iPhone 3G S Features: Review Roundup

iPhone 3G S Review Round Up

With the eagerly awaited iPhone 3G S finally on sale, we set our eyes on consolidating some of prominent reviews about Apple’s iPhone 3G S.

It is obvious that the new iPhone 3G S brings more improvements to the existing iPhone 3G. However, it remains to be seen if the iPhone 3G S is as appealing to existing iPhone users as it is to a first time iPhone enthusiast. 

We are aware of the features of iPhone 3G S that were announced by Apple at the WWDC Keynote address and were also covered in our earlier article. This time though we take a closer look at those features by gathering information from the users who managed to get their hand on the actual device. Let’s start with iPhone 3G S most talked about feature, the speed. (Remember, S stands for speed)

Speed:

The iPhone 3G S gets its speed from its improved RAM and enhanced CPU. The CPU speed has gone up to 600 MHz, making iPhone 3G S’s processor almost 1.5 times faster than the processor in existing iPhone models. iPhone 3G S also has double the RAM i.e. 256MB up from 128MB in current iPhone models.

If you remember, Apple mentioned in their Keynote address that iPhone 3G S will be 2.1x faster to launch Messages, 2.4x to load SimCity, 3.6x faster to load an Excel attachment, 2.9x faster to load a large website.

It becomes evident when you use the iPhone 3G S for accessing your calendar, which loads faster than the existing iPhone 3G and while accessing some of the graphic intensive games such as Need for Speed or Resident Evil: Degeneration.

Let’s us also hear what some of our fellow reviewers have to say about the Speed of iPhone 3G S:

The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg): “the new model proved dramatically snappier in every way than my iPhone 3G.”

Wired (Steven Levy): “You don’t need a stopwatch to notice the new phone is zippier than its predecessor.”

Sun Times (Andy Ihnatko): “Everything feels faster. Safari on the iPhone 3G S seems as interactive as a desktop browser.”

Engadget: “If you’re an avid gamer looking for the device with more power, the difference will be crystal clear: the 3G S obviously flexes in this department.”

Gizmodo: “Safari, Email, Camera all load noticeably faster than on the iPhone 3G (both running 3.0 software). Even booting the phone takes about half the time.”

CNet: “For example, Bejewled 2, which can take up to 12 seconds to load on the iPhone 3G, started in just 5 seconds on the 3G S. Even better, Pocket God went from opening in almost 30 seconds to starting in just 11. The iPhone also started up much quicker than the iPhone 3G–we were up and running in 26 seconds instead of 50 seconds”

Graphics:

The new iPhone 3G S comes with the new PowerVR SGX graphics processing unit, which provides support for OpenGL ES 2.0 that improves performance while playing iPhone games, especially those graphic intensive 3D games.

The actual game load time is significantly less in iPhone 3G S when compared to the load time in the iPhone 3G.

Engadget: “If you’re an avid gamer looking for the device with more power, the difference will be crystal clear: the 3G S obviously flexes in this department.

Sun Times (Andy Ihnatko): “Gaming has been kicked up a notch; intensive 3D games are elevated from ‘Wow, that’s a great frame rate for a phone!’ to simply ‘Wow.'”

Camera Improvements:

Still Pictures: The iPhone 3G S comes with a 3 mega pixel camera and an auto-focus feature. Anyone who has used the 2 mega pixel camera on iPhone 3G must have noticed the slighlty below average picture quality. But now the picture quality in iPhone 3G S camera has improved, and while it’s still not the best it still gives a good picture quality. The picture quality is further improved with the added auto-focus feature and flash.

The auto-focus feature in the camera automatically focuses on the object in the photo. If you want to manually select an object for auto-focus then it can be achieved by simply tapping on the object in the picture, and it intelligently changes the focus to the selected object.

The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg): “The new 3-megapixel camera worked well, but Walt doesn’t think the pictures it took were dramatically better than those on the iPhone 3G, “and it can’t compete with phones like Nokia’s new $700 N97, which has a 5-megapixel camera with zoom.”

Engadget: “We do have some complaints about exposure, which seems to be permanently cranked to “blinding,” and while the shutter speed is faster than on the 3G, it’s still not quite snappy enough for our taste.”

CNet: “good, but far from great, with decent photo quality, but no editing features.”

Video Capabilities:

iPhone 3G S comes with an extremely easy to use video recording, editing and sharing capabilities.

It is a treat to edit your videos. The video captured using iPhone 3G S offers improved clarity and smoothness. Editing videos is again easy. Each video is divided into a number of frames based on the length of the video. When you play a recorded the video, you can select the unwanted frames by simply grabbing those frame using your finger and clip them away.

Unfortunately, there is no way to ‘undo’ the edited video. This means that the edited or trimmed video overrides your original video. I think Apple should give an option where the users can decide if they want to override the original video or save the edited video in the form of a new video clip.

The ability to shoot videos at 30 frames per second VGA with audio and with auto focus, auto white balance, and auto exposure in both portrait and landscape mode in my opinion is one of the killer features of iPhone 3G S. You can also compress your recorded video and quickly upload it on to your YouTube account.

Sun Times (Andy Ihnatko): “The video quality is impressively smooth and natural given the source, and the sound quality is practically astonishing”

Engadget: “Video recording on the iPhone 3G S is really quite impressive”

Gizmodo: “Even if it’s not quite 30FPS at all times, the video is smooth as hell. Recording still isn’t great in low light since it’s a physical limitation of cameras in general, but at least it’s fluid.”

CNet: “you can trim only in a linear format–meaning you can’t cut out something in the middle and stitch the remaining two ends of the video together.” 

We think that the improved quality and ease of use will encourage more users to use this feature. You can watch the video editing clip below that we found at Engadget:


Faster Internet connectivity:

iPhone 3G S supports the 7.2 Mbps HSDPA standard, which means improved internet connectivity.

Hence, a faster processor with support for faster internet connectivity improves the user experience which is already one of the best in the smartphone market.

Gizmodo“on average the 3GS scored about 50% higher than the 3G, occasionally, in individual runs, it could have ranged anywhere from twice as fast to about the same speeds.”

The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg): “Cellular-data speeds were about the same but WiFi speeds improved 30-50%.”

Improved Battery Life:

Apple claimed that the battery in iPhone 3G S will last approximately 3 to 4 hours more in comparison to the battery in iPhone 3G. This turned out to be just as Apple had claimed and was most noticeable while using 2G.

However, we believe that a true and correct estimate of improved battery life will be available only after  the iPhone 3G S gets used for a slightly longer duration in the real world.

The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg): “the new model did much better [than the iPhone 3G], never hitting the red zone and rarely requiring interim charging at the office or in the car, even though, because I was testing it, I was pounding it much harder than usual”

Sun Times (Andy Ihnatko): “The 3G S has enough juice for a full day of normal use, but if you?re going to rely on it heavily throughout the day it?s still best to have an external battery.”

Gizmodo: “What’s also surprising about the 3GS is that you wouldn’t expect battery life to be improved, but it is.”

Design:

There is no difference between the external design of iPhone 3G S and iPhone 3G. Externally, both the iPhone models look alike and cannot be differentiated.

The difference, however is in the components used in iPhone 3g S. Apple has used greener materials in the iPhone 3G S such as Arsenic-free glass, BDF-free, Mercury-free LCD and an oleophobic coating that prevents fingerprint smudging. 

By not changing the core design of the iPhone, the users can make use of the accessories that were made for iPhone 3G. But it would have been nice to be able to differentiate between these two iPhone models.

On Oleophobic coating:

Engadget: “The most surprising thing about the tech is that it actually does what the company says it will: namely, it resists new smudges and wipes almost entirely clean with a single swipe on a pant leg.”

Gizmodo“Surprisingly, the coating actually works in preventing a good deal of fingerprints and face grease, and it allows the phone to still be smooth and usable even if there are fingerprints on the surface.”

Digital Compass:

iPhone 3G S comes with a compass application, which makes use of the built-in magnetometer. It is  also integrated with the built-in Maps app and can show orientation with longitude and latitude.

The combination of the magnetometer, maps and any good navigation App will make it an extremely useful, just as we had mentioned in the TomTom’s anticipated TomTom Navigation App. Hence, we see a great potential in this feature.

The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg): “Compass isn’t that important but works well and can orient maps in the direction you’re heading.”

Engadget: “Once the compass picks up your bearing, it rotates the map to reflect. This may not sound like much, but if you’ve ever tried to walk a new city using just maps and geolocation, you’ll understand quickly.”

Sun Times (Andy Ihnatko): “The compass, though currently limited in its use, will inspire many new apps but has already “boosted Google Maps into the Giga-awesome range.”

Voice Control:

This feature allows you to control your iPhone 3G S by giving it voice commands. It includes a voice control App, which can be used to make calls or play music from iPhone’s music library by speaking into the iPhone. The Voice Control feature does what it’s supposed to do when the request is specific.

A common issue with these kind of features is the mis-interpretation of your voice commands. It confuses your voice commands with other similar sounding words and can come up with bizzare results. Unfortunately iPhone 3G S Voice Control feature is no exception to this issue.

Sun Times (Andy Ihnatko): “Voice control is a tough feature to successfully pull off on any device. No, the iPhone doesn’t pull it off.”

CNet: “In our tests, the voice dialing performed well.”

Wired (Steven Levy): “Voice Control did better at figuring out the people Steve want to call rather than the music he wanted to play. Still, “Voice Control is easier than fumbling through the iPod menus, a difficult task while walking and a dangerous one while driving.”

Conclusion:

Finally, let’s hear the conclusive statements from some of our reviewers.

The Wall Street Journal (Walt Mossberg):

“Both the new iPhone and iPhone OS are packed with features that make a great product even better. But, for many users, the software may be enough of a boost to keep them from buying the new model.”

Engadget:

“For current users, we have this to say: the iPhone 3G S is a solid spec bump to a phone you already own… but it is, at its core, a phone you already own.”

Gizmodo:

“The only issue with the iPhone 3GS, if you already have the 3G, is that it’s not all that different of an experience.” … “as a whole, the iPhone 3GS is the best all-around smartphone available”

CNet:

“If you don’t own an iPhone yet, and you’ve been waiting for the right model, now is the time to go for it. …. But, if you’re a current iPhone 3G owner, the answer isn’t so clear.”

Overall, iPhone 3G S is definitely an improved version of iPhone 3G, but it does not look like a revolutionary product. But having said that I think Apple has ensured that it is ahead of the other products in the smart phone market.

People who do not own an iPhone – it’s probably the best time to go ahead and get your hands on this gadget especially, with the addition of iPhone OS 3.0, things have just got a lot better. 

As always, do share your opinion in the comment section below.