Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Apple’s iPhone 3GS | iLounge Article


Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Apple’s iPhone 3GS

Every time there’s a new iPhone or iPod release, we put together a list of 10 new things readers probably didn’t know about prior to the device’s launch. This time is no exception: below, you’ll actually find way more than 10 surprising details, though we’ve organized this article into 10 straightforward sections. You can find higher-resolution images—and many more images, for that matter—in our massive gallery of iPhone 3GS unpacking photos, comparison shots, and in-use screenshots, as well as iPhone and iPod touch model specification differences in a separate one-page summary article. Enjoy.

1. Speeds: The iPhone 3GS’s speed increases are quantifiable and noticeable almost across the board. In actually using the device for non-web apps, they’re smaller than elsewhere: sliding to unlock the phone from the main screen and exiting apps is a little faster—only a little, not enough to care about. Opening apps ranges from a hint faster to a second or more improved on the iPhone 3GS, depending on the app.

iTunes synchronization speeds appear to be considerably faster on the new model. We ran our standard 1GB media synchronization test transfer on the iPhone 3GS right out of the box, and it took 1 minute, 40 seconds. We ran the same test on an iPhone 3G with apps installed, and it took 3 minutes, 52 seconds. Concerned that that speed difference might be attributable to pre-existing content on the iPhone 3G, we wiped its media clean and repeated the test. The result was nearly the same: 3 minutes, 38 seconds. This would put the iPhone 3GS at around 2.2x the speed of its predecessor for file transfers.

Loading web pages on the iPhone 3GS over Wi-Fi is decidedly faster. The iLounge home page took 40 seconds to load on the iPhone 3G, and 19 seconds on the iPhone 3GS. The BBC web site took 23 seconds to load on the iPhone 3G, and 12 seconds to load on the iPhone 3GS. Loading over 3G: LA Times web site took 46 seconds to load on iPhone 3G, and 27 seconds to load on iPhone 3GS. DP Review took 21 seconds to load on iPhone 3G, and 19 seconds to load on iPhone 3GS. Pulling up web-derived content, such as YouTube’s Featured list, was also faster on the iPhone 3GS. Actually displaying videos varied from test to test: the first time, the iPhone 3GS started playing faster, but subsequently, the iPhone 3G did.

2. Packaging: The iPhone 3GS packaging is somewhat smaller than the iPhone 3G’s, without compromising the components inside. Foam that used to be inside the iPhone 3G’s box has been removed for the iPhone 3GS box, leaving a slightly extruded paper surface instead for easy box opening. Green dots for some reason appear on the labels of both the black and white iPhone 3GS units we’ve received.

3. Body Changes: Whereas the writing on the back of the iPhone 3G was in a muted gray against the back of the white or black glossy body, the writing on the back of the iPhone 3GS is chromed, matching the Apple logo and camera ring metal on the unit’s back.

4. Pack-Ins: The iPhone 3GS’s included Earphones with Remote and Mic are seemingly identical to the version released in late 2008, except for the newer, thinner plug housing - identical to the cabling included with the third-generation iPod shuffle. Callers could not detect a difference in microphone quality between the mic included with the iPhone 3GS and the Earphones that Apple is selling separately. iPhone 3GS now comes with the fixed version of Apple’s 2008 USB Power Adapter, which was recalled shortly after release because of a risk of electrocution; the newer version, also packed with later iPhone 3G units, has a green dot on one side to indicate it’s the safe version.

5. Accessibility: Accessibility features added to the iPhone 3GS are most easily turned on first in iTunes, via the iPhone 3GS Device screen, but can also be found under the iPhone 3GS’s own Settings > General menu. Notably, features such as Zoom and White on Black do not appear to be captured by the iPhone 3GS’s built-in screen capture tool, which treats the screens as if they are unchanged from their standard presentation.

6. Compass: The Compass application has a number of interesting capabilities, and an interesting limitation. If given permission to do so, it will determine your current location via GPS and display longitude and latitude coordinates at the bottom of the screen. It also enables you to switch between true North and magnetic North, as well as to click on a button to automatically go into the Maps application and see your current location. Put it near speakers and you’ll see a magnetic interference warning come up, along with the need to wave the iPhone around to recalibrate the compass.

7. Voice Control: This feature can be activated by holding down the play/pause button on the included headset, as well as by holding down the Home button on the iPhone 3GS. It recognizes chain commands, such as “Call” “Bob Starrett” “Mobile”, and expects certain commands to be chained, or takes bad guesses. “Call” “Bob Starrett” will lead to a question as to which number you want to dial, Home or Mobile. But “Call” alone may lead it to guess who you want to dial. More testing is needed here. New: We’ve added an audio sample of iPhone 3GS Voice Control in action, showing both its iPod controls and dialing functionality.

8. Call Quality: We’ve done calling comparisons between the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G, and there are apparently differences. Calling on the iPhone 3GS, a caller reported that we sounded a “little bit louder,” though with the same tonal balance and quality; the difference enough to be noticeable, but not enough to have to change volume on receiving phone to compensate. A second caller said that there was no discernible difference between the two phones, and we repeated our test on both land and cellular lines, with no apparent difference. On our side of these calls, the callers sounded basically the same, with the same amount of static, roughly, on both, and the same sound in the callers’ voices.

9. Still Camera: There’s no doubt that the iPhone 3GS generally takes better pictures than the iPhone 3G, but the differences we’re seeing in initial testing are nuanced. Autofocus appears to have a tendency to backfocus rather than front focus, though manual focusing is possible by tapping on the screen. Color balance appears to be exceptionally similar to the iPhone and iPhone 3G, with actual resolution, apparent detail, and depth of field seeing the most major changes. White balance is somewhat improved; metering is certainly better in low light, though perhaps not hugely. Under some conditions, comparison pictures taken with the iPhone 3G actually came out better than ones taken on the iPhone 3GS, but the majority of shots we’ve taken with the 3GS are superior, and the 3GS has the ability to do even better with proper user handling. A collection of images in our gallery, unprocessed and in full resolution, will let you do comparisons for yourself.

10. Screen, Coating, and Video: The iPhone 3GS screen appears to be similar in color balance to the original batch of 2007 iPhones, which is to say that there’s a slight pink tint by comparison with the iPhone 3G screen, which was slightly blue tinted. Resolution is obviously unchanged. Though brightness under most circumstances appears to be about the same—you won’t see a huge difference between the Home screens of the two models—off-angle viewing is modestly improved on the 3GS, and photos look a little better to our eyes at maximum brightness levels, like they did on the original 2007 iPhones. The new oleophobic screen coating notably does not prevent fingerprint smudges, but rather just makes them easier to remove. Notably, we have also confirmed that the iPhone 3GS offers 480p video output, like the iPod touch 2G, but unlike the 480i-limited iPhone and iPhone 3G.

We will have much more to say on these and many other facets of the iPhone 3GS in our comprehensive review. For the time being, take a look at iLounge’s massive gallery of iPhone 3GS unpacking photos, comparison shots, and in-use screenshots.

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I believe the green dot is in reference to the “new” USB power adapter, meaning that it is one that is not recalled (if you will remember last year).

Posted by John B in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2009 at 1:24 PM (CDT)


Aaaah, I’m so excited. I’ll be buying iPhone 3G S by the end of July. This will be my first iPhone.

Posted by iLly in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2009 at 3:26 PM (CDT)


iphone 3g will not send pics with the texting feature.

Posted by lou ann wright in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2009 at 5:33 PM (CDT)


mms picture will work on 3g once enabled by At&T if you are in the states. mms video will not.

here’s the footer from the 3.0 apple web site: MMS support from AT&T coming in late summer. MMS is not supported on first-generation iPhone. Sending video via MMS is not supported on iPhone 3G.

Posted by marc in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2009 at 7:17 PM (CDT)


The 3G S supports the volume buttons on the apple in ear headphones.

Posted by Mike in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2009 at 8:05 PM (CDT)


wow…I’m impressed - did not think I would be…it’s a LOT faster in all respects…having some trouble getting it to play the right songs using voice control, but overall. I’m blown away at the speed on the net….

Posted by Glen Ersly in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 19, 2009 at 9:47 PM (CDT)


nice…am really getting tempted to grab the 3GS though i do not need a third phone really…and the price here in India is prohibitively expensive! around 35, 000 to 40, 000 INR!

and hey, any observations on the battery life? is it still barely liming through a full day or needs a mid-day recharge on heavy calling usage

Posted by Anup in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 20, 2009 at 1:59 AM (CDT)


I had a play with one at O2 yesterday.  Was much faster in general.  Voice control even worked in a noisy environment.  Managed to take some video, trim it and MMS it to my phone.  Very easy and quick!  I just need to wait till O2 will let me upgrade my 3G.

The only external visual difference is the silver lettering on the back.

Posted by MikeWarner in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 20, 2009 at 3:32 AM (CDT)


The feature I am not seeing mentioned anywhere is the new scrubbing feature on the ipod.  You can go from broad to fine by dragging your finger down and then across instead of just across.

Posted by JDL in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 20, 2009 at 7:01 AM (CDT)


You did not mention the Battery % remaining on the screen

Settings -> General -> Usage -> (now look at he top of that page and you have (Battery Percentage)

Posted by Pierre in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 20, 2009 at 11:22 AM (CDT)


Bought two new Iphone 3 gs’s.
Both units had transferred videos via
itunes.  Both units’ videos are playing
back saturated in green…to the point
where the video isn’t recognizable.
Almost seems like a video driver issue…anyone else encountered the same problem?

Posted by BruToU in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 20, 2009 at 11:55 AM (CDT)


Note that the 16 pages of apps claim made by an Apple representative on launch day has been shown to be inaccurate. The iPhone 3G S displays a maximum of 11 pages of apps using iPhone OS 3.0. The article has been updated to remove the claim.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 21, 2009 at 11:16 AM (CDT)


You mention “foam” in the 3G box. I’m not familiar with any foam in that box. The 3Gs box appears identical. I’ve viewed several 3G un-boxing videos and no foam, at least not in the North American boxes. I saw one Australian un-boxing video and the box appears bigger, to handle the bigger power adaptor plugs for that market, but no foam.

Posted by rje in East Amherst, NY, USA on June 28, 2009 at 12:26 PM (CDT)


Replying to comment 12:

That’s actually untrue, i have 13 pages of apps on my iphone 3gs 32gb, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Posted by Joshua Tree in East Amherst, NY, USA on August 24, 2009 at 12:11 PM (CDT)


Can you make the icons smaller to have more application pages?

I have 3000+ photos. How to I jump to the latest ones taken?

Posted by Jack Walsh in East Amherst, NY, USA on December 26, 2009 at 12:12 PM (CST)


can you use you iphone and interface it with my laptop or hdtv and see the apps on them.. the iphone screen is very small for detail…

Posted by woody in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 24, 2010 at 10:45 AM (CDT)


i want to buy this phone but dont know how to indicate the 3gs and 3g and wants to know which one’s battery is stronger in lasting than eachother and which can do MULTITASKING.pls feed me wit answers quickly before i make a big mistake.

Posted by henry in East Amherst, NY, USA on March 8, 2011 at 11:46 PM (CST)


after a picture is taken on an Iphone3gs can you change the resolution to a better quality

Posted by Teri Geist in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 23, 2013 at 6:36 PM (CDT)

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