was just easier to support. I have a Droid 1 right now....that wont even get an OTA notice for 2.2. I put 2.0.1 on there cuz it was stuck in a boot loop last year. And if I dont do it manually...it will be on 2.0.1 forever. In the mean time....Motorola has released about 10 Android phones on Verizon since then. How many have Apple released since the 3GS?

posted on 14 Sep 2012, 15:09

55. RomeoJDR (Posts: 244; Member since: 09 Dec 2011)

Then every other manufacturer should not overextend themselves by producing more phones/tablets than they can support. That is a lame excuse to abandon a customer on outdated software.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:15 12

2. bloodline (Posts: 706; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)

I knew Ray.s wrote this. Such a fanboy

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:47 15

14. darkkjedii (Posts: 24913; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)

But it's true tho. Not slamming android it's jus true.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 09:05 8

16. whysoserious (Posts: 318; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)

Have respect to a dying Smartphone, will you? Your fanboyment knows no bound.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 09:39 9

19. Mxyzptlk (unregistered)

Such denial. He is speaking the truth. Apple has better support for their devices than any Android OEM does. I find it on base that he mentioned a Motorola device in comparison since Motorola is notorious for not updating their phones.

He's not being a fanboy in this article. He is speaking the truth from an obvious observation.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:03 2

42. XPERIA-KNIGHT (unregistered)

its becuase they only have one phone to attend to........android has many!.........have we forgotten this??

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 18:50 1

47. jroc74 (Posts: 6019; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

Exactly. After the 3GS...it was the 4 and 4S. Now the 5

In that same time frame.....Moto, Sammy and HTC have probably released 50 phones.

Then....they strip features out for older devices....where Google just with holds the entire update. Its apples to oranges...

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:44 3

43. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4275; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)

That's because Apple and Google have 2 different systems.


Apple --> Consumer


Google --> Manufacturer --> Carrier --> Consumer

There are 2 extra steps there that slow down updates a lot, especially on Verizon... You shouldn't compare every Android device with the iPhone. The only way the systems are the same is with an unlocked Nexus;

Google --> Consumer

Instead of comparing every Android device, compare the unlocked Nexus to the iPhone, or else it isn't fair.

How many unlocked Galaxy Nexus are on Jelly Bean? How many iPhone 4S will be on iOS 6 when it releases? That should be the comparison, and they will be similar.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 15:20 2

45. ogy_dogy (Posts: 453; Member since: 29 Jun 2012)

With all due respect to apple for their support of a old device which was excellent, but the 3gs was far too expensive (off contract) compared to similar devices. for example, here the 3gs off contract was about 350€ while the samsung galaxy ace was 200€ and i even think it had some better specs. so typical apple..

posted on 14 Sep 2012, 15:02

54. RomeoJDR (Posts: 244; Member since: 09 Dec 2011)

Yes he is, but this is actually a good reason why he is.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:16 13

3. kshell1 (Posts: 1143; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

I don't like apple either and i agree. The Iphone 3GS is one of the best well supported phones ive ever seen.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:19 10

4. No_Nonsense (unregistered)

This is what I like about the 3GS, wish others would give the same support like Nokia gives to the N8 and first gen-Lumias and Apple's done with the 3GS.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:22 19

5. Aeires (unregistered)

Ray, you probably won't see an update like this from Google. Google pushes entire OS updates to their Nexus phones, not watered down updates (your words). When a phone is deemed too old due to hardware requirements, it reaches end of life. The Nexus S is almost two years old and received 4.1, and could very well receive Key Lime Pie, but it's too early to predict that.

One of the things that keeps getting overlooked with articles and comments like this, there are official Google phones and there are carrier branded phones. Apple takes care of the iPhone well, and Google takes care of the Nexus phones well. When the carriers get involved, that's where the problems start and blame for poor updates needs to go.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:29 6

8. bloodline (Posts: 706; Member since: 01 Dec 2011)

this is exactly right, RAY what is your response to this ?

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:35 1

9. JKING_25 (Posts: 53; Member since: 12 Sep 2012)

Well said! but I think Samsung and HTC are finaly starting to understand this. I am told that my SGS2 will recieve Jelly Bean (crossing fingers) hopefully we can see a new Galaxy Nexus soon.

Oh wait I have sprint so I will never get my offical Jelly Bean update :(

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:51 10

15. Ray.S (Posts: 388; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

What you say is partly true, but it also doesn't matter that much, because there are sooo few people using the Nexus phones. And what about the Nexus One, launched in 2010? It didn't even get ICS (released in 2011). Otherwise, it's true that they are doing a good job with the Nexus S. Let's hope they'll keep that up.

But most people are using Droids and Galaxies, and that's where the trouble is. The fact is that most Android users are suffering from poor software support, and I honestly do not think that it's only the carriers' fault. Phone manufacturers are probably even guiltier.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 09:21 8

17. Aeires (unregistered)

Nexus 1 was the first of the Nexus and didn't have as good hardware as the followup Nexus phones, primarily it was low on RAM. It didn't reach the two year mark, partly because it was launched in spring when new versions of Android are released usually later in the year. Still, it did receive two official Android updates, going from 2.1 to 2.2 and stopping on 2.3. If the hardware would have been there, there's no doubt it would have gotten ICS as well.

The "Droids" and Galaxies are getting better at updates. Expect even better from Motorola now that Google owns the company. Samsung seems to have finally gotten the message as well, they've shown marked improvement on getting updates released in a more timely manner.. When you look at the charts that are regularly posted showing the dispersal of Android versions, the overwhelming amount are on 2.3 or higher. While that could be much better, I don't think people are suffering like you make it out to be. Is it as good as Apple, no. Is it a critical issue for the average user, no. The main thing that's worth mentioning is that updates are getting better as time goes on, not worse.

I do agree with you in that manufacturers are at fault as well. Not everyone makes 1 phone a year though. If they did, you'd see the same type of updates as Apple. There's always going to be a trade-off, do you want to wait a year for a new phone, or do you want tons of options throughout the year?

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 09:45 4

22. Ray.S (Posts: 388; Member since: 19 Jul 2011)

Personally, I do not need tons of options, but not everyone needs a high-end device, that's why I think it's cool there are so many mid- and low-end Android smartphones. The problem I mentioned was that even high-end devices used to receive very few updates.

I didn't say that things are getting worse. Hopefully, things will be getting better in Android land. We can only benefit from strong competition!

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 10:07 1

27. kshell1 (Posts: 1143; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)

Actually it was mostly low on actual memory. it only had 512mb of ROM

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 10:16 1

28. Aeires (unregistered)

Thanks, I should have remembered that because it was the main reason I upgraded away from that phone. Cyanogen opening Apps to SD card did wonders for that phone.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 11:22

33. gallitoking (Posts: 4721; Member since: 17 May 2011)

the DX2. got released last year around this time and .. Moto has already forgotten about it

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 11:50

36. Aeires (unregistered)

Released mid May last year, saw one update and official Verizon site says update coming soon. You might be right, it's another carrier based phone that is specific to Verizon so it might not see another update.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 14:47 1

44. Berzerk000 (Posts: 4275; Member since: 26 Jun 2011)

Is it Moto that has forgotten, or is it Verizon that has given up on it? There's a difference.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 18:59

48. jroc74 (Posts: 6019; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)

IMO....I dont think Moto wanted to release the DX2 and Droid 3. Neither got Droid commercials. Moto and Verizon didnt really care about it when they launched.

posted on 13 Sep 2012, 08:26 2

6. fanboy1974 (Posts: 1345; Member since: 12 Nov 2011)

The reason iOS never received a total make over is because of the iPhone 3GS. And its the reason why I'm sticking with Android.

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