Apple iPhone 3GS

Orrett Morgan
Jun 19, 2009
Updated • Dec 1, 2012
Mobile Computing

The iPhone 3GS! By now you’re probably familiar with the device and the name, (S stands for SPEED!). But in case you had a few questions regarding OS 3.0 or the new device I’ve got it covered.

The biggest question on most peoples mind is what the major differences are. First of all it should be pointed out that the latest update to the hardware is under the hood. The only difference in terms of visual design between the iPhone 3G and the 3GS is the name on the back of the device. But under the hood is where the real work has been done. Instead of reinventing the most popular smartphone on the market, Apple has decided to do the subtle thing and improve it. These improvements come in the form of a better processor (up from 412MHz to a rumored 600MHz). The camera has been bumped up a megapixel to 3.0 and comes with video recording and auto focus, although there still is no flash option. A hardware compass has also been included.

On the software front, OS 3.0 now comes with push notification, better MMS, tethering, the long awaited cut and paste as well as a proper GPS navigation solution. Spotlight has finally made its way to the iPhone which promises to allow users to do system wide searches. Rounding up the major features for OS 3.0 is Voice Control and stereo Bluetooth options.

So now that you get an idea of the major updates to not only the software but the phone its time to answer a few FAQ’s.

A: While the performance is noticeable, it is not one that is huge. Unless you’re running games such as Resident Evil etc. you will notice load times of one to two seconds faster but that is about it. On the other hand if gaming is a requirement for your iPhone then you definitely want to look into the 3GS as the gaming performance (including frame rate) are mark improvements over the 3G.
In terms of internet speed etc. this remains the same as the 3GS has the same wireless chip as its predecessor and AT&T is not rolling out 4G until another year or two.

Q: How useful is cut and paste?

A: There is no doubt that cut and paste is a standard feature of any smartphone, but one question everyone has on their lips is if cut and paste on the iPhone is comparable to that on other devices such as the Blackberry and Palm Pre.

First of all, Apple has decided to go with a predictive selection technology that tries and figures out how much of the text you want selected to cut, copy or paste. It’s pretty accurate and if it fails to give you what you want, you can always use the little nubs at the begging and end of the selection to increase or decrease your selection, something that is lacking in all other smartphones I’ve tested. Was it worth the wait, probably not, but at least it brings something new to the game.

Q: Is the Compass and Voice Control useful?

A: A compass in a cell phone wasn’t something most industry analysts were expecting. But Apple decided to shock us with a full working hardware compass in the 3GS iPhone. As to whether it is useful or not is yet to be determined. I will say that if you are planning to upgrade to the new 3GS, the compass should not be on your list of reasons. While it works perfectly, it’s yet to be proven how it is more useful then the built in GPS with Google maps. Had the phone been lacking GPS options then maybe, but honestly I am yet to see a real use for the compass except for hikers lost in Wyoming. It still is nice to play around with though.

Voice control is another new feature that I’m not quite getting. Yes it’s awesome to be able to tell your phone what to do instead of making it do it. But I just wish the voice control features were a little easier to operate. For one it requires you to hold down the home button for every use, and since multi tasking still hasn’t made it to the iPhone, once the Voice Control app is exited, you have to do the process all over again. However it is nice if you want to keep your eyes on the road instead of on your phone.

Q: What’s up with Tethering and MMS?

A: If you live in the U.S, I’m sad to say that AT&T sees no reason in bringing tethering (or MMS) to the iPhone3GS at launch (June 19th). While they have said that MMS will be available later on this summer, there is no word on when the tethering option will be available.

That said for those in other countries that will offer the tethering option, you should find it to work just fine. Unfortunately since I’m based in the U.S the option to try out both the MMS and tethering features were unavailable. Hacking could have gotten the job done though, but that would be too much trouble and more importantly would not make sense for this review.

Q: Should I upgrade/switch carries for the 3GS?

A: This is the biggest question on everyone’s lips. The question has so many factors so unfortunately the answer will depend on a few things. If you still have the original iPhone (not the 3G), the answer is obvious. You were due for an upgrade like yesterday, and I’m almost sure that most people who have the original iPhone have finished their contracts or about to finish them. So the answer is a no brainer, upgrade!

On the other hand, ff you are a 3G owner you should consider your options before upgrading. If you are still stuck in a contract it might be in your best bet to just get the software upgrade and live happily ever after. The only major difference in the 3G and the 3GS is the speed and unless you are a heavy iPhone gamer, you probably won’t notice the one to two second difference in app load time. However I understand that AT&T is allowing existing customers to get a 3GS at the subsidized price, based on credit, contract length and a few other factors. This is individually based so your best bet would be to contact AT&T. As for other countries such as England (Vodofone), I have no idea.

If you are with another carrier this is even a tougher decision. If you happen to have Sprint and due for an upgrade in the near future, I would advise that you check out the Pre before jumping ship. It rivals the iPhone in many areas and beats it in some (namely multitasking). On the other hand if you are tied to T-Mobile, Verizon etc, and your contract is either expired or about to expire, you cannot go wrong with the new 3GS.

It should be noted that the 3G will still be available for purchase ($99 on contract). I would not advise trying to save an extra Benjamin in this area though as the performance boost and other hardware upgrades are well worth the extra $100.


So there you have it. The major questions about the iPhone answered. For those with the iPhone 3G you can download OS 3.0 right now. If you’re holding off for the 3GS however, that one is set to release this Friday (June 19, 2009).


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  1. Joe said on June 19, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    The UK’s iPhone operator is O2, btw.

    I have an iPhone 3G and have no plans to upgrade hardware-wise.

    Minimal new features (some, like video, can already be achieved via jailbreaking) and a high price tag; not fun!

    1. mahmoud said on December 5, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      hi how can i tell the diffrent between 3g and 3gs iphone

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