NOTE: This is only a preview of the Apple iPhone 3G S as we do not have a review unit available to us, but we will do have one pre-ordered and we should receive it on Friday, June 19. Expect to see a full review this coming weekend.
On June 8th, Apple announced the iPhone 3G S, which is Apple's third generation of its popular cellular device that has sold in the millions of units around the world. On June 19th, the iPhone 3G S will be available for purchase from Apple Stores and AT&T retail stores. Both are also allowing users to pre-order their new iPhone's, but by this time, any new orders show as being "delayed" until at least after June 19th. Some of the new features include extended battery life, more memory, and a few extra features.
The iPhone 3G S has the exact same form-factor of the iPhone 3G, so that means all existing cases and accessories will still work with the 3G S. Apple is selling two versions, a 16GB ($199) and 32GB ($299), in both black and white exteriors. Keep in mind that these prices are for U.S. AT&T customers that are either opening a new account or renewing their contract for 2-years; more on pricing later. Its widely agreed that the move from the iPhone 3G to 3G S isn't revolutionary, but rather evolutionary. The iPhone 3G S is more of a refinement of the 3G version and includes the new iPhone 3.0 OS software, which includes many new features. These new features include things like MMS, cut/copy/paste, a landscape keyboard across all apps, full search, in-app purchases, find my iPhone, tethering, and many more. We like to think of the iPhone 3G S as being finally on-par with many other smartphones on the market.
During the WWDC 2009 keynote, Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior VP of Marketing, said that the "S" in 3G S stood for "speed" but he didn't go beyond stating it broadly. He said that the new processor would allow for quicker app loading and utilize AT&T's 3G network better for faster Web browsing. However, he never revealed any specs about it, but T-Mobile revealed on one of its international sites that the processor inside the iPhone 3G S is 600MHz. This speed boost is quite a lot for the iPhone and puts it either at or way above many other smartphones today. One of our favorite smartphones, the Samsung Epix, also has a 600MHz CPU. Phil also said the new iPhone is compatible with AT&T's new HSPA network that supports speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps. However, AT&T has scheduled full deployment by 2011 and until then, they will only be upgrading their network in select urban areas, so don't expect much for about another year.
The iPhone 3G S also was said to have much better battery life compared to the iPhone 3G, which was a welcomed and much needed enhancement. The keynote said the new phone will offer 9 hours of Wi-Fi, 10 hours of video playback, 30 hours of audio playback, 12 hours of 2G talk, and 5 hours of 3G talk time. These numbers seem to be very nice in theory, but we haven't been able to test them at all yet.
The camera on the iPhone and iPhone 3G have been mediocre at best, so Apple has upgraded the camera on the 3G S to 3 megapixels. They've also included an autofocus feature with the ability to "tap to focus" allowing the user to tap on the screen where they'd like the camera to autofocus. They have also included settings for white balance, exposure, and a macro mode for close-ups. There will also be better support for low-light shooting as well.
In addition to the new camera, the iPhone 3G S will be able to record video as well. It will record video at 30 frames per second and in-camera editing as well. The user can edit recorded videos right on the phone by dragging start and stop sliders across the video's timestrip. From there, the user can share the videos by uploading them to YouTube, MobileMe, or sending them as MMS/e-mails.
Apple has included a digital compass into the iPhone 3G S, which will automatically orient your map in Google Maps with your direction to make navigation easier. There is also support for voice control by pressing and holding the Home button. You can perform simple commands like voice dialing and commands, but also controlling music playback as well. They've included the ability to use voice control to identify a song or artist and ask it to play similar music by means of an iTunes Genius playlist feature.
In summary, the Apple iPhone 3G S is a minor refresh and upgrade from the iPhone 3G, so if you're a 3G owner, you really won't need to upgrade since most of these features will be available via the free iPhone 3.0 software update coming on June 17th. However, if you are an iPhone first-generation user or don't already own an iPhone, it is a wise-upgrade in our opinion. If anyone has been holding out on getting an iPhone because of its lack of features compared to other smartphones, now is the time to get one.
One important aspect is pricing, which is at either $199 (16GB) or $299 (32GB) for new AT&T customers or existing subscribers outside of their 2-year contract (which means all iPhone first-gen users). However, iPhone 3G customers are only a year into their 2-year contract, which means you can only purchase a 3G S for an additional $200 on top of the subsidized prices.