In many ways Apple’s new iPhone 3GS is a minor step forward for Apple. After all, it looks almost identical to its predecessor (the iPhone 3G), which itself offered very few changes from the original iPhone model. But with the iPhone 3GS, combined with the iPhone OS 3.0 Software Update, Apple has addressed all of its product’s key weaknesses while adding several important new strengths.
The competition (from Palm, Google, Nokia, and BlackBerry) is much closer to Apple now than it was two years ago. But the iPhone 3GS makes it clear: Apple is still leading the pack, in most cases by a wide margin.
The S stands for speed, and although Apple is generally very tight-lipped about what's inside the iPhone 3GS, we understand that it has a slightly faster processor and more memory.
iPhone 3GS design
Externally, the iPhone 3GS is almost completely indistinguishable from the iPhone 3G model, which is still available for purchase. Front and centre is the iPhone’s signature feature: a bright, beautiful high-resolution 3.5-inch diagonal touchscreen, offering a resolution of 480-x-320 pixels.
The iPhone 3GS weighs 2 grams more than the iPhone 3G.
Instead of revamping the phone’s look and feel, the company’s designers are instead focused on the little things, like making it easy to wipe off greasy fingerprints.
The aforementioned smudge-proof coating, at least, is the real deal - during similar use, it attracted fewer fingerprints than an iPhone 3G did, and those fingerprints wiped off easily. Another benefit: The new screen's texture has an ultrasmooth glide to it. In contrast, our fingers would more easily catch on the iPhone 3G (typically as they passed over a fingerprint or three).
On top of everything, text appears slightly sharper. That's surprising considering that the iPhone 3GS has the same resolution as the iPhone 3G does. Apple says that fonts on the iPhone 3GS are rendered by the phone, as opposed to being bitmaps, and that this approach accounts for the smoother and sharper appearance of text.
Want to see what the iPhone 3GS looks like inside? Check out our feature “iPhone 3GS dismantled - in pictures”.
iPhone 3GS speed boost and specs
The iPhone 3GS is a major step forward in terms of the iPhone’s technological underpinnings. Its processor runs at 600MHz, compared to previous models’ 412MHz. It’s got 256MB of RAM, compared to 128MB in previous models.
The result is an indisputably faster device, not just at some tasks, but at every task.
The hardware improvements are obvious as soon as you turn the phone on: the iPhone 3GS boots up in nearly half the time of the previous model. Last year's 16GB iPhone 3G booted to an interactive state in 54.6 seconds. The new 32GB iPhone 3GS was ready to use in just 29.2 seconds - about half the time.
Every aspect of using the phone felt noticeably faster on the iPhone 3GS than on the iPhone 3G. Even actions that only took moments before now happen instantaneously.
The speed doesn’t stop with app launches and fast-loading web pages, either. The iPhone 3GS is just better when it comes to graphics. Games that featured jerky, low-frame-rate game play on the original iPhone and iPhone 3G – such as Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D - spring to life on the iPhone 3GS with high frame rates and smooth motion.
This speed boost will also give developers a bit of room to grow. Although the iPhone was already a lot more powerful than other mobile phones, developers only have a small amount of memory to work with and a much slower processor than they're used to in desktop computers.
But users can now expect more complex apps, and especially games, to run a lot faster on the iPhone 3GS.
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