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Apple iPhone 3GS Review

By Simon Thomas on 16th July 2009

3G Total Score



Often replicated, never bettered, the Apple remains the daddy of the touch-screen world.


While it has certainly been improved, the camera remains the iPhone’s Achilles heel.


Building on the success of its predecessors, the iPhone 3GS raises the bar even higher.

Full Review and Specification for the Apple iPhone 3GS


It’s been over two years since Apple introduced the world to the original iPhone, and still you’ll be hard pressed to find a phone that demands more column inches and attention. Of course, Apple hasn’t rested on its laurels, revamping its mobile first with the iPhone 3G, and now the much lauded iPhone 3GS – the ‘S’ stands for speed. And despite the recent influx of flagship devices, the iPhone still holds its own.


Look and feel


The iPhone 3GS sports the same width, depth and breadth as the iPhone 3G, but with a choice of a white or black back, and either 16GB or a whopping 32GB of memory. Its minimalist design coupled with the pièce de résistance – the gorgeous 3.5-inch display – maintains the iPhone’s status as one of the best looking handsets on the market.

Apple is priding itself on the claim that the iPhone 3GS is two times faster than the iPhone 3G in everything it does, from surfing the net to opening up applications. It’s difficult to establish how accurate this is, but it is definitely faster than its predecessors.


Voice control


Its lightning speed is not the only tweak the iPhone 3GS is packing. We approached the voice control feature with bated breath, as this is always a bit hit or miss when it comes to mobile phones, but we needn’t have worried. Activated by holding down the home button just below the screen, it’s ready to work straight out of the box. Once you have synched your contacts with your phone, you will be able to simply say a person’s name to call them. However, that’s not all. You can also select music via this process. For example, say ‘play songs by Foo Fighters’, and the phone will belt out relevant tracks via the built-in iPod.

Apple has included up to 11 customisable home screens that can house up to 159 apps between them. To flick through them, simply swipe your finger to the left and then back again. Swipe to the right when you’re in the main home screen and you’ll be taken to a search option for everything from contacts to song titles to applications. Apple has disabled the landscape QWERTY keyboard when using the search facility, but it appears when writing emails, messages, notes or web addresses.


Copy and paste


Something that has got Apple fans rather excited is the phone’s ability to copy and paste text – another slick affair. To copy text from a website for example, press your finger on the area of text until it highlights blue and then select the copy icon that appears when you remove your digit. To paste the text into an email or text message simply repeat the process. You can also copy and paste videos and photos, and if you change your mind about what you are pasting, just give the phone a shake.

The iPhone 3GS needs special recognition for a near flawless navigational experience. Working in conjunction with Google Maps, locking a satellite fix was instant, even indoors. The ‘drop pin’ function is a welcome addition, enabling you to literally flag your destination on the map, with the quickest route from your current position then being displayed. The inclusion of a digital compass also means your map will always be pointing the right way, no matter which direction you are facing. While there are no voice instructions (though a variety of apps serving this purpose are available), users can choose between driving, walking or transit (i.e public transport) routes.


Three-megapixel camera


Much has been made of Apple’s decision to only upgrade the camera to three megapixels. While the results are improved, it still suffers from some fundamental flaws. For example, there is no flash and as a result, low-light shots will leave you wanting more, and the lack of zoom is another glaring omission.
That said, Apple has at least included a video camera. It also suffers from a lack of flash, and the editing options are fairly minimal, but you can upload directly to YouTube and the on-board microphone was pretty good at picking up audio.


The verdict


The iPhone 3GS has had its critics, particularly when O2 announced its rather extravagant price plans. However, we’d bet that a large number of them hadn’t even got hold of one. Yet again, Apple has produced a remarkable piece of hardware, with software improvements to boot. It’s a cinch to get to grips with, looks great, and has an (almost) never-ending supply of applications via the App Store. Yes, the camera could be better, but that shortcoming is soon overlooked. On this evidence, the iPhone dynasty is showing no signs of cracking.

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Apple iPhone 3GS Review Scoring

  • Style and Handling
  • User Friendliness
  • Feature set
  • Performance
  • Battery
  • Overall Score

Apple iPhone 3GS Phone Specification


Type of phone: Mobile phone
Style: candy bar
Size: 115.5x62.1x12.3mm
Weight: 135g
Display: 16 million colours
Resolution: 352x416
Camera: Three megapixels
Special Camera features: auto focus
Video recording: Yes
Video playback: Yes
Video calling: No
Video streaming: Yes
Music formats played: MP3, AAC, WAV
3.5mm jack port: Yes
Handsfree speakerphone: N/A
Voice Control: Yes
Voice Dialling: Yes
Call records: N/A
Phonebook: N/A
Ringtones customization: N/A
Display description: TFT capacitive touch-screen
Portfolio: N/A
Standard color: Black or white
Launch Status: N/A
Ringtones: Polyphonic, MP3
Radio: No
Operating system: N/A
Connectivity: Bluetooth, A2DP, USB, Wi-Fi
Announced date: June 2009
What's in the Box: N/A
International launch date: July 2009
Battery life when playing multimedia: N/A
CPU: ARM Cortex A8 600 MHz
FM Radio Description: N/A
Internal memory: 16GB or 32GB
Memory Card Slot: N/A
Messaging: Email, MMS, SMS
Internet Browser: HTML, Safari
Java: Yes
Games: Yes - App Store
Data speed: HSDPA
Frequency: Quad-band
Talktime: 20 minutes (2G) and 300 minutes (3G)
Standby: 300 hours
Display size: 3.5 inches
Keypad: QWERTY
Audio recording: N/A
# sales team/customer service: 0800 358 9048

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