Apple iPhone 3GS Review

By on September 13, 2009
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The best Touchscreen Smartphone gets a major speed bump and will make its official entry at Gitex this year

When Apple announced the iPhone 3GS in June, I saw UAE on the list of countries where the unit was expected to sell in August. So I gave our beloved telco Etisalat the deadline of August 31st to start selling the 3GS locally. August came and went and there was no sign of the 3GS landing on Etisalat. Thus I ordered a factory unlocked version from Hong Kong which I received last week.


I chose the White version this time around as I had the black one previously and the grey one before that. I also opted for the 32GB version as I had utilized almost 10GB on my 16GB iPhone 3G. As you’ve probably read on every other website there is no noticeable difference between the 3G and the 3GS as far as looks and form factor is concerned. Tech Specs state the 3GS as 2 grams heavier but I doubt anyone would be able to tell the difference.


The good thing about the white version is that you see less finger prints on the back. Apple has also treated the touch screen on the 3GS with an oleophobic coating which again helps in reducing smudges. While this doesn’t make the screen on the iPhone 3GS totally smudge-free, it helps considerably. I tested this by wiping both the 3G and the 3GS screens clean and then using them for similar amounts of time. The 3GS screen looked a lot cleaner.

The “S” as you have read countless times, stands for Speed on the 3GS and oh boy- you sure can feel that. Below is a video comparing the 3G to the 3GS in terms of speed. You must’ve seen quite a few comparison videos like I did but almost all videos I saw focused on games and intensive applications. This video below is not focused on any of that but instead, I’ve shown everyday apps such as texting, tweeting and browsing.

There you have it- everything feels so much snappier on the 3GS. As you saw, the text messaging application loads much faster- and so do all other programs like Twitellator and BeeJive. Scrolling between lists is a lot more fluid and there is no lag in typing. Web pages also render faster. About the only area where the 3GS lags a bit is the Accelerometer which sometimes can take 2-3 seconds to recognize if the device has been turned. Better than the 5-7 seconds the 3G would take but not fast enough to make it feel snappy.

Besides the speed and storage, there is one more major upgrade on the iPhone 3GS which is the camera. Apple has upped the resolution from 2 mega-pixels to 3 mega-pixels along with adding auto-focus and 30 fps VGA resolution video taking capabilities. Its a good addition, however, I have not come across any camera phone that would make me stop taking my SLR on vacations or elsewhere. Taking videos is a plus but anyone with a jail-broken 3G can have that capability as well. Last but not the least, Apple has also added a digital compass on the 3GS for which I haven’t found a use yet but you never know. The following is a sample photo taken of a VGA PCB from the iPhone 3GS camera


Surprisingly, battery life has not taken a dip even though the hardware has been majorly accelerated. Like my 3G I easily get one full day of usage when I remove it from my charging dock in the morning. In fact, I’ve noticed that I usually have a little bit extra juice left on the 3GS by the end of the day compared to my 3G, but then again, this is only after a week of testing. The battery life will probably dip slightly after a few months.

So- would I recommend getting the 3GS? That depends- if you are already a 3G owner and not a heavy-duty user (which I define as someone having more than three home screens filled with icons), then I don’t think you really need to upgrade. For someone like me who uses their iPhone to text and email a lot along with tweeting, reading feeds on Google Reader, watching music videos and TV shows, playing Monkey Island as well as checking facebook, instant messages and shazzam, its totally worth it.

To put it simply, it breathes a new life into your iPhone and as you saw from the video above, waiting time between switching applications is tremendously reduced, especially with repeated usage. Using my iPhone is not a frustrating experience anymore. I paid 3,200 Dirhams for it, but I’ve also managed to sell my 3G which helped reduce the sticker shock.


Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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