Disclaimer: This post is entirely my personal opinion. I also own an HTC T-Mobile G1, which runs Google’s Android operating system.
I picked up the new iPhone 3G S this Friday and I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts:
– The built-in video camera is very cool. I expect a corresponding spike in home videos. For example, here’s my cat Ozzie playing with a toy:
More seriously, within about five years, for any group of 10 or more people, at least a few will have a video camera built into their phone. That’s a very powerful trend in a lot of ways.
– I tend to agree with Michael Arrington that no one with an iPhone 3GS needs a Flip video camera now. Cisco bought Pure Digital Technologies, the makers of the Flip, for almost $600 million dollars about three months ago. That might prove to be good timing on Pure Digital’s part.
– Lots of small changes in OS 3.0 are quite nice, such as showing outgoing vs. incoming calls in the “Recents” list.
– Apple’s iPhone philosophy has always seemed to me to be about simplicity. The single button forced a constrained elegance on the iPhone’s interface. In providing some newer features, the iPhone 3G S feels less like an iPhone and more like someone shoveled in a lot of features. I didn’t really need copy/paste, and it seems to pop up at random inconvenient times: double-tap a word if you’re not in the browser; in the browser, hold your finger on some text. Except the copy handles don’t seem to show up on the web pages I want, and sometimes unwanted copy handles appear when I’m just scrolling with my finger.
– The iPhone 3GS is not the huge leap that the iPhone or the iPhone->iPhone 3G was. I do think that leaves some opportunities for Android, Palm, and other competitors.
– Battery life has been worse so far for me. I’ve been using the phone more and it’s only been a few days, so I’m not going to jump to conclusions on this yet. Apple also recommends that you let the phone run down completely at least once a month, and I haven’t done that yet. I expect that battery life will be better for most people.
– Not a great name; the “GS” part makes me think of Ghostscript. A few days ago, I would have said that the “iPhone Video” is a much better name, but it’s true that the speed bump is more noticeable than the video. I still think Apple could have come up with a better name than “iPhone 3G S” though. I’m sure someone who knows about Mercedes Benz cars knows the difference between the E class, the SLK class, or the GL 420 CDI, but most normal people don’t know what a bunch of letters and numbers mean.
– On my previous iPhone (the 3G), the metal band around the front matched smoothly with the black plastic back. On the new iPhone 3GS, I can feel the seam where the band meets the plastic. On the front of the phone, when I flick my finger off the glass, I can feel the seam of the metal band there too.
– In my personal opinion, someone miscalculated in charging iPhone 3G owners $200 extra to upgrade. New iPhone 3G S customers pay $199 (16GB) or $299 (32GB); many early adopters would have to pay $399 (16GB) or $499 (32GB) to upgrade. The CPU speed bump and video abilities aren’t enough to counteract what many early adopters will perceive as a bit of a slap in the face. Last year, the line for the iPhone 3G at Valley Fair stretched outside the building most of the day. When I went to get my iPhone 3G S on the release day at Valley Fair this year, there was no line at all.
And remember that early adopters often give their previous phones to family members. In my case, two other relatives are taking our older iPhone 3G phones and moving from a different carrier to AT&T. By charging early adopters more, AT&T ensures that more people will hang on to their old phones instead giving them to other people, many of whom would then become AT&T/iPhone customers. By limiting the “trickle down” effect as older iPhones go to family members, AT&T is missing a chance to gain more marketshare by acquiring additional new customers.
I’ll be interested to see how Apple and AT&T react. AT&T has already allowed some (but not all) iPhone 3G owners to upgrade without paying an “early adopter penalty.” And Apple can move quickly and decisively when needed–remember the $200 iPhone price drop in 2007 just a short time after the iPhone was released? Of course, it’s possible that penalizing early adopters is all part of some four-dimensional chess game that Apple is playing. If Apple decides to terminate its exclusive U.S. deal with AT&T in a year or so, maybe it didn’t want a bunch of people signing up for two-year contracts this time around? Right now I’m puzzled by what appears to me to be a misstep, but the folks at Apple are smart, so I’d be willing to believe that Apple has good reasons for what they’re doing.
Should you upgrade? That’s something only you can answer. If you still have a non-smartphone or an original iPhone, it’s probably worth it. If you have an iPhone 3G (especially if you’re not eligible for the discounted upgrade yet), you might try OS 3.0 and see if that’s enough. I decided to get the 3G S and I’m glad that I did. I fill all sorts of idle moments with surfing, tweeting, and checking my mail. The iPhone 3G S makes all those activities much faster and more pleasurable. Overall I’m quite happy with my iPhone 3G S.