After a year of teases and speculation, Apple yesterday formally announced the iPhone 3G, a faster, GPS-enhanced version of last year’s iPhone. Planned for release on July 11 at a starting price of $199, iPhone 3G will be available in the same 8GB and 16GB capacities as today’s iPhones, and sold in black or white plastic versions. Once the dust settled from the announcement and data service prices began to emerge, we asked our editors to offer their opinions on the new models. Here’s what they said.
Charles Starrett, Senior Editor, United States: “Personally, I was a little underwhelmed. Given how much I use the iPhone away from Wi-Fi, I will definitely be getting the 3G model, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed by the lack of a better camera. That said, I think Apple is really focused on building market share for their OS X iPhone platform, and from that point of view today’s announcement of a slightly improved, more accessibly-priced iPhone makes perfect sense. True, the two-year cost may have gone up, but most consumers only care about the cost of entry, not the lifetime cost of the product, and the more iPhones Apple can sell this year, the stronger a pull it will have with developers. I expect to see larger improvements in the iPhone’s feature set (stereo speakers, a better camera w/flash, etc.) in the next full-sized iPhone update.
A larger problem for Apple will be deciding what to do with the iPod touch, as the initial purchase price of the iPhone is now lower than that of the iPod touch at the same capacities. My bet? Expect larger capacity, cheaper iPod touches in September.”
Jeremy Horwitz, Editor-in-Chief, United States: “For purely professional reasons, I’ll get an iPhone 3G, but I’m not impressed by how Apple handled the new hardware’s introduction. By the time the keynote rolled around to the iPhone 3G debut, it seemed like there really only three new things to say about it—real-world 3G performance, GPS, and pricing—and each of those things has turned out to be less attractive than people initially expected. Since when does Apple mention a potentially breakthrough feature like GPS but fail to show off cool software to use it, like Maps plus turn-by-turn directions? Is iPhone 3G seriously only going to get 2.8x the old iPhone’s transfer speeds, or is Apple just stating a lowest common denominator number to lower expectations in territories with slower networks? And what’s the deal with mandatory $30 per month U.S. data plans, regardless of whether you’re in a 3G-ready area or not? My guess is that international users will jump on board this time en masse, but U.S. customers may want to wait out the initial launch period for a bit. Higher-capacity versions are inevitable, and last year’s early adopters all know how that turned out. Waiting for a little while might give Apple and AT&T a chance to improve their software and data packages.”
Jerrod H., Contributing Editor, United States: “The iPhone 3G’s hardware is a modest but worthy evolution of the first. In particular, the GPS will be fantastic when utilized in creative ways by developers. To me, however, the real news isn’t the 3G iPhone itself, but the fact that it’s priced to fly off the shelves at Mach 6. At these prices, Apple will firmly establish OS X iPhone as a lasting development platform (and have no trouble meeting the 10-million mark). I plan to buy a 16GB black model, and since my 8GB original won’t sell for much anymore, I’ll keep it and unlock it to become my international travel device. Until now, I’ve been keeping my current iPhone in an ‘Apple-sanctioned’ state. Finally, mobile me looks to be a fantastic—if extremely overdue—upgrade to .Mac. Hopefully, the backend infrastructure has improved as well, bringing better transfer speeds and reliability.”
Jesse Hollington, Contributing Editor, Canada: “Being up in Canada, obviously the biggest news for me is the announced Canadian availability of the iPhone 3G. Beyond that, the announcement was pretty much what I expected. The price drops were possibly the biggest surprise, but this has made it obvious that Apple is going after the cellular phone market in a very big way now, and has obviously focused on getting as many iPhones into people’s hands as possible. The new unit is a relatively small hardware upgrade (3G and GPS), but considering the price drop is somewhat understandable, and still provides a phone that will appeal to the average user.
The MobileMe enhancements have been a long time coming, as I had anticipated this type of wireless sync .Mac upgrade with the original iPhone release last year. Time will tell if it offers any real value, or if it’s ‘too little too late,’ but it may offer a nice option for mobile professionals other than the traditional route of hosted Exchange services. The only real downside here is that I would have expected a basic ‘MobileMe lite’ subscription to be included with the purchase of an iPhone, since otherwise it’s just another ‘Apple tax’ to get the full value out of the device. Will I be upgrading? The short answer is yes, but the incentives go beyond just a shiny new iPhone with 3G capabilities, since most of the other features are going to be delivered to the current iPhone models as well. The storage increase to 16GB, and possibly the need to pick one up to get onto a proper ‘iPhone plan’ in Canada are going to be more of an incentive than merely having a 3G device.”
Dennis Lloyd, Publisher, United States: “Like most people, I’m excited about 3G and GPS. Although the 3G speeds are not as fast as other phones on the market, this feature alone is significant enough to warrant an upgrade. The current EDGE network drives me crazy when trying to browse web sites while on-the-go. I drive a Honda Element with no in-car navigation, so the GPS feature will eventually come in handy as well. So yes, I’ll definitely be buying one on July 11.”
Bob Levens, Contributing Editor, United Kingdom: “I would have liked to see an increase in size to 32GB and a replaceable battery—not too much to ask. I have managed to trim down what I carry to fit onto a 16GB iPod touch, but I have to wonder where all these apps that are being developed are going to be kept. It still has a crappy camera, too.
Ask me again for my thoughts sometime in July. I am going to wait to see how O2 prices the PAYG (pay as you go) option before making any decisions. I still feel that for me, the monthly tariffs are too high for my personal use, but I might be tempted by the PAYG. The fact that O2/Apple are even considering a PAYG package here reinforces my suspicion that sales were disappointingly low in the UK.”
Those are our thoughts – we’d love to hear yours. Share them in the Comments section below!