A 3GS hit-and-run

I hadn’t intended to spend any time at all talking specifically about the iPhone 3GS here on the blog, but following a comment by Per[1] I thought I’d jot down a few notes.

Firstly, given my previous comments about O2 and the upgrade issue… I should explain why I bothered. I got the 3.0 upgrade on the 3G when it came out last Wednesday, and liked what I found, particularly the option to install more than the 2.0 OS limit of 144 / 9 pages of apps. It’s now effectively unlimited, since even if you don’t have space on a home screen, you can search for the app using Spotlight. That’s nice. However, I was already hitting my space limit on the 16Gb 3G, so room to breathe was going to be handy. I also liked the improved navigation and possibility to get the TomTom kit in the future, and once I’d tried the camera in-store, I thought that was going to be a big deal as well (more on that, below). There was a small amount of peer pressure too, given our conversation on last week’s Dogear Nation.

In the end I opted to get a PAYG phone, swap in my contract SIM, and sell the old handset to Mazuma. If I’d waited to upgrade and then wanted the same handset I now have, I’d’ve ended up on another 18 (or 24) month contract with the same upgrade trap in June, and probably on a higher tariff to subsidise the cost of a new handset. This way my existing contract will run out in due course, I stay on the same tariff, and the handset doesn’t cost much more than it would have done come “upgrade” time in 3-6 months.

So what’s good? It’s very clearly nippier. Every operation is obviously faster and cleaner. I’m liking the camera and video recording (zoom would be nice, but variable focus and auto-adjusting exposure/white balance work for me). It was a great move to retain the 3G body and form factor – my Clarifi case still fits perfectly, and the macro lens seems to let me focus marginally closer still than the 3GS can manage on its own (it does a good job by itself, though). Amongst the sprinkling of other functions I like, not specific to the new model, are the landscape keyboard and the improved podcast playback features – did you know you can slide horizontally to scrub through a track, and slide down to scrub more finely? Neat.

The real revelation so far though, has been the screen. The new smudge / grease-resistant coating is a marvel. So far I’ve not fitted a screen protector, and although I’m loath to allow it to become physically scratched, the new screen feels and looks so much better and remains much, much cleaner. It’s just… almost magic.

In the “miss” column we have the voice control feature, which I’m not sure I’ll be using much; and shake-to-shuffle (is this actually supposed to work if the display is locked, by the way? seems not to do so for me, which makes it even more pointless). Oh, and battery life seems worse, but I suspect the compass and the notifications feature are contributing to that, as are the wider range of ways I’m actually using it. May have to think about a Mophie Juice Pack Air.

I used the video function in anger for the first time today, uploading one clip from the Hursley Tri-Department sports tournament directly to YouTube, and later grabbed a set of clips from the phone via iPhoto (yes, iPhoto manages video from the iPhone, go figure) and edited them together in iMovie. It’s not the best quality but probably still as good as my cheap USB camcorder – plus the screen and on-device editing features are nice additions. Rumours are that the chipset is capable of 720p video, but I doubt we’ll get to see that in the current generation of device. I’ve posted a bunch of sample photos to Flickr as well, if you are interested – the Blue Eyeball shot was taken at close quarters with the Clarifi.

Really nothing more to say here. There are more than enough people getting excited about the device and as I said, I hadn’t planned to write up any thoughts – blame that Danish guy 🙂

[1] just because I responded to audience pressure this time, don’t expect me to do it every time, m’kay? 🙂

11 thoughts on “A 3GS hit-and-run”

  1. “That Danish guy” appreciates your review – how could you NOT plan to do a review of such a nice gadget!? 😉

    I’m looking forward to the iPhone 3GS coming to Denmark in July. I will swap my 1st generation iPhone to the latest and greatest. My 1st generation iPhone will then be a perfect iPod Touch for my two young boys.

  2. I finally relented and bought a 32gb model on Friday. An upgrade from my iPod touch. I can’t believe I did not buy one sooner!

    Good review. Voice activation is so very poor that I ain’t going to use it. Shake shuffle whilst locked would be very bad in my view as it would shuffle all the time whilst in your pocket.

  3. Andy, thanks for this informative post. I was going to hold off on upgrading until my contract ends in Feb 2010, but having spoken to O2 and looked at Mazuma (who will be giving me £200 for my old 16Gb iPhone 3G) it actually worked out slightly cheaper just to extend my contract by another 18 months and get the iPhone 32Gb 3GS 🙂

  4. Was the potential contraction of letters in that title on purpose? I was expecting a review to say it was not very good 🙂
    I am attempting to join you in iphone land via o2 provider weirdness 🙂

  5. Andy: Screen protectors? I had a Window Mobile phone for more than 5 years and never used one. The day I started shopping for my 3G the Apple salesperson whipped out the screen protector and I was sold on the spot. I just value my 3GS (and 3G) too much not to have a screen protector and subject the glass to being scratched. But the biggest reasons I was sold on the screen protector is the feel. On the standard glass screen the moisture of my finger causes a drag on the screen, whereas the anti-glare filter sold only at Apple (U.S.A.) helps my finger to glide across the screen. BTW, I also have a very slim case protecting the back of my 3GS as I don’t want to scratch my phone and I like the variability. Belkin makes a sweet new flat orange case that is cool, and I also have a shiny silver case that is very snappy.

    1. I had a screen protector on my 3G (the one which came with my first sleeve / case, a rubber Belkin design) and I was glad of it, I have to admit. I might consider putting one on the 3GS but right now, it’s staying in nice condition and the coating on the screen is working great. Not sure if a screen protector will remain as smudge-free.

  6. @Andy – I’ll try and get the name of the brand sold only at Apple stores here in the U.S. so you can see if you can pick it up there in the U.K. I do not care for the plastic protectors you mention as coming with a case. Actually the protector I’m using is an “anti-glare” filter and you rarely see any smudges. In other words, I rarely have to clean my screen.

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