iPhone 3GS: How Did Reality Measure Up to Users’ Hopes? | iLounge Article


iPhone 3GS: How Did Reality Measure Up to Users’ Hopes?

In the days leading up to Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 3GS, we published a Report Card that would measure the actual device’s features against 20 different things that users were hoping that a new iPhone would contain. Following the announcement, we wanted to go back and take a look at how the iPhone 3GS actually compares with these potential features; here are the answers.

1. Dramatically Better Battery Life. No. By Apple’s measures, the iPhone 3GS received no improvement in 3G talk time, and only modest boosts in other performance categories. Users should expect an extra two or so hours of use of non-phone features, but the same rapid power drain when making 3G telephone calls. Again, switching the phone from 3G to EDGE mode is recommended - ridiculously - as a means to improve run time.

2. Superior Build Quality. Unclear. The screen is touted as possessing a “fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating,” also described as “oil-resistant coating that keeps the iPhone screen clean.” It is uncertain whether this coating has been applied to the rest of the device’s body, and whether the plastic shell has been improved to reduce cracking.

3. More Reliable Calling and Data Speeds. No. While the iPhone 3GS supports 7.2Mb/s HSDPA data transmission, Apple made no promises about the actual availability of cellular service for this faster speed, and suggested that AT&T would be offering it “where available.” Given AT&T’s current coverage maps, it is unclear where it is available, and data speeds will most likely be unpredictable for months to come, or longer. One bright spot is that a faster processor in the iPhone 3GS will enable Safari and other applications to open up faster.

4. No Bandwidth Capping. Yes. AT&T has not changed its 3G pricing plans for the worse in terms of bandwidth capping. But it has also not offered iPhone 3GS pricing details for the use of two new announced features, MMS and Internet Tethering, both of which will consume additional data.

5. 802.11n. No. The iPhone 3GS still works only on 802.11b and 802.11g wireless routers, slowing down 802.11n-capable networks as a consequence.

6. Turn-by-Turn Mapping. No. Despite the presence of Google Maps, a GPS chip, and now a digital compass in the iPhone 3GS, Apple is still passing the buck to third-party developers to actually create software for turn-by-turn directions. Moreover, it is actively promoting Tom Tom, which will offer a windshield-mounting hardware and new app software package for mapping for an undisclosed additional fee over the cost of the iPhone hardware.

7. No More Broken Accessories. Unclear. The iPhone 3GS does not appear to break compatibility with prior accessories to any greater degree than did the iPhone 3G, however, testing will be necessary to see how both past and new iPhone OS 3.0-ready accessories behave when connected to the device. Two accessory failures during the WWDC 2009 demonstration of the iPhone OS 3.0 software may or may not be related to the iPhone 3GS device itself, which was reportedly being used during the product demos.

8. Integrated or Accessory Keyboard Support. No; the iPhone 3GS does not include an integrated keyboard and, thus far, Apple has announced no support for keyboard accessories. However, developers may be capable of creating their own, standardless keyboards; it is unclear whether these accessories will work.

9. Joypad Support. No; neither a joypad nor support for joypad accessories has been announced for iPhone 3GS. However, developers may be capable of creating their own, standardless controllers to work with specific games; it is unclear whether such controllers will create a mess of incompatible solutions.

10. An Improved Main iPhone Menu. No. Users still need to scroll through pages of icons.

11. An Improved Splash Screen. No. The main screen remains uncustomizable.

12. Improved Still Camera Performance. Yes. The iPhone 3GS received several camera-related upgrades, including a 3-Megapixel still camera capable of autofocus, manual focus, 10cm macro photography, and other features: rapid-shooting, auto white balance, and supposedly better low-light performance.

13. Video Recording. Yes. The iPhone 3GS can now create 640x480, 30fps videos with audio, and edit them directly from within the phone, sending them to MobileMe, YouTube, E-mail, or MMS (where supported). Videos published to YouTube are capped at 10 minutes in length; Apple also says that “the limit to the file size of attachments is determined by your carrier.”

14. Video Conferencing. No. The iPhone 3GS has no front-facing video camera and is not capable of sending video across a Wi-Fi or cellular network in real time, at least directly out of the box.

15. Direct-to-iPhone Video Downloading. Yes. The iPhone 3GS, as well as older iPhones, have gained the ability to download standard-definition movies, TV shows, and music videos directly over the air.

16. Wireless Syncing. No. A wired connection is still required to transfer iPhone content to a Mac or PC, and vice-versa.

17. A Higher-Resolution Screen. No. The iPhone 3GS screen has not improved in resolution over its 2007 and 2008 predecessors.

18. HD Content Support. No. The iPhone 3GS is listed as supporting 640x480 videos in the same formats as its predecessors, and is not capable out of the box of playing higher-resolution videos.

19. More Storage Capacity. Yes. The iPhone 3GS saw its storage capacities doubled from the iPhone 3G, with a 16GB base version and a 32GB premium version.

20. True Multitasking. No. Apple has announced no support for this feature, and will rely upon Push notifications as an alternative.

For those keeping count, only 5 of the 20 aforementioned features actually appeared in the iPhone 3GS—a 25% figure that isn’t necessarily meaningful given the universe of possible additions, but does suggest the iterative nature of the actual iPhone 3GS product. A list of additional features Apple did add, including Voice Control, Nike+ support, and enhanced accessibility features, is available here.

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This is why, I love this site. Great points Jeremy. If you stop and look at it, the 3GS is just the 3G with a new camera. Compare it with against the Nokia N97 that will soon launch. This is a phone, or media device.

Posted by dt in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 1:48 PM (CDT)


I still love my iPhone 2G and have no plans to give it up but this partial upgrade in the handset is likely not enough for me to upgrade as I intended.  Hopefully the features I really wanted to see…iChat capable front facing camera and a less scratch prone body…will finally be offered next year!

I hate to say it but the biggest reason I don’t think I’ll upgrade now is that I think if I do I’ll get screwed next year if I want to get the next iPhone just 12 months later like the early 3G owners are now!  If ATT made an eligible upgrade exception for former iPhone users 12 months instead of 18, then maybe I would reconsider.

Posted by TosaDeac in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 2:03 PM (CDT)


The phone has a faster processor, new 3G chipset (7+ mbs) along with the camera.

Posted by rgm in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 2:33 PM (CDT)


How does the new iPhone measure up?

Posted by Richard Pearl Jr in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 2:52 PM (CDT)


7+mbs is only when rolled out and I am sure in select cities.  I live in Maine and we just got 3G Nov 2008.  I don’t think this is for me to upgrade from original first gen.  My wife wants one and it makes sense for her to get the 3Gs instead of the 3G, besides it comes out on her birthday and according to her that is as good a reason as any. 

My concern on the original is how slow with the OS3.0 make?  Is that going to force the upgrade for many people?


Posted by matt in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 3:13 PM (CDT)


Hope the new iPod Touch gets some of the stuff in September that the new iPhone 3G S got yesterday! A camera w/ video capabilities would ROCK!

Posted by metromediasquare.com in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 3:52 PM (CDT)


I politely disagree with your assessment, Jeremy, on several points.

1)  Although 3G battery life has not improved, a 50% gain in WiFi, 43% gain in video, and 24% gain in audio is at least noteworthy if not significant.  Remember, the iPhone is more than a phone.

3)  Break up this item as it is really two significant, but different points:  a) call reliability and b) data speeds.  Does the 3G S have better call reliability?  That is unknown until we get the handset to test for ourselves.  To say no is jumping to conclusions.  Does the iPhone have better data speeds?  Yes, if your carrier provides it.  Don’t ding Apple for something out of its control.

5)  Unrealistic expectation if one wants to maintain the form factor and battery life.  Ding this one against the user, not Apple.

6)  Unreasonable request.  Were users expecting an Apple-written app?  That could be construed as anti-competitive given the threat the platform presents to TomTom, Garmin and the like.  Or, were users expecting a 3rd party-sourced app included for free?  Do you ding Apple or TomTom for failing to come to an agreement?  What about the unfair playing field to other turn-by-turn app providers that such a relationship would create?  At the WWDC, Apple made it clear that all the tools are in place for 3rd parties to develop such apps.  Heck, they even highlighted one such 3rd party.  Your assessment appears to do your readers a disservice.

8)  One of the key features of the iPhone is no keyboard.  I understand there will always be someone unwilling or unable to adapt to a virtual keyboard, but expecting an iPhone with a physical keyboard is being clueless about iPhone fundamentals.

16)  This is a definite yes as I can sync data using MobileMe. 

17)  This one baffles me.  To what dot-pitch are users seeking and what would that accomplish?  It would seem to me that the ability to pinch and zoom alleviates the need for greater clarity of micro-text.

18)  Why is this even on the list?  Apple provides the SD equivalent along with any HD purchase. 

20)  Users may be better served to focus on the problem that a “true multitasking” implementation may solve rather than on just one solution.  There are multiple ways of solving this problem, each with its own costs/benefits.  Apple did their homework and showed their work before WWDC to highlight the high costs of allowing random applications to run background threads.  The push notification approach looks to solve the problem nearly as effectively without the high costs.  Apple deserves credit for this effort and even more if it proves to work in most cases.

Last, but not least, does not Apple deserve credit for Nike+ and Voice Control, both of which users were hoping and/or expecting?

Posted by rph in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 3:57 PM (CDT)


#7: Point-by-point.

1) The image showed as much, but the critical differentiator (and reason for purchasing) of the iPhone 3G is its cellular functionality. According to Apple, it has made zero gain in 3G calling or 3G data battery drain, a very sore spot for the many users (including us) who depend on this as a communications device in the field.

3) What is and is not within Apple’s control is subject to considerable debate. If any company has the ability to force AT&T;‘s (or other carriers’) hands in making positive changes on behalf of consumers, it’s Apple. Similarly, Apple’s decision to partner with only one carrier in certain critical territories is its own decision.

5) How so, given the availability of low-power n-ready chips from Apple partners? And moreover, who said that Apple had to “maintain the form factor” or the prior battery? That’s Apple’s choice, and one that it doesn’t make as often as it does.

6) Any suggestion that Apple can’t include turn-by-turn functionality on its own is based on the assumption that a company that already has integrated Google Maps and two key pieces of hardware into the device—in fact, everything that third-party developers need—can’t provide an integrated solution using the existing elements of the iPhone 3G S, which really makes no sense. What you are suggesting is literally that Apple cannot or should not use its GPS and compass hardware to automate the existing step-by-step directions offered in Google Maps. Do we really need a separate app for this? And “Appears to do your readers a disservice?” Give me a break. Apple gets a 30% cut of any software Tom Tom sells through the App Store and royalties on the hardware, besides. It has every reason to try and charge extra for something that the device could do in a heartbeat with minimal additional work.

8) If “someone” equals a substantial percentage of the business world, then color everyone clueless. As with all apologist views of Apple design choices and omissions, it’s only a “key feature” until Apple changes it, at which point it becomes a “consumer-requested improvement.”

16) Your iTunes media library? Really?

17) Whether for text, photos, video, or games, we’re not yet at the point of true diminishing returns for additional dot pitch.

18) See prior article.

20) See 8) above. The whole idea that users should give up what they want in exchange for what’s convenient or expedient for Apple to do is a frequent point of controversy between those who accept Apple’s design decisions as gospel and those who recognize them to be merely temporary. FireWire on a 13” MacBook? Impossible to include because of that revolutionary unibody design, it was claimed. Except it wasn’t, really, hence it appears in a computer less than a year later. People who wanted FireWire in that model last year were called whiners. Now Apple is putting the feature in. So which is it?

Nike+ and Voice Control were both mentioned at the end of the article and featured in individual images, as well. You might have missed them, but they were there all along.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 4:37 PM (CDT)


Actually there is turn-by-turn mapping, the automatic rotaion of maps according to where you’re facing, if that’s what you mean.

And the turn-by-turn mapping comes with iPhone 3G S’ native maps app

Just go checking out the tutorial video on the Apple.com

Posted by III in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 4:37 PM (CDT)


A little disappointing Jeremy. Despite some good points the list is overly negative and unrealistic IMO. I’m more with poster 7.

#6 especially baffles me. Are you people really expect for Apple to get into turn-by-turn directions business which is a separate industry in itself? To acquire same expertise and provide similar service as Garmin, TomTom, Navigon, etc? Google maps won’t cut it, they buy cheapest maps which lack needed data for real time guidance. We are talking Navteq or TeleAtlas maps here that contain 3D views, POIs, lane assist, synthesized text-to-speech (TTS) in many languages and voices, etc. Add expensive quarterly map updades which normally cost $50-120, different geographic regions, real time traffic, windshield mounting gear, etc. And I’m not talking about patented routing algorithms which include real-time back-tracking for missed turns, turn alerts, etc. You expect Apple to provide all this for free? And if they give you something half baked or not feature rich there will be stink from same people about how disappointing Apple is. C’mon guys!

#1 and other 3G issues. Apple here at the mercy of specific providers and 3G power demands which are relatively high by 3G design. RIM, Nokia, Palm, HTC are all in the same boat. You either put in a bigger battery and make device heavy and fat but have long 3G times or enjoy slim pocket-friendly form factor and have shorter talk time. If I needed pure voice communication device with long talk time and replaceable battery I wouldn’t get iPhone in a first place. Otherwise in my book “couple of extra hours” for WiFi or music or video usage or reading eBook is a huge thing for a lot of users.

And what about all that ranting about Apple locking itself into at&t;hell? True, at&t;‘s 3G data service sucks big time. But what choice does Apple have in US? Stupid Verizon rejected iPhone in a first place and only now got to its senses. Stodgy Sprint was and is on a death bed (let’s hope Palm Pre changes this). Hence no CDMA in US. And what besides dreaded at&t;do we have here in GSM land? T-Mobile? It even didn’t have any 3G until recently. So blaming Apple for at&t;faults just isn’t fair.

Posted by Alec in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 6:37 PM (CDT)


#10: Note how much of the necessary functionality is already sitting in the Maps application. Letting Maps automatically step through its own existing, completely free driving directions based on realtime user motion is a no-brainer. Sure, make any excuse you want for the iPhone not having this capability (existing patents, text to speech, needing to hire hardware engineers, acquire software, etc.), and then see if that excuse has ever stopped Apple from just doing whatever it wanted in the past.

Regarding “overly negative and unrealistic,” feel free to make your own list of features that you’d like to see in the next iPhone. Our list was non-exhaustive, included a call for readers to submit their own additions, and was warmly received by readers when it was originally posted. Obviously, however, you believe that you’re far more capable of making a “realistic” assessment of Apple’s and AT&T’s capabilities than we, and certainly more easily satisfied by whatever they do or say at a given point in time. That’s your perspective; we’ll preserve ours, which is that Apple’s continued cultivation of low iPhone upgrade expectations will make them much easier to meet.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 7:06 PM (CDT)


U forgot to mention the forward facing camera… no…

Posted by TED in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 7:23 PM (CDT)


I think the reason Apple wouldn’t provide its own turn-by-turn app. is that they don’t license the maps under those terms.

Or more accurately, Google doesn’t.  Google gets the maps from the same companies as the PND makers.

When you buy updated maps for PNDs, you pay hundreds for them.  So Navteq and TeleAtlas isn’t going to let their maps be used for some kind of turn-by-turn application which is free or included with the iPhone.

That would just be undercutting their revenue sources.

Posted by wco81 in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 9:09 PM (CDT)


Seems like quite a few points are an unrealistic expectations. Faster processor and increased ram are a real plus. 32G of storage is nice too - are there any other phones offering this? Faster data speeds - Apple did it’s part, put blame on att where it is deserved. Every one has griped to high heaven about lack of cut and paste - wasn’t even on your list. Wireless N would have been nice - forward facing camera wasn’t anything I have a use for. Anyway just placed my order for a black 32G model for June 19 delivery.

Posted by jbmccle in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 9:55 PM (CDT)


You say “What is and is not within Apple’s control is subject to considerable debate. If any company has the ability to force AT&T;’s (or other carriers’) hands in making positive changes on behalf of consumers, it’s Apple.” How do you know that AT&T;‘s current move towards 7.2Mb/s HSDPA data transmission is not a result of pressure by Apple?

Also, you claim that there are “low-power n-ready chips from Apple partners”. Really? One that can realistically be put into a cell phone? Please provide your source because I couldn’t find any cell phones out there that have the chip.  Alls I know is that the G1, Pre, N67, 8900 Curve, etc. don’t it and those are all relatively new smartphones.

Posted by Realistic Perspective in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 9, 2009 at 11:56 PM (CDT)


#15: First, whatever that “current move” is, it isn’t actually available and AT&T;isn’t making any specific promises about who is getting it, when. Second, this.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2009 at 12:06 AM (CDT)


Apple did not include voice control on the 3.0 update for the iPhone 3G why not? whay are they only offering this feature with the 3GS

Posted by hansel Jr in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2009 at 1:51 AM (CDT)


The 3G S may not be a dramatic jump from the 3G, but it is if you are still using the original 2G iPhone.

Posted by Galley in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2009 at 8:41 AM (CDT)


What about phone location and remote wipe. Fairly nice features.

Posted by Ken in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2009 at 2:18 PM (CDT)


AFAIK, AT&T;caps outgoing MMS messages at a whopping 600kb, so good video is out.

Posted by Oboewan in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 10, 2009 at 9:16 PM (CDT)

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