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printed October 31, 2014
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Review: iPhone 3GS

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Is the iPhone 3GS that much better than the iPhone 3G? That really depends on what is important to you. Current iPhone and iPhone 3G owners can update their existing hardware and get a lot of the new features we've discussed in this review, including the voice memos, stereo Bluetooth, Spotlight Search, cut-and-paste and MMS (eventually).

Above and beyond that, the iPhone 3GS hardware brings enough to get excited about. True, the additions are more evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but the same could be said of the iPhone 3G when compared to the original iPhone.

The 3GS offers a 3 megapixel camera with autofocus and video capture. It vastly outperforms the camera on the previous two iPhones (which don't have the ability to record video). This is a huge step up for those interested in creating and sharing content.

The faster processor and bigger RAM and probably not going to mean too much to too many people, but the new 32GB capacity means you've got tons of room to store your music, movies, pictures and videos.

Feature-for-feature, the iPhone 3GS now matches most other smartphones that it competes against -- and in some ways surpasses them. Each platform has its own advantages, but the iPhone has seamless syncing with iTunes, an easy-to-use interface, a killer browser, and amazing potential with the Apps Store.

For the Mac faithful, there's simply no other phone to have. For anyone who wants a device that does nearly everything -- and does it all well -- then it's hard not to recommend the iPhone.


PS: We did have problems setting up one of our new iPhone 3G S units. From what we can tell, these problems are very rare, and don't reflect the typical user experience, but they do highlight the dangers of Apple's closed systems.

One iPhone 3G S took about 14 hours to activate. In that time, I had to carry both my old and new phone everywhere, because I had no idea when my old one would stop working. If it were any other phone, I would have been able to swap SIM cards and be done. GSM phones aren't supposed to require "activation" at all. But Apple's special system marries a unique AT&T SIM to each iPhone, and requires this weird activation process. I learned the hard way the downside of this approach. (And whatever the upside is, it's only an upside for Apple, not consumers.)

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