My Thoughts on the iPhone 3G S

Announced at this year’s WWDC and released less than a week ago, the iPhone 3G S has been a subject of many mobile users and critics. The reason is simply that the iPhone is now in its third generation, only this time around, other mobile companies are following the same trend, and because of that the competition is really hot. You probably already know some iPhone rivals out there, so I won’t go into detail about them. I will use this post to express my thoughts on the new iPhone, on what is good about it and what could have been better.

iPhone 3G SI won’t go into the usual features anymore because, well, it’s the iPhone. You are probably living under a rock if you don’t know what iPhone is or what it does. Besides, the iPhone 3G S doesn’t actually bring anything new that will blow your brains. What it does bring to the table, however, might appeal to some people. But if you ask me, even with all of the new stuff the the 3G S brings, this is still, down to the core, an iPhone. While that is not necessarily bad, the iPhone could use a makeover after being in the market for two solid years. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Let’s now look into the new stuff.

The “S” in 3G S stands for speed, so obviously the iPhone has mostly changed internally than it did externally. In fact, the 3G S hasn’t really changed externally at all. It actually has the exact same form factor as the previous generation 3G. What did change, however is the internal hardware. The 3G S now comes with a 3.0 megapixel, auto-focus camera that can now, finally, record VGA-sized videos. It also has upgraded CPU and GPU, which not only means better performance, but also brings in shader model support, which means we can expect even better looking 3D graphics in games and other applications.

On the software front, we also have some interesting features. While the 3G S comes with OS 3.0 natively, it also has some “S” exclusive features. The first one is already mentioned as the ability to record video. We’re not talking low-quality, grainy video; we’re talking surprisingly good quality videos here. Not only that, one can also do basic video trimming right from the phone. If you don’t believe me, look up the videos uploaded to Youtube DIRECTLY from the 3G S. Another cool feature is Voice Control. Looking up demos again, I’m surprised that the application is pretty accurate. It can actually understand words beyond pre-loaded commands. So you can say the name of, say, your best friend, and Voice Control will understand it immediately. Another feature is the Digital Compass. This compass not only tells you which direction you’re in, but also allows apps like Google Maps to auto-adjust the map information into your direction. It’s not what the Digital Compass already does that makes it special, but what developers will actually be able to use it for in their apps.

Let’s not get carried away. This is a rather bitter-sweet look into the 3G S, so I do have some criticisms for it. The first one is that the 3G S doesn’t really bring anything new to the table this time around. In fact, it feels more like iPhone 2.5 than 3. The main reason is that most of these features are already found in most other phones. It makes me feel a little disappointed that on the most part, the iPhone is merely playing catchup rather than offering real innovation like it did two years ago. The other reason is that the iPhone’s current features are starting to show their age. I’ll admit that the accelerometer and multi-touch features were really awesome back then, but now those features could use some re-flavoring. And Apple really needs to start putting the “i” back in innovation (if that makes sense) especially now that virtually every mobile company out there is following the same trend, with their own mix of course.

This now brings me to a few stuff that the iPhone still lacks before it has truly caught up with the common trend. One thing that it notably lacks is a physical keyboard. This is one thing I don’t expect Apple to implement anytime soon, especially since they have openly stated that they were against it. Honestly, I am fine with the current virtual keyboard (even in portrait position in some cases), but that is probably because I don’t have fat thumbs, and those that do probably can’t live without solid key feedback. The other thing it lacks is a front-camera. The lack of a front-camera isn’t so bad, considering that even the Palm Pre and most Blackberries don’t have one. Still, video calling is starting to rise as a trend, and I do hope that Apple prepares for it. The third missing piece isn’t something that I blame Apple, rather I direct it towards AT&T, and that is cellular service. AT&T should feel ashamed that not only do they lack services like MMS and Tethering, but that almost every mobile user, and even iPhone user, around the world will get such features even before the US does. My carrier here, will support MMS and Tethering almost immediately when it arrives. Cellular Service was one of the Pre’s winning factors, and I am disappointed that the iPhone’s main carrier is hardly doing anything to even the odds. The last thing I wish was in the iPhone, although not necessary, are some hot buttons. While the iPhone is really meant for touch-screen purposes, it would be nice to have some extra physical buttons that can be used by developers in applications and games.

Anyway, with that out of the way I think that the iPhone 3G S is an impressive product. While it doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the table, it truly lived to its “S” name, not only beating the 3G in almost every applications, but even being faster than almost every other competing phone. This new revision also places the iPhone on par with other competitors in terms of features like video recording. The reason why I remain positive about the iPhone is now that it’s caught up with the rest, the next iPhone (and OS 4.0) might finally bring something revolutionary to bring new life back to Apple’s mobile device. I believe that Apple finally has breathing room to work magic once again after playing pursuit for so long. I just hope I might be right on this one.

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~ by Ian on June 26, 2009.

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