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.



1. AlaneCzeQ

Posts: 19; Member since: Jun 12, 2009

camera resolution - 10 when other phones have 8megapixels and get 9 for that ... weird imo

2. Masters

Posts: 22; Member since: Apr 15, 2009


8. Osukaru

Posts: 68; Member since: Jul 02, 2008

Its the iPhone, everyone /Drools for it..... Sad

13. AlaneCzeQ

Posts: 19; Member since: Jun 12, 2009

and when im sayin here is a proff : this phone is 3 megapixel one and resulution is 10 -> HTC HD 5megapixels and score is 8 and I dont talk about quality but RESOLUTION it means HOW MANY MEGAPIXELS it has got it was first example second one: supported formats - 7 HTC HD - 6 what the hell its win mo it plays everything ! and here u need to conver it on your pc ... I know that the quality of screen is 10 but its resolution ist not top notch coz on the market we've got 800x480 so it suppose to be lower I think this review was good about 2 years ago when nokia n95 came out now I think that Iphone sux big time ... why coz everybody supports it and that is why apple hv made so little changes coz all of reviewer loved it and the are giving better marks than the phone deserves i know that people like AVERANGE JOE will love this phone coz its easy but why TECH JUNKIE who would like to get TODAY : AMOLED, flash with cam, multitasking, bluetooth to send files (maybe its possible dont know sorry if im wrong), better screen res, antiscratch surface and some design changes and i can count more. look what have samsung done ... they are cheaper and better ... lg also :) well maybe its only me but ITS still IPHONE the FIRST ONE with FEW CHANGES (mainly in soft)

28. behold--me

Posts: 679; Member since: Jun 22, 2009

pathetic ........its not even that great I AGREE WIT U

3. Arielnyc2006 unregistered

Thats the main reason I have not acquired the iphone, poor ATT call quality.

4. LGVX1993

Posts: 260; Member since: Jan 27, 2009

This is one of the few times where ive seen a phone with bad call quality.

5. drewsky

Posts: 147; Member since: Jan 04, 2009

I agree with who made this review. It makes to sense to get the 3GS, just get the 3G, with the 3.0 software. The camera is a little better, the processor is faster, but thats really it. I expected Apple to change the design s little bit more. And what happend to ATT making the data plan cheaper? Thats the main reason I don't have one. I would hate to pay $30 a month for any phone.

7. vmatikov

Posts: 55; Member since: Jan 28, 2009

AT&T never said they'd change the price of the data plan lol... Anyway you're right, there's a slim diff between the 3G and 3G S, but I think it's a matter of taste.

10. drewsky

Posts: 147; Member since: Jan 04, 2009

There was a rumor, that ATT would make a LIMITED data plan for the Iphone that would cost $20. But I just found the article that killed that Idea. oh well, I'd much rather have a Omnia i8910.

11. vmatikov

Posts: 55; Member since: Jan 28, 2009

Hence, it's a rumor. Lol anyway what diff does it make? In my opinion if you want an iPhone, you're gonna pay what they tell you to. And you clearly aren't that person (not that that's a bad thing btw)

6. vmatikov

Posts: 55; Member since: Jan 28, 2009

Hey just a little note to the reviewers... You guys mentioned that of the two grills on the bottom, audio only comes out of the left one, and you also mentioned that the two grills would naturally indicate stereo speakers. Idk if you guys know or not but I just wanted to mention that under the right grill is the mic.

9. pathmarkpolice

Posts: 102; Member since: Feb 05, 2009


12. davidneary01

Posts: 16; Member since: Nov 25, 2008

its just suprising that apple the "kings of cool and innovation" have now let this phone go 3 generations with zero and i mean 0 design changes..even the instinct tried to improve itself a little with curvier edges and a sleaker doubt it's a great phone but if you aren't moving forward your moving backwords..

14. MTLance unregistered

Lol Apple don't have to do much these days thanks to lazy competitors but now the competitors are working way harder than they would. i.e. Nokia just woke up from iPhone kicking its butt and coming out with E72(Very sexy phone and I'm in love, I just hope there is a good review for it), Palm has an Apple man with Pre totally kicking iPhone butt, and not to mention BB ain't giving that up that easy but with Storm 2 on its way.

15. donchichi

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

I'm very surprised the review for Iphone is rated so high and the N97 so low. There are advantages on both phones whereas the Iphone is more for viewing videos and music but not a good phone overall. Be a bit fair on the reviews as I have 5800 and iphone and after a while the hype just dies with the iphone. Its like a very beautiful lady but she can't cook, can't clean and can't do nothing. After a short while you'd go for the average girl who can do more.

16. mulda71

Posts: 42; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

How do you rate a phone so high if you say the phone call quality blows? Because I agree, every iphone I have tried is absolutely unusable as a telephone. I really want to buy one, but I just can't buy a phone that, you know, doesn't work as a phone! How do so many people put up with that?! I mean I know it's cool and all, but...

53. jje1953

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 11, 2010

Well, I think you make the proper point. For a lot of folks, the iPhone is an iPod that you can make calls with. It's fairly apparent, that call quality is the least of Apple's concerns, because they know the typical iPhone buyer is probably more interested in the other features, than they are in the call quality. I'm considering an iPhone myself, and I could tell you, that the other features outweigh call quality, because frankly, I don't make that many calls. Not that I want a phone that sounds like two cans connected by string, but I've always wanted an iPod, and maybe you kill two birds with one stone.

17. sushjames

Posts: 19; Member since: Apr 11, 2009

well i think reviewer gets paid if they praise the iphone...well i'm not offending anyone but still if you notice reviews about iphone from all the website they only say good thing about it.. i don't understand.. Anyhow can't believe apple just introduced one phone (iphone) now it's taking most of the mobile market.. well it's great for them.. sad for other manufactures because they generate 20 - 30 models per year still they can't compete with this one...can someone please explain me what makes apple product so special ?? .. well thanks for reading my comments.

27. behold--me

Posts: 679; Member since: Jun 22, 2009

im kinda glad to hear that this scored below a 9 look at this link BEST SMARTPHONE where do u see the iphone 3G? its below the motorola Zine ZN5 i dont even think that was meant to be a smartphone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

18. madlaw1071

Posts: 7; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

#16 nails it and I'll go a step further, the 3 most common uses for a cell phone the Iphone excels the least at. It sucks as a phone, has no push email for most providers and still has no MMS(no definitive date). Other than that it's a great phone.

19. martycota

Posts: 28; Member since: Jun 15, 2009

Is the iPhone taking most of the mobile market? I like to think that most of the millions of people who bought it, are the ones who keep buying them when they release new ones, meaning that overall, 1/3 only equals the total subscribers...

20. Jyakotu

Posts: 867; Member since: Dec 12, 2008

All these comments are acting like Phone Arena gave the iPhone 3GS a perfect score. Heck, it scored lower than it's previous iPhone counterparts.

21. sprntfanboi02

Posts: 41; Member since: Jun 25, 2009

yeah plus we know how much better this phone is than the previous iphone.....oh wait thats right its the same phone....oh wait thats right apple finally put cut and paste in their phone....didnt my htc 6700 have that

25. behold--me

Posts: 679; Member since: Jun 22, 2009

doesnt every smartphone have that my phone from 2006 had some of the features that the iphone didnt have (video) it was DISCONTINUED IN 2007 AND STILL BEAT THE IPHONE WITH THAT ok uh appple get real it shouldnt take 3 yrs to get video capture or QWERTY on a full touch....... my behold? 5mp landscape qwerty almost 8 months before the iphone video and pic editing

26. behold--me

Posts: 679; Member since: Jun 22, 2009

oh wait and the all original MMS MESSAGING dammit apple get with the program haha

45. FU2

Posts: 11; Member since: Jun 27, 2009

DISCONTINUED should be the key word in your entire paragraph...There is NO smartphone to this day easier or more fun to use than the iPhone, thats why its selling like hotcakes.. Unlike your Moto Q or whatever other Discontinued JUNK you were carrying around...

22. theman414

Posts: 132; Member since: Jun 08, 2009

I'm so glad I got rid of vx6800 for this today!

23. rshackindian

Posts: 21; Member since: Apr 11, 2009

scored lower than the sprint palm pre. ha ha

34. FU2

Posts: 11; Member since: Jun 27, 2009

Yet it has sold more than double..hahahahahaha stick with the ghetto i mean sprint
iPhone 3GS
  • Display 3.5" 320 x 480 pixels
  • Camera 3 MP
  • Storage 32 GB
  • Battery 1219 mAh(12.00h talk time)

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.