Saturday, June 20, 2009

iPhone 3G S First Impressions


After actually receiving my iPhone 3G S on the 19th as promised, I decided to take a few shots while unboxing it just for good measure. The only noticeable difference when you first look at the box is how much smaller it is than the iPhone 3G box and the “S” after iPhone 3G. I opened it up to find a device that looked much like the one I had purchased almost a year ago. The upgrades are clearly on the inside of the phone; two things on the outside of the iPhone are apparent after looking it over and using it a little bit. First, the lettering that says iPhone and 16GB (in my case) is now shiny like the Apple towards the top of the back casing. In addition, the screen clearly does not smudge as easily. This was noticeable from the first time that I touched the screen. On my iPhone 3G I would get smudges from the first touch and it just built and built until it looked awful. Now it actually does not smudge that much and the little that it does is cleaned off much easier. It almost only takes putting it in your pocket for a little and it will be a clean screen. This is definitely a great plus which was not mentioned much when the iPhone 3G S was announced.

Syncing and Activation

Upon connecting it to my MacBook Pro I found that it had to activate and restore from a previous backup of my iPhone 3G which did take a while since I had a lot of apps and music on it. In fact, I took the movies off of the sync just because I did not want to take that long. After it was done syncing it still said there was no service and that activation may take some time. I went online to check what kind of wait we were talking about here and found that Apple was reporting up to 48 hours activation time before the phone was ready to go so I tried swapping the old SIM card out with the new one even though it said on the instructions not to do so. I found that to work right away and was happily exploring my new device. I guess it is possible that the switch between the SIM cards will eventually happen and I will have to put the new SIM card back in, but I kind of doubt it. In any case, I will be keeping my new SIM card around for at least a week to be on the safe side.

First impressions

The first thing I tried out on the new phone was the compass. I wanted to see how well it worked. It works great, but actually orienting your Google Maps app to the direction you are facing is not intuitive at all. It took me a few tries to figure that out. All you have to do is touch the current location button on the lower left of the screen and then press it again. Then it will spin the map to the direction you are facing. It may ask you to calibrate your compass by waving the iPhone in a figure 8 motion, but once it is locked it works great. It is amazing how much better the Maps application is by adding just this one simple thing to it. This is one of the simplest and yet most effective upgrades on the phone.

Another thing I noticed just from opening up an app or two and playing with different programs was how much zippier the phone felt. Everything opens faster and refreshes and loads faster which while not making it instantaneous it does make it a smoother and cleaner experience. It already seemed a little better when I upgraded the iPhone 3G to the 3.0 software, but the 3G S really does mean speed. In case you are wondering, there have been a few speed tests going around to see how fast the iPhone is compared to the T-Mobile G1 and the Sprint Palm Pre and the new iPhone is faster than both.

I did also try the voice control a bit, but found that it was not as impressive as some other functions of the phone and I will likely not be using it much in the future. I will give it a few more tries probably, but I just don't see the big advantage even if I was trying to use the phone while driving since it was not as accurate as I had hoped. The next great thing about the new iPhone is the video capture ability and quick and simple editing. Although I have not had much time to play with that I have used it a little and found the picture quality to be quite good for a phone for sure and decent for a dedicated portable video camera. This is sure to make those cheap handheld camcorders worry about their market share. I will talk more about the camera and video camera in a later post.


The overall experience of getting the iPhone 3G S as compared to the 3G and the original was not as exciting, but was much less stressful and more enjoyable. The main reason is that I was able to pre-order it from AT&T and it was shipped directly to me instead of having to wait in line. Also, I actually got it on the day it came out instead of waiting in line at AT&T last year only to find out after two hours of waiting that the manager had lied when he said there were plenty of phones for everyone. The activation process was also a breeze since I was able to just sync the phone and switch the SIM cards rather than wait for a long time for an AT&T rep to waste my time with an activation that should take a couple minutes. All in all the experience has been a really good one and although the fact that the outside of the iPhone looks almost identical takes away from the excitement, the internal upgrades are quite noticeable with normal use and are likely to increase the productivity and functionality greatly for this next year while we wait for the new ones to comes out next June or July.