Wednesday, July 07, 2010

iPhone 3GS

I recently won an iPhone 3GS, pretty lucky because I'd made the mistake of upgrading my iPhone 3G to the new iOS4 and while it worked it was woefully slow and suffered frequent app crashes. I had decided to keep it for a few weeks and then get the iPhone 4 when it's released in Ireland (rumour is 23rd July) . I could have gone through the process to downgrade the phone to the old OS but I liked the features such as folders.

On the other hand the iPhone 3GS with iOS4, after 1 day of use, is a huge leap forward. It was free, which is always a big bonus. It is much faster, I mean MUCH faster than the 3G. Even without iOS4 my 3G didn't run this fast. The extra processor and memory are obviously key. Also apparent now is that apps might be written to run on the iPhone 3G but they are written to run properly on the newest phone. Apps that ran painfully slowly now run smoothly and load quickly. So far no apps have crashed but it's early days. With the iOS4 it's good enough to make me consider waiting a while before using my upgrade to buy an iPhone 4.

The camera is a major improvement. I rarely used the camera on my 3G. It produced poor, low quality out of focus pictures that were just about suitable for twitpic but not much else. The new camera performs much better. I still have to use it in anger but the touch focus and image quality on the screen are greatly improved. I still wont be selling any of the photos from it at Peoples Photography but I can now use it as a camera when I'm out with friends.

However it's not all rosy in the 3GS garden, there are a few issues that would make me pause and glad I didnt have to spend my own money.

First signal strength seems to be reduced. Not by much but in my current office where I can just get Edge it's reduced enough to make the difference between a connection and No Service. In places where I used to get 1 bar most of the time, I now get No Service consistently. Same at home. The 3G used to hold a poor connection on the bedside locker, the 3GS just goes to No Service and stays there until I move it a few feet closer to the door. Maybe that's Apples "reported signal strength" software bug but the 3G running iOS4 seemed to cope better with poor signals so I suspect its a hardware change. It makes be worried that the new iPhone4 with it's more publicised reception issues might not perform at all in my environment.

Second issue is with the build quality. Strange for a device that is using the same body case so it should feel the same but something about it feels more plastic and the edges around the silver surround feel sharper like they almost meet perfectly, but not quite. Maybe I'd broken in my old 3G and smoothed off the edges but I don't remember ever running my finger along the edges of the silver and thinking it was kinda sharp. The edges make it feel more plastic. Perhaps I'm just working on a phone from an end of life batch where Apple were switching focus to the iPhone 4 but somehow this one feels strange. I wont be sending it back or anything daft like that but it's just a surprise from Apple.

Third, not a phone specific problem but an iOS4 problem. I'm not overly keen on the way multitasking works. Apps dont really close, they go into the background and in some case continue to run, in others they just seem to sit there. I got used to closing apps and having them close fully. Now they go into the background and I dont need them there. I realise I'll get used to the new way of closing apps but perhaps all Apple need to do is allow the user to specify which apps are backgrounded and which are just closed. Maybe there is a new setting I'm missing but a switch in the settings page for Apps would do the trick.

But those problems are minor and really I'm just nit picking. The phone with the new iOS4 together are a huge improvement. I'd recommend any 3GS user to upgrade to iOS4 while warning any 3G users not to upgrade without giving it serious consideration. That said I wouldnt advise anyone to buy a 3GS now, certainly not with their own money. The 4 is coming out in Ireland in a few weeks so wait for that. A cheap 3GS may seem like a bargain right now but I can see the same performance issues I had with the 3G hitting the 3GS as developers write new apps to use the improves CPU, memory and camera of the 4. You will still be able to run those applications but you'll definately be a second class citizen in the app world.

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