iPhone 3G Review

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It seems like only yesterday we were all going out of our minds for the original iPhone. Still, even as great as the original device was, there were some complaints. No 3G Internet, No GPS, and No MMS messages were just a few of the complaints that customers mumbled about under their breath as they plunked down $599 to purchase the device.

This year, however, things have changed. We still don’t have MMS messages (and probably never will), but the new iPhone has the 3G speed that so many were craving, GPS is on board in Google Maps, and the price has dropped all the way down to $199 for the 8GB model.

Of all the new features of the iPhone 3G the single biggest improvement is the external speaker and microphone. With the original iPhone there was very little chance I was going to hear the phone ring in my pocket. As an alarm, I would always have to turn the volume all the way up to have any chance of actually hearing it when it went off. The iPhone 3G is quite different, though. With the improved speaker (both in general sound quality and over-all loudness), I found myself turning the volume down to about half so as to not wake up the entire house when it went off.

The quality of phone calls is greatly improved because of these two elements as well, and for this alone, its almost worth the upgrade for existing users.

The GPS Navigation doesn’t provide turn-by-turn directions, and appears to be more focused on people on foot rather than in a car. I do find the GPS to be useful and helpful, but until some third parties release a more full featured GPS application for the phone, this feature won’t replace the need for a navigator to help you get where you’re going using the iPhone for directions. It’s a fine addition, but certainly nothing to pine over.

The 3G speed is something that I have found to be a bit underwhelming as well. It is very fast – much faster than its EDGE counter part, but to hear everyone last year you would have thought that 3G was the holy grail – and it just isn’t all that much better. Sure, we’re talking about shaving 10 to 15 seconds per web page load time (in my area anyway – I’ve seen various speeds reported online), but I don’t think I’m really getting $10 a month worth of a speed boost.

If the 3G speed bump is all you’re wanting to upgrade for, I suggest you find a friend with an iPhone, or try one out in the store, so you can decide if the increased speed is enough to justify the upgrade for yourself.

The new casing is interesting as well. It seems to fit better in your hand, although the black back attracts fingerprints like you wouldn’t believe. The new plastic back gives it a somewhat “cheaper” feel than the aluminum backing of the first phone. While I like the bak of the original iPhone much better than this one, it does have a nice feel in the hand, and while it does feel “cheaper” it doesn’t feel “cheap”.

There is a little issue of the iPhone 3G not being compatible with many iPod docks and chargers due to a lack of firewire pin support that is sure to ruffle some feathers, but I think this is more of a reason to not upgrade more than a reason to not get an iPhone entirely.

The most amazing thing about the new iPhone is not any of the hardware improvement, though. It’s the iPhone 2.0 software. The App Store is a game changing addition to the iPhone, and the new third-party applications (while varying in quality) absolutely take the device to the next level.

The bottom line: If you’re an existing iPhone owner, there are a few minor reasons to upgrade to the iPhone 3G – with the improved speaker and mic being the biggest. When you consider the increased monthly price, upgrade fees, and loss of compatibility with certain chargers and accessories, you may want to hold off on upgrading. I recommend taking a look at the iPhone 3G in action before you decide for yourself.

If you’ve never been an iPhone user before, now is a great time to jump on board. The new phone is solid, and a logical next step in the evolution of the iPhone. The price is great, and the quality of the phone is unmatched.

The major revolution of this phone is the iPhone 2.0 software – and you can get that, regardless of which iPhone you’re using.

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Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

8 thoughts on “iPhone 3G Review

  1. I plugged my new iPhone into my Universal Dock last night and it said it wasn’t compatible. I declined the Airport mode choice I was provided and was surprised to see that the phone did indeed charge in the dock anyway.

    As far as cheap, I do not own a 1st gen iPhone, but my parents do. So I’ve had some hands-on time with it. I can say I prefer the feel of the new one better and I don’t think it feels cheaper at all. I did like the aluminum finish, since it matched the “Pro” look of Apple’s hardware better. I did not, however, like the black plastic that covered the antenna. So the one piece back on the new one, in my opinion, looks so much better.

    As far as fingerprints? Yes, it’s the same issue we had with the 5G video iPod. You can see it on the black, but not on the white. I suspect surface scratches will be the same too. That’s why I opted for the white. My wife went with the black, and a side by side comparison really shows the difference.

    A no-brainer, but 3G is only as good as your coverage. I get full bars at home, but 17 miles away at work, I get 2 inside the building. (Big office building.) But then again, no one in here gets a signal, so I really wasn’t surprised. Email is fast, but the internet runs like a dog on 1-2 bars.

    All in all, I’m glad I didn’t run out and buy the 1st gen iPhone last year. I’m glad I held out and waited.

  2. “We still don’t have MMS messages…”

    I hope they add MMS just so I don’t have to hear/read about how horrible it is not to have it. I would much rather use email than MMS anyway. Email is included in my monthly fee, MMS would be an extra charge and using email is no big deal. Any phone that can send MMS can send it to an email address and an iPhone user can send to an MMS capable phone using that phones “email” address. For AT&T it would be – XXX-XXX-XXXX@mms.att.net.

    Here is a list of all the MMS “email” addresses:


  3. I love it, fantastic in every way, except one, rather important one. Battery life. I’ve found it dies really quick. I’ve since disabled 3G just so I could get a longer lifespan but even still its definitely not exceptional. Compared to other equally feature rich programs its not to bad, but I’d still like 10+ hours of general usage.

    The App Store kicks ass, so many amazing programs. Granted most I used jailbroken, its nice to give these developers some money for their hard work.

  4. An excellent post Michael and here is one phrase I am quoting that shows why I like your reviews:

    “and while it does feel “cheaper” it doesn’t feel “cheap”.” So witty 🙂

  5. My experience over the weekend was that the GPS is just about worthless. You have to keep the iPhone face up, screen pointing to the sky to be able to get a GPS signal – which makes it almost impossible to read with reflection off of the sky.

    Second – I was on Amtrak between Chicago and Ann Arbor yesterday trying to figure out where we were at in the trip. When the train was at a crawl or stopped, I could get a position lock. As soon as the train started cruising (I would guess in the 50 – 60 MPH range) the GPS couldn’t keep up and the position lock would drop to the big circle instead of the pinpoint. And then the big circle wouldn’t keep up with our position requiring frequent relocates to figure out where we were. It made me wish I had brought my TomTom ONE XL with me.

    On the bright side though – it was nice to be in Downtown Chicago, get a position lock, then ask for directions to say someplace like the Apple Store on Michigan Ave, or the nearest Irish Pub, and get exact directions from my iPhone.

    All in all I think the 3G iPhone is well worth the money – even the extra data charges. I’m finding 3G in Metro Detroit to be screamingly fast compared to EDGE. Though the battery life is going to end up making me head over to the Apple Store this morning to buy a 3G Dock to keep in the house for charging, as well as a car charger. I had to plug-in to charge up at least once during the day while in Chicago this weekend. I used to be able to get through the whole day with an over night charge on my original iPhone.

  6. If I was downtown and looking for directions, the LAST thing I would pull out to assist me would be a shiny new iPhone 3G!

  7. Because we didn’t wait for July to switch (we switched in March) we are required to spend $200 more for our iPhones which I am not happy about but I guess will have to pay to enjoy.

  8. “Because we didn’t wait for July to switch (we switched in March) we are required to spend $200 more for our iPhones which I am not happy about but I guess will have to pay to enjoy.”

    If you always wait for the new, cheaper version, you’ll never buy anything electronic.

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