The new best device ever madePublish date: 17 August 2009 by Thomas Mckinnon
Many celebrated last year's iPhone 3G as the single greatest multimedia device ever created, and it wasn't just Apple fanboys but also technophobe housewives like my mother. Applause for the App Store was emphatic, 3G connectivity was received with cheers and multitouch was trumpeted.
For all this fanfare the 3G did have its shortcomings, especially with simple things like cutting, copying and pasting text, sending MMSs and taking anything resembling a decent photo. Hence the release of the 3G S.
While there is little or no cosmetic difference between the two devices, there is a whole lot under the figurative bonnet to get excited about. The "S” in iPhone 3G S stands for speed after all.
The 3G S is supposedly twice as fast as the 3G, meaning faster loading times on apps, a better web experience and speedier snaps. It was so efficient at most functions we were actually on the verge of a speed wobble. The all-round better performance is thanks to a more impressive spec set and updated OS in the form of Apple's new iPhone 3.0 OS.
On the hardware side the first thing you'll notice is the larger storage options as you now have the option of 16 GB and 32 GB. If you're media hungry like us this is a major upgrade as there is no way to expand the device's memory via microSD for example.
The other bit of news is that the RAM and processor have been seriously upgraded. Rumour has it that the 3G S features 256 MB of RAM and a 600 MHz CPU, which is a serious improvement on the 3G. If you're the kind of geek that's turned on by numbers the iPhone certainly has a few to offer.
In terms of browsing and download speeds the 3G S offers HSDPA 7.2 Mbps transfer speeds and WiFi 802.11b/g, so its HSDPA speed is an improvement over the 3G while the wireless is exactly the same. This allows you to burn through your data at a rate of knots, browsing the web, uploading images to Facebook or downloading apps, which like more memory means more fun per second.
The 3G S also features a 3 megapixel camera as opposed to the 3G's paltry 2 megapixel offering. While this is an improvement, especially the ability to capture video due the OS upgrade, it still isn't particularly impressive. The camera function is incredibly easy to use, autofocus is a welcome addition and the ability to geo-tag photos is great. But where is the flash or the zoom functionality? We love Grunge photography but not when we're taking family photos.
The inclusion of a digital compass is also fairly nifty. The scope that it will add for apps developers in the future is an obvious benefit but even its current integration with Google Maps is handy. When in Google Maps you can activate the compass so that it orientates the map to face the direction in which you are moving. That way you won't need to decide if you're heading north or south on the N1 anymore.
Lastly Apple claim the battery life on the 3G S is much improved in comparison to the 3G, but the improvement is hardly something to write home about. We barely got a full days use out of it with what we consider general usage.
iPhone 3.0 OS
The iPhone 3.0 OS, which is incidentally available to iPhone 3G users and iPod Touch users for download as well, makes good on a number of the 3G's short comings. While MMS is hardly the most widely used phone feature in SA, the inability of the 3G to do this most common of tasks irked us. The 3G S rights this wrong, although not out the box as you will still need to do a slight upgrade which you can get from Vodacom. One of the first things we did was send an MMS, and then being the fickle sort we are forgot about the feature altogether, opting to email images instead. Apologies Mr. Jobs, you were right.
Cutting, copying and pasting text, as well as images, was another story as it is dead easy. We actually had more fun playing with the "shake to undo” function which literally sees you shaking the phone to deselect what you wanted to cut or copy in the first place.
Another feature that caught our attention was Voice Control, which you activate by holding the home button and vocalising your desire. You can use Voice Control to select music and call contacts or dial numbers. "Call Jannie Vermaak” didn't really work when we were rolling our "R"s, but when putting on our very best British accents calling "Jane Johnson” was a breeze.
While fun and games are part and parcel of the iPhone we mustn't forget that it is a productivity tool as well. Using MobileMe to automatically sync your contacts, calendar and mail was a great on the 3G. But now you also have the ability to locate your phone if it's missing or you suspect it stolen. MobileMe's "Find My iPhone” feature allows you to locate your phone using your computer. You can track it via Google Maps, set off an alarm to more easily find it even if it's on silent and better still you can remotely wipe its memory if it has been stolen, a bit like Kaspersky's Mobile Security 8.0. While we haven't tried it ourselves the feedback we've been seeing is good.
The good news is that Apple have improved an already impressive, one could argue benchmark, device. It's the most userfriendly device around, its build quality is impeccable and there are more apps available on the Apple Apps Store than on any other platform out there.
This speed and functionality, which probably makes the iPhone 3G S the best phone ever made, doesn't mean that it can't be better though. You can bet there will be an iPhone 3G S2 or iPhone 3G SM (M for multitasking) that will be staking its claim on the "best multimedia device ever” title come the next Apple product update cycle. The fact that multitasking is still not possible (apart from apps that it comes shipped with), that the browser still lacks Flash support and the design is identical to the 3G's mean we've got enough things that irritate us about it to want a better one, but not enough to want a different phone.