Apple iPhone 3GS review: Same clothes, new feel

Same clothes, new feel

GSMArena team, 30 June 2009.


The Apple iPhone 3GS is probably not the next revolutionary iPhone as you might have expected it. But the performance boost, the sharper camera with video and the purportedly improved battery life certainly make of the current iPhone (3GS or whatever it is called this year) a much more balanced smartphone, one that you could probably wave in front your geeky friends more proudly. Well, you'd still get the chilling disapproving look, but at least you won't feel as embarrassed as you used to.

The truth about the iPhone is this - perhaps about 20 million people around the globe are quoted as having given in to the iPhone temptation ever since the frenzy started. Now, 2 years later, the rest of the modern world is already sick to death of hearing all about it.

Once ground-breaking, but still as controversial and inspiring as ever, the iPhone lineup has just received its latest offspring. Meet the iPhone 3GS, where "S" can mean a lot of things, but without a doubt covers all that's needed for "Speed".

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Apple iPhone 3GS official photos

Using last year's design but boasting some extra powerful hardware, the iPhone 3GS is supposed to, and indeed is, running up to 2 times better than what Apple have offered us so far. This speed boost doesn't bring substantial new capabilities to the table. Instead it's more like the hardware catching up with what we can still call one of the most advanced and user-friendly touch user interfaces to-date (in the realm of GSM mobile phones, of course).

While the iPhone 3GS and the 3G are most obviously cut from the same cloth, you'd be glad to know that there are some differentiating factors that can perhaps be worth your cash:

iPhone 3GS advantages over iPhone 3G:

  • A faster 600MHz CPU and double the RAM at 256MB
  • Noticeably faster performance
  • Faster network speeds of HSDPA 7.2Mbps
  • 3.2 megapixel auto focus camera with VGA@30fps video recording, touch focus with subject tracking, macro mode from as close as 10 cm
  • Double the storage space - 3GS is selling in 16GB and 32GB versions
  • Digital compass with automatic map orientation in Maps app
  • Better audio quality (as recorded and analyzed in our office)
  • Louder loudspeaker results (with performance gains primarily in music playback)
  • Purportedly better battery life
  • Oleophobic display coating supposed to make fingerprints easier to clean
  • Voice Control, speaker independent. Can be use to call a phone number, play music by song/album/artist name, shuffle music
  • Built-in support for Nike+ jogging system
  • TV-out outputs 480p instead 480i resolution
  • Text-to-speech feature called VoiceOver is included in the new Accessibility menu
  • System-wide Screen Zoom is also included in the Accessibility menu

Main disadvantages of iPhone 3GS (OS disadvantages not counted here):

  • The new iPhone 3GS lacks the same novelty factor as its predecessors - the lack of design changes is a turn-down
  • 3 megapixel camera with limited feature set hardly cuts it for a high-end device
  • There's still no flash or hardware shutter key for the camera
  • Despite the upgrade, battery life is still generally poor (2-year old iPhone 2G are still doing way better)
  • No videocalls functionality
  • No FM radio
  • No stereo speakers (or are we pushing it too far already?)

Since the iPhone 3GS is the first iPhone to come with the iPhone OS 3.0 factory preinstalled, we'll most definitely have a detailed look in this review at the changes it brings about - no matter that iPhone 2G and 3G have both received the update for free.

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The Apple iPhone 3GS

Where it stands today, the iPhone OS 3.0 is much more mature version of itself back in the day. Honestly, when we look at where it's at now, we can only be amazed how limited in features it was when it all started a couple of years ago.

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Apple iPhone 3GS held in hand

But there's a lot to cover today, so let's not waste any more time. Join us as we go through the well known hardware and design and bear with us as we cover the iPhone OS 3.0, because it will get interesting, we promise.

Reader comments

  • at
  • 15 Aug 2022
  • sgk

Curious, what os is it running? iOS 6 wasn't kind to this phone for sure. It works but gets fairly laggy at times

  • Jaisal Lakum
  • 11 Apr 2022
  • YQT

I am typing this comment with iPhone 3gs

  • killer
  • 01 Jan 2015
  • U{p

yes you can .. since they will lag sometimes .. i use to play turning everything off no cellular n it use to work better ..