Apple iPhone 3GS Review

User Interface and Software:

The Apple iPhone 3GS naturally ships with the latest version of iPhone OS.  The most useful upgrades are the addition of voice command and copy and paste, though these have been standard in most smartphones for years now.  The OS update is available to all iPhone owners, but voice command is only compatible with the 3GS.  Apple has a weird balancing act going on of playing catch-up on basic features (video recording also makes its official debut here) while innovating in others areas (video editing, UI, the App Store.)  The addition of stereo Bluetooth and MMS round out the “why the hell doesn’t a phone this advanced have this” features, but the “why the hell did it take this long” question still remains a mystery.  There are many more small tweaks in 3.0, for a more comprehensive list check out the unofficial iPhone User’s Guide.

The voice command is fairly routine, though does allow for music control.  This is not a unique feature, as Microsoft's Voice Command allows users to do this as well, but still handy nonetheless.  Beyond dialing from contacts or numbers, the user can also skip tracks, play an album by name or ask what song is playing.  While cool, we don't think these features are incredibly useful but some may enjoy them more than others.

The 3GS is snappier, that’s for sure.  Apple claims that everything you do is up to 2x faster with the new hardware, and we wouldn’t doubt this claim.  It is a welcome improvement, but nothing groundbreaking.  The 600MHz processor is not unmatched in the industry (the Pre runs the same CPU actually,) like the original processor was when the 2G launched.  Safari runs quicker as well, with some tests putting it over 120% better at rendering than the 3G and 20% better than the Pre, which also runs a Webkit based browser.  Here there definitely is a noticeable difference.

Voice Memos and Compass make their debut in the Apple iPhone 3GS, with the former being more useful than the latter.  The most useful part of the compass is that maps now orientate in the direction you’re facing.  Beyond this you will find the standard set of applications out of the box, with tens of thousands of others ready to be downloaded, most for a price.  We should start seeing some better games come for the 3GS due to its support of OpenGL ES 2.0 compatible hardware and a more powerful 3D chip.  This probably means that we’ll also see games compatible only with the 3GS.

Spotlight search allows the user to search their contacts, calendar, notes, mail and iPod, similar to the universal search found in the Pre.  Unlike the Pre, when the iPhone comes up empty on results the iPhone does not go out and search the web for the answer.  It also only searches mail subjects, not the entire message.  It’s a useful enough feature, but we feel Apple could have taken it further to make better use of it.

One side note, after going straight from the Pre to the Apple iPhone 3GS, the lack of multitasking is very apparent.  We’d happily carry around an extra charger in exchange for the extra functionality.  Or you know, an extra battery if that was an option.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless