Reviewed: iPhone 3G S

29 Jun 2009

The hype surrounding the release of the next iteration of Apple’s now omnipresent iPhone may not have been on the same scale as the original and 3G models, but the 3G S is another step closer to the future of mobile computing.

Judging from appearance, the iPhone 3G S may not look any different to its 3G predecessor, but the insides tell a different story – one that included Apple listening carefully to what its customers wanted, combined with its legendary driving force for innovation.

The 3G S is the first iPhone to have a decent camera, and one with video-recording capabilities, including basic onboard editing for upload straight to YouTube.

The camera itself is 3-megapixel – a quality that seems ever-so strained in the presence of Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson handsets that regularly sport anywhere between 5 and 8-megapixels – but the combination of tap to focus and macro lens capability gives a noticeable boost in comparison to the older 2-megapixel version.

You’re really seeing a big difference in terms of quality and clarity, but without a flash, don’t expect night-time images to look so hot.

Onto the video camera: you can turn on video mode by toggling the switch from photo to video, and the crisp, high-quality footage that comes from the iPhone 3G S is both surprising and oh-so satisfying.

As soon as you’re finished shooting video it displays on frames, and you can begin editing your footage straightaway – you simply touch and drag from where you want the footage to begin to where you want it to end.

When you have selected your final cut, it can be uploaded from the gallery to MobileMe, emailed, sent via MMS or sent straight to YouTube.

For uploading to YouTube, the video is compressed; then you sign in, add your title, description, tags and category, hit publish and Steve Jobs is your uncle.

Of course, I would like if live streaming video was onboard, so hopefully Apple and Qik are working on something exciting together.

While the improved camera and video-recording functionality are the most obvious new additions to the iPhone 3G S, what will really wow you – whether you have the original iPhone or the 3G model – is the sheer speed of web browsing and even launching applications.

If you were to ask for one reason to upgrade to the iPhone 3G S or consider investing in an iPhone having previously not been overly impressed (why not?!), then I have one word for you – speed.

Testing the 3G S side by side with the 3G model, it was seconds ahead in launching apps – both contained ones such as calculator and web-connected ones such as Tweetie and Safari – and content was fully loading at least six to seven seconds faster when connecting to iTunes, Mail and so on.

Apple was right when it emphasised the ‘fastest iPhone yet’ angle because the iPhone 3G S will make using your applications, downloading content and surfing the web so much better.

Another brand-new feature on the iPhone 3G S is the built-in digital compass that works exactly like a magnetic needle compass. Just wave it about in a figure eight formation to calibrate and you’re on your way.

You may wonder why you would want to stare at a compass solely on its own just for the sheer joy of finding out what way you are facing, but the magic of the compass is its integration with Google Maps.

Tap the ‘current location’ icon to find where you are, and tap a second time to rotate the map in the direction you are facing. For people that are not so good at map reading, this is all you will ever need, and you will never ever get confused and lost again while following Google Maps directions.

Another little addition to Map, which I liked, is the keyword search. Typing ‘coffee’ into the search bar automatically brought up a bunch of locations, such as Joy of Coffee and Cafe Bar Deli, where I could get to fastest for my caffeine fix.

One last useful addition to the iPhone 3G S is the Voice Control. Keeping the home button pressed down activates this, and speaking various commands will (theoretically) make it do your bidding.

Speaking commands such as ‘Call Bob’ or ‘Play music’ were easy enough, but it didn’t seem to understand my ‘Play Bob Dylan’ request – perhaps the HAL-like AI inside it is averse to downbeat ballads.

Apart from this, Voice Control could clearly understand my other spoken requests including ‘What song is playing?’, and if you are unsure as to how you should phrase your request, there are helpful phrases floating across the screen while Voice Control is activated.

Other functionality you may have been hearing about such as cut and paste or Spotlight search are actually from the free OS 3.0 software update that works on all iPhones, which we have reviewed previously.

Verdict? With up to 32GB storage, video recording, speedy web surfing, MMS, cut and paste and the compass/Maps integration, this is the smartphone I have been waiting for.

By Marie Boran