Apple introduced its new iPhone on June 8th, and is promoting the 3G S as the “fastest, most powerful iPhone yet.” While it’s true that most new devices are faster and more powerful than their predecessors, the new iPhone does have a faster processor that renders Web pages quicker and launches apps up to twice as fast. In addition, the new device is packed with other hardware and software enhancements that make it a far more powerful and “smart” phone.
Power under the hood
The 3G S looks very much like the 3G—the changes are under the hood. The new iPhone includes a number of new hardware features, including:
Faster processor: Apple wasn’t giving out specs, but as mentioned above, the new processor will as much as double the performance of Safari and other apps.
Better battery life: In addition, the new processor is more efficient and requires less power. Apple claims that the new iPhone will give you more talk time (12 hours of 2G, 5 hours of 3G), up to 9 hours of Wi-Fi connectivity, 10 hours of video playback, and 30 hours of audio/music playback.
Three megapixel camera: The new camera is capable of capturing still images and short videos. (And now, you can also edit the videos.) The camera has auto-focus, auto-exposure, and better low-light sensitivity. The camera is also capable of capturing close-up images, which will allow for the creation of apps that can capture and translate the information on barcodes.
Updated 3D graphics: Improves the visual experience of games and other apps.
Access to faster data service: The 3G S has the electronics necessary to access the faster 7.2 Mbps HSDPA 3G data services that AT&T is rolling out in the U.S.
Digital compass: The 3G S has an additional sensor that allows the new Compass app to indicate the direction you’re facing. The feature also gives Maps the same capabilities. This feature, coupled with the iPhone’s GPS capabilities, will lead to the development of turn-by-turn mapping apps.
Voice control: The ability to control iTunes functions and make phone calls with voice commands.
Hardware-based data encryption: The ability to encrypt all internal data.
Nike + receiver: Allows the 3G S to receive and analyze data transmitted from a Nike + iPod sensor (sold separately) located in Nike + running shoes.
Accessibility features for the visually or hearing impaired: These features include white-on-black display capability to improve contrast, mono audio for those with hearing loss in one ear, the VoiceOver screen reader that “speaks” what appears on the 3G S display, and a new “zoom” feature that magnifies the entire screen.
Enhanced gaming platform
The expanded graphics capabilities and CPU performance of the 3G S will allow the iPhone to become an even bigger player in the gaming world. Many high-quality games have already been released for the iPhone and iPod touch; and given that the best iPhone games sell for around $10 while high-quality titles for the PSP and other dedicated gaming platforms can cost upwards of $60, Apple certainly has the price advantage. The power and graphics enhancements to the 3G S certainly make it a more appealing option for the casual or dedicated gamer, especially if they need a mobile phone anyway.
From a gaming perspective, the only real problem with the iPhone/iPod touch lineup is the lack of a directional pad (D-pad) for control. Hopefully, with OS 3.0’s enhanced Bluetooth capabilities, some enterprising developer will come out with a Bluetooth-enabled game controller for the iPhone.
The iPhone 3G S incorporates the new iPhone OS 3.0 and software suite. We review that more thoroughly starting on page 12, but some of the features are worth mentioning here.
First of all, some of the new software features found in iPhone OS 3.0 are supported by the new hardware found in the 3G S and were mentioned previously. These include hardware/electronic support for voice control, video capture, hardware encryption, faster data service, electronic compass, and some of the accessibility features. This means that, while owners of the iPhone 3G and the original iPhone can upgrade their devices to OS 3.0, they won’t be able to access these features.
In addition to the 3G S-only software features, the new OS includes enhancements iPhone users will appreciate:
- Cut, Copy, & Paste text and photos between apps
- Enhanced SMS now includes full Multi Media Services to send and receive photos, contacts, and audio files
- Voice Memo app lets you record and edit short voice recordings
- Enhanced A2DP Bluetooth lets you use wireless stereo headsets and other Bluetooth accessories
- New Spotlight app provides enhanced search capabilities
- Keyboard can now be used in landscape viewing mode in Mail, Notes, Stocks, Contacts, and Messages
- Enhanced format support for Calendar and Contacts
- Minor enhancements to Safari, iPod, and iTunes
The OS 3.0 software is available as a free software update via iTunes 8.2 or later for all iPhone customers. A 3.0 software update is available for iPod touch customers for $9.95.
A big step forward
There are still some things missing from the iPhone OS (see page 15), and it would be nice if Apple made an iPhone with a replaceable battery. But all things considered, the iPhone 3G S and OS 3.0 are big steps forward in the evolution of the iPhone. They will certainly help Apple maintain its dominance over the smartphone market.
The iPhone 3G S is available in the U.S. through both Apple and AT&T’s retail stores, as well as Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Available in both black and white, the 16 GB model sells for $199 and the 32 GB model for $299. (This purchase price requires a new two-year contract with AT&T.) The 3G S is also available in Canada, France, Italy, the U.K., and Spain. It will become available in other countries throughout the summer and early fall. As of June 8, the price of the 8 GB iPhone 3G in the U.S. was reduced to $99 (with AT&T contract). Rumors abound, but as of this writing, it appears there is no hardware upgrade path for current iPhone users.