Archive for June 20, 2009

iPhone 3G S: First, and mostly positive, impressions

Apple iPhone 3G S Consumer Reports Review cell smart phone

The new Apple iPhone 3G S.
[ Photo courtesy of Apple ]

Based on a few hours of use, the new iPhone 3G S lives up to its promise—or it does, at least, once it’s actually up and running.

In a seeming rerun of last year’s problems with the iPhone 3G, eager new iPhone 3G S owners have been plagued by activation problems today—the phone’s first day of sale.

We succeeded in buying (at retail, like any other consumer) three 3G Ss by 10 am this morning. As of 4:30 pm, we’d succeeded in activating only two of the three. The screens of the remaining reads that it’s “Waiting for activation,” which “…may take some time.” Indeed. Some iPhone 3G S owners have been told the wait may be as long as 48 hours, according to Apple Insider.

Here’s what we have observed so far in our labs:

The display seems largely unchanged. Which is to say it’s better than fine. Contrast appeared to be slightly higher than on earlier iPhone models, we thought, but the difference was modest even in side-by-side comparison. While the screen is claimed to be more resistant to oily smears, due to a special coating, there wasn’t a noticeable difference in smudge resistance between the 3G and 3G S screens in a grueling, selfless "Happy Meal" test—in which we ate fries and then ran our fingers across the screens.

Claims to higher speed appear to stand up. We measured (using the stopwatch of an iPod Touch and with 3G network strength at a full five bars) the times to fully load some popular and fairly demanding Web home pages—including the New York Times, BBC, and TMZ—on a 3G and a 3G S. All loaded at least 50 percent more quickly on the 3G S, saving at least nine seconds of load time, and some met and even exceeded the claim that the 3G S is up to twice as fast as its predecessor, saving 15 seconds or more of load time—which actually feels like quite a big difference.

Voice control seems to work, more or less. This feature, a first for an iPhone, worked fine for me. Holding down the Home button summons the Voice Command interface. I then spoke the word “home,” and the phone summoned my home number and dialed it flawlessly.

There were a few glitches. One of our testers who speaks in an accented voice had to repeat some commands before the phone understood them. When I spoke the phrase “I’m yours,” it began dialing the number of a colleague with whom I am not romantically involved. (FYI, it did the same when I tried a ruder variation of the phrase with the opposite sentiment.)

Video gets an early thumbs up. Another first for an iPhone, you activate this by pressing a movie-camera icon on the bottom right of the camera-viewfinder screen. A red button along the bottom of the viewfinder begins to flash; press it once and recording begins. Videos looked sharp and well-exposed, though we did not compare them to those from other cell phones, or view them anywhere except on the iPhone screen.

I’ll continue to use this new iPhone over the weekend, and will send out my findings on Twitter—and gather them into further blogs next week.

New iPhone 3G users: Have you activated your new phone yet? If so, share your first impressions. – Mike Gikas

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