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I have always maintained that the Apple iPhones have always been great devices. There will be people that complain about you being a sheep if you bought one or that Apple's phone is highly restrictive with what you can do with it, but to me it is simply a fantastic demonstration of what can be done if great minds come together, forging machines that are easy to use.
The iPhone is, put simply, made with style and simplicity. It is restrictive because only the nerds want to poke about with its innards and reprogram it to download porn behind everyone's backs, and it looks good so that people don't have to feel embarrassed when they take it out to use it. Put it this way, if you wanted to take a picture, you simply press on the camera app icon for it to load up, and then you press the take photo button and it takes your photo. Job done. If you add a million options to it, it would be nigh on impossible to use in everyday life, so what Apple have done is keep it as simple as possible so that we do what we want quickly and then get on with our lives. Not all of us want to write a sub-routine that accesses a mainframe to download pictures of nude celebrities.
Before I had the iPhone 3GS, the 32GB version for extra storage, I already owned the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G. Upgrading from the first iPhone was an easy choice as the 3G brought with it, shock, 3G mobile internet. It also had a new, more ergonomic design with its curved back, so holding it was more comfortable. However, along came the iPhone 3GS with its extra 'S' at the end of 3G that basically looked identical to the iPhone 3G. I was caught in a predicament, why would I want to purchase a phone that looked exactly like the one I already had, except that the text on the back was silvery?
Let's just say the 'S' didn't stand for 'stupid'.
I went to Carphone Warehouse to have a go on one, and immediately I was taken aback. The best way I can put it is like this, the iPhone 3G is like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill 1. She's Sexy, a trained assassin, she ran around chopping the legs off her enemies. Then the iPhone 3GS is like Uma Thurman from Kill Bill 2. It is the same Uma Thurman, but this time she is trained by the grey, wizened kung fu master Pai Mei, and has the 5 point palm heart exploding technique. Basically, it is the same, and yet it isn't.
The iPhone 3GS was like a turbo charged, high-speed device on drugs. It made the iPhone 3G appear sluggish, limp-wristed and pathetic in every way. I had to buy it, I had to upgrade to it because the speed, the intoxicating responsiveness just blew me away, and then it sucked me back in with how smooth it was. Why did Apple not release this phone first? Why did I think that the iPhone 3G was the epitome of phone greatness before I experienced this phone?
Today, it is a back up phone as I had upgraded to an iPhone 4, but I can honestly say this: the iPhone 3GS is still a fantastic phone today. The iPhone 3G was buried a long time ago, it was too slow and sluggish to keep up with the times, but the 3GS has grown old with grace. It can still play the latest games, it is still fast and smooth and amazing. You get the sense that this phone was made by futurologists.
:: THE PACKAGING ::
The phone came in this black coffin-like box that is standard nowadays with iPhones, the bottom slowly slides off the top like thick yoghurt if you held the lid gently for long enough. Under the lid you'll find the phone sitting in a tray, and underneath the tray is the USB charger, the SIM eject tool, a pair of handsfree microphone earphones and some documentation. If you are a typical buyer of iPhones, you would find that it is the same type of fair here, the same type of equipment is provided, and as you'd expect from Apple, the packaging is superb. It is an example of how packaging can be made sleek, stylish and compact.
:: THE PHONE ::
The phone has a capacitive portrait orientated, 3.5” 4:3 ratio screen at the
Pictures of Apple iPhone 3GS 32GB
The iPhone 3GS's many angles
front, with the earpiece above it and the classic home button just beneath it. To the left edge of the phone is the silent toggle switch and the volume rocker just beneath. At the top edge is the earphone port on the left, the SIM tray in the middle and the power button to the right. The bottom edge has the wide USB connector port, the speaker to the left of it and the microphone to the right. At the back is a 3MP camera lens at the top left. The phone is only 0.8cm thick so it is thin and light, and the back is curved so that it fits perfectly in the palm of your hands; and this is all finished with a chrome trim going around the frame of the phone.
The phone feels like a premium product no matter how you hold it, it feels weighty and solid despite the plastic back. The iPhone 4 feels premium because of the glass front and glass back, so the fact that this phone manages to pull it off with a plastic back, like its predecessor, is an amazing feat.
:: THE GOOD ::
This phone is just a joy to use. The moment you switch it on and the Apple icon appears, you know that you're in for a great experience. The phone original came with iOS 3 when it was released, and now we're up to iOS 5, the latest version of Apple's much lauded software for its phone. Along with all the standard smartphone features, such as a calculator, digital compass, accelerometer, GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth, this phone has other features that make it stand out, even today amongst the sea of Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry smartphones.
I love how the phone sits in your hand, it is comfortable and easy to hold, unlike the iPhone 4 with its straight and edged corners that doesn't feel as natural to hold as the 3GS.
Everything about the phone is easy to use, it was designed by a group of individuals that wanted to make it as simple, as easy and as quick as possible to accomplish something so that we have more time to enjoy the phone rather than fumble about, working out how to do something. The main screen has a group of icons set about a 4 x 4 grid with a tray of 4 main icons that stay in place, unless you swap them for apps that are more important to you than the default.
To navigate the main screen, you merely have to slide your finger across the screen to where to wish to move it and the menu will move along with it, bringing up the screens with the other app icons for you to select from. You can organise these app icons together into folders by simply dragging the icons into each other and then naming the folder with whatever name you wish. This makes it very easy to search your applications if you have many of them installed, i.e. games, navigation, etc.
You can slide down from the top to reveal a notifications tray that shows the next 6 days of weather and the current state of the stock exchange. Not useful for everyone, but at least it is there. Text messages or any alert or message from a social app will appear here if you need to quickly access and read them.
If you press and hold down the home button for 2 seconds, it brings up the voice control screen that allows you to speak to the phone to give it a command, and it will perform some basic commands for you, such as load up the text message app for you to write your message, or call somebody on your contacts list with a name that can be pronounced properly. Although it isn't that refined, it is still quite handy if you can't be bothered touching the screen to call a mate.
If you scroll to the far left, you'll get to a helpful search function where you can search for an anything on the iPhone, or you can choose to search for it on the internet or in Wikipedia. This is a very useful feature if you cannot find what you are looking for on your phone or need to quickly access information online.
If you press the home button twice on the phone, it brings up a background task tray that slides up from the bottom of the screen. This shows the icons of applications running in the background, so you can easily just select the app to reopen it and continue what you were doing, or close it to free up space for another application to run. If you have too many apps open in the background, you can simply scroll to the right to see the remaining apps hidden from view. Something else many people do not know is that you can scroll left to a tray with a rotation screen lock so that the screen stays in portrait mode, and a music player with skip back, play and skip forward buttons. The player here is random so don't expect a lot of song control, but it is a nice feature to know. Even less people know about the extra volume control if you scroll further left, so you can adjust the volume of media playback on the screen as opposed to using the physical buttons.
One gesture that I love the a lot is the pinch to zoom gesture that has you use 2 fingers on the screen at the same time. You move them apart to zoom in and move them together to zoom out. This works in pretty much everything on the phone, from the Maps app to the web browsing app, you can zoom in and out to your heart's content. It also becomes a very important factor in Angry Birds because that bloody slingshot is hard to aim, so zooming out helps a lot.
I particularly love the web browser on the iPhone as it is packed with support for many features. It doesn't support Flash of course, but that is not an issue as I find Flash to drain the battery quicker than a Liverpudlian swigs his beer. It supports HTML 5, the latest version of HTML, and you can test this by going to Google and typing into the search bar 'do a barrel roll'. The screen will rotate to show you it supports HTML 5. As a result of this, websites load without problems, and you can do a lot on the phone like you can on a large computer. It is simply a godsend when you are out shopping and need to quickly check your online bank account to ensure you have enough money when there are no cash machines around. It has happened to me many times in the past.
As a multimedia device it is fantastic, but the main feature of it is the phone, and I can honestly say that the phone features are top notch. Call quality is clear with little to no drop outs, and the earphones make answering calls even easier by a simple press of a button on the earphone wire. The speakerphone function also works a treat, with the speaker delivering loud and clear audio as you talk to the person at the other end. The microphone does not need you to shout at it, so you can talk naturally with it within an arm's reach and the other person can still hear you clearly. This device does warrant the 'Phone' part of its name, and then some.
To connect it to your PC to back up your phone or load more photos and videos to it requires you to use Apple's iTunes software. Synchronising with your PC or Mac is very easy, you simply download the software, install it, and then connect your phone to it with the supplied USB cable and that is it. Apple have made this so simple to use that only a dead person would have trouble doing it properly.
My favourite feature of all though is the speed and power of the device. Despite coming before the iPhone 4, it can still playback 720p HD videos without any problems. I recorded a 720p video with the iPhone 4 and then synchronised the data from my iPhone 4 to my iPhone 3GS to check it, and I was blown away by how the iPhone 3GS was able to play it back without any slowdown or stuttering at all. I thought iTunes automatically made it 3GS compatible, but it didn't, and I tested out a downloaded 720p sample test video online to make sure, and that played without problem either. That is simply incredible; what drugs were Apple feeding the 3GS before it was released, because I want some of that stuff for my PC.
:: THE BAD ::
I have to say, the battery life isn't as good as I remember it, since the iPhone 4's battery hold strong and even after a 1 whole day you would still have about 70% remaining. The iPhone 3GS after a day would be down to 30% so you would need to charge it at night before you went to bed otherwise you would not be using it the next day. I guess this is to be expected since the battery in the iPhone 4 is larger and it does have newer hardware that is more energy efficient, but this isn't something that you can ignore if you own both products.
Also, the screen quality is very low. At the time it was considered adequate at a 360 x 480 screen resolution, which was okay when it was released, but today with all the high resolution screens being used in many phones that have 800 x 480 pixel screens, or even the iPhone 4's retinas screen floating around all over the place, make the one on the 3GS appear as if somebody keeps fogging up the screen on the other side, and there is nothing you can do about it. Sure, 720p videos looks crisp and clear, but only as crisp as a DVD really as you cannot make out any sharper detail due of the huge dots on the screen.
I also dislike the proprietary USB connector port on the iPhone that has you having to buy compatible cables as opposed to the microUSB cable that has become the standard now. I hear rumours that the European Standards Commission now want all smartphones to use microUSB ports in future, but what I have also heard is that Apple would release a microUSB adaptor for the existing phones to counter that decision. So Apple make more money out of us as a result. I have a house full of microUSB cables, so if they used that instead, the port would be smaller and it would be easier to charge it anywhere within my home.
Finally, I hate the quality of the photo taking on this phone. The 3MP look washed out and grainy, it was as if you smeared Marmite over your eyes and squinted to see through it. There is also no LED flash, but that is just as well since even with a flash the photos would still appear like a bright grainy mess, so instead of Marmite it would be cheesy spread. Strangely enough, the video capture is not bad in good light, capturing video at DVD quality. It's not HD obviously, but it appears to trump the photo taking by a huge margin even in sunlight. Doesn't make any sense really.
:: NERD AMMO ::
This phone uses a Cortex A8 ARM processor running at 600MHz, downclocked from 833MHz to prolong battery life. Yes, it is very similar to the one used in the iPhone 4, except the one in the iPhone 4 runs at 1GHz. The one used in the iPhone 3G was a generic Samsung 32bit processor running at 412MHz. Maybe that is why it can play 720p videos without issue, it has the same type of processor as the iPhone 4. The RAM onboard is 256MB, half the amount of the iPhone 4, but twice the amount from the iPhone 3G.
:: VERDICT ::
It is true that this phone isn't without its flaws, but it is a phone that is still used today and it still can keep up with the competition despite being nearly 3 years old. I love this phone, and despite being downgraded to back up status because of my purchasing of an iPhone 4, I sometimes take it out for a run to see it in action when I'm out doing business. I like how it sits naturally in my hand, I like how it is smooth and fast and races around at breakneck speeds despite its age. It's like visiting your granddad when he is 92 years old, and he is in the backyard doing somersaults over the garden fence. Unexpected, and yet refreshing. I don't care that the camera is pathetic, I don't care that the screen has a rather low resolution, I don't even care that the battery life isn't as good as my younger, more powerful iPhone 4 either. I mean would you complain about your granddad's weaker eyesight, mild dementia and needing to sit down a bit more than your dad does? Nope, in fact you might even joke about it. This is a phone that has character, and I will gladly use this phone in the future when all others have been reduced to dust by the corrosive wear of everyday life.
So do I recommend this? The iPhone 3GS 32GB can only be purchased second hand now, but I have seen some really good quality second hand unlocked models go for £150 on Amazon, eBay and various online stores. If you can source yourself a phone from a reliable provider and are looking to try out an iPhone, I say go for it. My mate just got one off of Amazon for £135, and it was in immaculate condition.
:: A FACT ::
If my beloved Motorola Atrix ever dies and never returns, this would be the phone to permanently take its place.