In the last post we looked at upgrading your existing iPhone with v3.0 of the new OS. This post takes a look at the new hardware that came out with the OS update, the iPhone 3GS.

Apple kept the launch of the 3GS pretty low-key and at first glance it seemed to not really bring too much to the table. After having a first look at the device however it seems it does in fact bring some good reasons to upgrade and we look at some of these here.

Hardware updates

Case/form factor
From the outside, the 3GS looks, feels and is in fact exactly the same as the existing 3G iPhone and if you lie them side by side, screen up there is in fact no difference at all. There is some glossier text on the back of the case but that’s about it! It comes in the same black or white colours and I’m not sure if that’s wise considering the people who will want the new one, will want everyone else to know it!!!

However despite this if we look inside the 3GS then we see a few changes and upgrades have been made.

The main parts
So lets look at the main parts of the iPhone first. The “S” in 3GS is for “Speed” and Apple has made some changes to the processor, RAM and storage to justify this. The CPU is now running at 600MHz, up from 412MHz and the RAM has been increased from 128 to 256MB. Storage sets the 2 models apart in 16GB or 32GB forms, doubled from the 3G 8GB or 16GB options. The graphics chip has been replaced by one that is not only more powerful, but also supports more open standards such as OpenGL ES 2.0 and after looking at some reports on playing games on the 3GS I can confirm that this is certainly an area that is far more slick.

So what does this mean? Well Apple says the 3GS is twice as fast as the 3G but i think what is certainly apparent is that the 3GS is much more slick, jerk free and the load times seemed to be better. Scrolling through lists of contacts, for example, seemed much nicer and the freezing moments typical of the 3G weren’t apparent at all to me.

So all in all a nice evolution rather than a power revolution.

The battery has always come under criticism, especially with business and heavy users and it remains the same in the 3GS. The power consumption is said to be slightly better, especially for music listening and WiFi but I found no difference in everyday usage at all.

Perhaps the most intriguing change is the inclusion of a compass. There is a dedicated compass app and I thought at first that it was GPS based. However the 3GS does in fact contain a real compass that has an API to get readings from it.

At first glance this seems a little odd but then when you use Google maps it suddenly becomes apparent that this brings some cool functionality. For one, Google maps can now rotate so that it is always pointing up which much more natural when navigating. GPS is pretty good but it does get sketchy when you’re stationary as it needs your bearing and speed to determine this.  Its pretty cool and a pretty worthwhile inclusion.

When I saw this the second thought came to mind which is how along with the new navigation API in v3.0, this will give navigation applications something that other PDAs don’t and it’ll be interesting to see how developers use this.

I still can’t find anything on the GPS other than the limited spec on the Apple website but I have been told that there are no change here. The GPS in the 3G was comparable to other phones and should be fine in the new 3GS.

The camera is now up from 2.0 to 3.0 Mega pixels, not ground breaking but it’s getting there. It comes with auto focus and better software but still no flash. However the biggest change here is that you can now start to record video too.  The software that comes with the camera is also far better.

OK, I lied at the beginning of this article because there is in fact one small change to the outside of the iPhone 3GS. Apple has changed the screen coating to use a new oleophobic coating that attracts far less fingerprints and dirt and is easier to clean (with one swipe on your jeans it is said!) if it does fall foul of too many pinkies playing with it.

I didn’t notice this until told, but again I also use a screen protector on my every day iPhone so might not have noticed it as some would. It’s a nice touch however on a phone that has been criticised for this in the past.


So what software changes does the 3GS bring with that you won’t get on with an OS upgrade on the 3G? There are quite a few but the main ones are mentioned below.

Firstly what won’t be apparent until us developers start delivering apps are all the changes that have been made to the iPhone API. So much has happened here and it’s not what I’m talking about on this article but we what i will say is that the new API should continue to see all sorts of innovative applications being available in the App Centre both for the 3G and 3GS phones.

Voice control
Yes it comes with voice control and yes it isn’t very good both at recognition and with the functionality it gives you. If this is your bag then I think you’ll be disappointed but if it isn’t I don’t think you’ll notice or use it at all.

The software app that comes with the compass on the 3GS is nice and smooth, works well but unless you’re navigating your boat or running up mountains (For god sake buy a Rugged compass/GPS!!!) then its novelty value in my humble opinion. Like I said above, I think the compass will drive a lot of software further down the line but as a stand alone thing it’s hardly revolutionary now is it!.

Nike+ integration
Finally Nike+ comes to the iPhone. I used to use my iPod Nano however and quickly stopped using that when the Nike+ USB wristwatch came out so I’m not so sure if people will use the iPhone for this purpose. I guess its one way off showing off you have the latest iPhone down the gym!!!

The rest
There are so many tweaks that I have already talked about in the first part of this blog series. Google maps has already been mentioned earlier in this post and there are all sorts of tweaks I could mention.

Summing up
So the question is, “Is it worth upgrading your iPhone 3G to the 3GS?” I would answer that with a resounding yes if you want a truly slick, evolved phone that is even nicer to use and has some nice new features you won’t find anywhere else. If however like me you’re a business user then you’ll find most of the tweaks that you’ll need will be present on the 3G after you upgrade it’s OS and the choice will be one of desire rather than necessity in my view.

With my free upgrade looming, one thing is for certain. What else is there that competes with this at the moment? I think I will have a nice natural move onto the 3GS when my time comes, whilst I will still have plenty of takers for my spare 3G!!

Next we look at one of the most heated discussion with the new v3.0 software update. The iPhone Internet Tethering feature

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.

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