If you were following Backstage (or our RSS feed) over the weekend, you know that we posted two advance drafts of the iPhone 3GS review with interim testing results so that we could help users get some hard facts and data during the device’s launch weekend. We made the choice to do this because traffic this week surged so considerably due to the launches of 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0 that the site had a very brief outage on Wednesday, which our hosting team resolved shortly thereafter—it was obvious that readers really wanted to know what was going on with Apple’s latest hardware and software.
As a postscript to the now essentially complete review, for which I thank Jesse Hollington and Charles Starrett for their support, I wanted to share a few personal thoughts on the iPhone 3GS experience that are somewhat outside the scope of that article, but might be useful to some readers anyway.
* Would we upgrade to the iPhone 3GS, personally? Mixed answers here. Just as mentioned in the review, the 3GS is going to wow many 2007 iPhone owners, and impress some 2008 iPhone 3G owners enough to make the jump. Our internal statistics:
Every iLounge editor upgraded to iPhone 3G last year, one out of obligation rather than interest. One wife received an iPhone 3G last year, while two others (wife/fiancee) stayed with 2007 iPhones. This year, two iLounge editors upgraded to iPhone 3GS, both more out of obligation than interest, and one fiancee’s 2007 iPhone was upgraded to 3GS. All of the iPhone 3GS users are really enjoying their phones, though the editors don’t feel the upgrade from 3G was a necessary one for non-iLounge reasons. One wife with a 2007 iPhone said that she had no need to upgrade to 3G or 3GS given the $10/month higher data fees and $5+ text messaging charges. Friends and family with original iPhones are all either considering or genuinely excited about upgrades, but those with iPhone 3Gs are not. We’ve been hearing everything from “meh” to “nice, but maybe next time.”
* What do we really like the most about 3GS? There’s no single highlight; it’s just a snappier, more capable version of last year’s phone. The whole “S is for Speed” pitch struck us as a little cheesy, and the new model’s performance doesn’t evoke “wow” moments, but it definitely feels faster and better than before. Being able to switch between camera, phone, web, and map features, and having good to great experiences with each, is definitely great.
* What is especially worth seeing in the iPhone 3GS review? Definitely look at the full-sized comparison photos and the YouTube video clips. We’re posting more, but the ones that are up tell a lot about the iPhone 3GS’s camera capabilities—obviously, pictures are worth a thousand words (or more).
* What do we really dislike the most about 3GS? The battery life. It’s seriously a major issue, with 3G calling and data as the most important offenders, the sharp drain during video recording and GPS/compass-aided mapping as the strongest offenders, and the inconsistent video playback times as a point of continued curiosity. We’re also concerned about more case cracks and scratches after what our well-kept iPhone 3Gs looked like after weeks of ownership. Hopefully Apple has made some quiet improvements to the 3GS shell to stop the cracks, at least.
* iPhone 3G as lame duck? We were surprised to hear comments at certain stores that iPhone 3G inventory—including $99 8GB and discontinued $149 16GB models—was not moving as quickly as expected prior to the iPhone 3GS launch. Normally, the $99 price point would be a real draw for a device like the 3G, but it seems like the drop was overshadowed by the 3GS announcement, and people were waiting to see how much better the 3GS really was. The reports we heard on this were only anecdotal; we’ll see what happens now that 3GS is out.
Is it worth purchasing the 3G given that the 3GS is out and only $100 more? Our view would be “no” for most power users, but “sure” if none of 3GS’s extra features appeals to you. As Charles Starrett points out, “Since the data/talk plan requirements are the same, it seems to make little sense to purchase the 3G—if you can afford to pay for the data service over two years, you should at least be able to afford the $199 3GS.” The extra $100 strikes us as money well spent for the new model’s added capacity and capabilities.