Wow, Apple sure gave out a lot of preview copies of its new iPhone 3G S. In the past, the only people Apple blessed with demo devices were David Pogue of the NY Times, Steven Levy (formerly of Newsweek, and now with Wired), trusty ole’ Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, and perhaps a reviewer over at Time or the USA Today. But now, a whole cast of characters were able to got their hands on the upcoming iPhone 3G S.
Overall, initial reviews of the new iPhone are overwhelmingly positive, with everyone noticing obvious improvements in speed and battery life. Here’s a quick rundown of all the iPhone 3G S reviews that hit the web earlier today.
There’s a reason why Apple called this the iPhone 3GS for Speed and not the 3GC for “compass” or 3GV for “video recording.” Speed is the central upgrade here, and probably is the single biggest reason you would upgrade to a 3GS from a 3G. And if you’re coming in as a virgin iPhone user, there’s definitely no question: The 3GS is worth an extra $100.
Better yet, the 3G S now captures video. It’s the real deal: sharp, smooth, 30 frames a second. Once again, it’s not quite what you’d get from a proper digital camera or a Flip camcorder—it tends to “blow out” the bright areas — but it’s darned close.
You can’t beat the capacity, either; in theory, the 32-gigabyte iPhone can capture 17 hours of video — just enough for the elementary-school talent show.
Battery Life: On my 3G iPhone, I usually could make it through the day, but it was often a close call, with the battery indicator winding up in the red. By contrast, the new model did much better, never hitting the red zone and rarely requiring interim charging at the office or in the car, even though, because I was testing it, I was pounding it much harder than usual, making more voice calls, playing lots of videos and music, trying numerous apps, constantly downloading email from two accounts, and syncing two calendars over the air.
Apple claims about the same talk time for the new model as on the old, and about the same Web-surfing time over the cellular network. But it says the 3G S gets about 50% more battery life when playing videos or surfing the Internet over Wi-Fi and 25% more time — an astounding 30 hours — for continuous music playback.
In short, the 3GS offers a boatload of improvements on the iPhone 3G with no real downside and the same price. Brand-new iPhone customers should have no hesitation before buying: Considering the huge variety of apps, there’s no better smartphone to buy today.
The 3G S sports a 3-megapixel image sensor and a new, continuous-autofocus lens with an automatic macro mode that can focus as close as ten centimeters. Variable focus introduces the concept of (“sharp images”) to the world of the iPhone. The close-focusing feature is bloody useful for big shots of small items. And it opens the door to porting some of the coolest Google Android Phone software, such as apps that can image the barcode off of a store item and instantly tell you where you can buy it online for cheaper.
It’s definitely a “real” camera, although it still bears the same inescapable limitations as any cameraphone… Other phones might have better lenses but the iPhone 3G S might be one of the best cameraphones on the market. For one simple reason: the Camera app’s “tap to focus” feature.
A spot where we really saw the fruits of Apple’s labors (and one we don’t expect to decline as you pile on data) was actually in the more graphically intense apps for the phone. Comparing a CPU-hungry 3D game like Resident Evil: Degeneration on the 3G S with the same title 3G yielded striking results. The load time was drastically reduced, and rendering and frame rates on the game were noticeably smoother than on the older device (though game speeds stay the same) — a side effect of the more powerful guts we’d hoped to see, but weren’t sure would be so stark. If you’re an avid gamer looking for the device with more power, the difference will be crystal clear: the 3G S obviously flexes in this department.
Video recording on the iPhone 3G S is really quite impressive, and there are two reasons why. For starters, the phone handles pretty fantastic looking VGA video at 30 FPS, which makes for not just passable mobile video, but usable mobile video. The size, clarity, and smoothness of the sequences we shot looked tremendous to our eyes — certainly on par if not outclassing many of the contenders in this space. In our opinion, the 3G S video quality is high enough that we’d consider this a viable stand-in for lower end camcorders or flip cams — if you want to capture your kids at the park but don’t want to come packing a ton of gear, this produces totally reasonable results.
Aside perhaps from the video camera in the 3G S, search is my favorite new feature. It’s a useful way to find people in your address book, songs in your library and applications. I’ve got several screens of icons for apps on my device and finding the one I want can be a chore. Now you can find an app in a blink by typing its name in a search box. And search works within applications such as Mail, Calendar and Notes.
If you don’t own an iPhone yet, and you’ve been waiting for the right model, now is the time to go for it. …. But, if you’re a current iPhone 3G owner, the answer isn’t so clear.