Following the huge success of the first iPhone, Apple decided to raise the stakes a little bit and upgrade its flagship smartphone. In fact, the decision was more of a 'must', as the old iPhone was falling behind technologically. Rivals such as Nokia and HTC already had most of their high-end devices with full HSDPA support, which is one of the most important features that a smartphone should include these days. Besides, another image boost couldn't hurt the Cupertino-based company. Faithful to its conservative ways, but also determined to keep the interest of the market up high, Apple decided to keep the name of the old but successful smartphone, but add a small abbreviation – 3G. This is how the new iPhone 3G was born, in a moment when Apple's sales for the EDGE version of the iPhone were still high. Thanks to the guys over at PureMobile
, we had the chance to test iPhone 3G and see how much the basic version of the smartphone had been improved.
Announced in June 2008, iPhone 3G
was made available on the market one month later, in July 2008. The smartphone can be acquired for about US$700, but pricing can vary, depending on location or plan. There are two colors available on the market: Black and White. Design
Little has been changed in terms of design compared to the iPhone 2G. The iPhone 3G has grown a little bit in size, about 1mm (115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3mm), but that's barely perceptible. Even though it's a little bit bigger, the 3G version is 2g lighter than its predecessor (133g including battery). I think this is because of the back cover of the phone, which is now made of light plastic. The same metallic frame encircles the smartphone's huge display. The rounded edges and the aerodynamic shape of the phone feel great to the touch. The back hood is made of a very well-polished plastic that is a real fingerprint magnet. Still, if you own the White version of the phone, that won't be noticed too much. The front part is almost entirely seized by the incredible 3.5-inch TFT touchscreen.
The screen is protected against scratches by a durable glass, which is barely noticeable. Above the display there's a silver grilled earphone speaker, while below you'll notice the 'famous' Home button. The left side of the phone features a dual-volume key and a special slide key that turns the device on Silent profile or General. On the bottom, I have noticed the two new screws that will probably give Apple's support people faster access to the insides of the smartphone. Otherwise it's all the same; the specific proprietary iPhone port set between the loudspeaker, to the left, and the mouthspeaker, on the right. On top of the handset, from right to left: Power button, SIM card tray and 3.5mm jack port. The SIM card tray can now be easily opened, as the sales package contains a special metallic SIM removal. The right side of the iPhone 3G has been left free. The 2-megapixel camera on the back of the phone lacks any flash or video capabilities, but it seems to be well protected by a special glass. Of course, the phone cannot be opened, unless you want to lose the warranty, which is not advisable.
iPhone 3G seems to be one very sturdy smartphone, even though it doesn't use so many metallic compounds in its construction. The stylish plastic on the back assures somewhat a much better grip than in the case of its predecessor. Still, I have found one of the flaws that people have been complaining about since the launch of the first version of the iPhone. Even though some imply that it may be a software problem, I still think that it's a hardware-related one. The issue I have encountered is that my testing iPhone 3G has remained stuck in Headphones mode. That could have occurred for various reasons such as: spilled water, use of other headphones than the proprietary ones that come in the sales package or simply ... fate. I have searched the Internet for a solution to this flaw and found a couple that worked for most of those who have encountered the same problem. But first things first, so let's see how this could happen.
Well, Apple's iPhone 3G features a small switch in the deep 3.5mm port jack, which actually detects when headphones are plugged in. The moment you got dirt into the port, the switch can remain blocked, thus rendering you the impossibility
to talk on the phone unless you use the headphones or the speaker. Basically, you won't hear the phone's sounds, iPod music and so on. People who have experienced the problem managed to solve it by Resetting the phone's settings or by simply Rebooting it. Others had to plug the headphones into the jack port numerous times, until the switch unblocked itself. Still, the best way to solve this is to clean the 3.5mm port from the debris by blowing some air into the socket. You can also use a cotton swap to do that, but if you use any kind of fluid you might void your warranty.
For me none of the above solutions worked, except for the latter. With the help of a cotton swap I cleaned the socket very easily and everything came back to normal, like nothing had happened. I consider myself pretty lucky, as I have heard that many other users usually have to go to an Apple Store and replace their iPhone 3G. The good thing is that Apple already knows about this flaw and is willing to replace your unit fast, if none of the above solutions work. What I think it should help a bit would be a setting that would enable users to manually deactivate the Headphones mode. While this won't actually unblock the sensor switch in the port, it could make your iPhone work normally until you take it to an Apple support centre. Display and Camera
iPhone 3G embeds an amazing 3.5-inch HVGA capacitative touchscreen that supports 16 Million colors and a resolution of 320x480 pixels, and which features lots of functions such as: multi-touch input method, accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate, proximity sensor for auto turn-off and scratch-resistant surface. As expected, the quality of the display is not lower than its predecessor’s, which means that Apple has launched another device that features the best mobile display on the market. The screen offers marvelous-quality viewing and perfect outdoor eligibility. Thanks to the eye-candy interface, iPhone 3G is second to none in terms of the level of sophistication. The only drawback I have noticed is the fact that the accelerometer function works only with a few applications: Internet browser, Youtube player, iPod).
Faithful to its obsession for low power consumption policy, Apple introduced safety precautions that would limit the energy power consumption of the battery. The first one is the proximity sensor, which shuts off the display and touchscreen when the iPhone is brought near the face during a call. This is also done to prevent inadvertent inputs from the user's face and ears. The second precaution consists of an ambient light sensor, which adjusts the display brightness. The last one comes in the form of a hardware piece, namely A-GPS, which is used for faster localization, thus limiting the time that the GPS receiver takes to pinpoint your location.
The first-generation iPhone wasn't recognized for its competitive camera, as it seems this hasn't been one of the Apple's priorities. I wasn't expecting too many improvements in the 3G version, but I was expecting SOME. Well, I haven't found any except that the quality of the pictures is a little bit better now. The 2-megapixel camera still doesn't feature any autofocus, flash or video capabilities. It doesn't even have an interface or some settings that you can take advantage of. You just activate it and click the on-screen key to capture the pictures, which are saved pretty fast in the Photo gallery and can also be accessed from the camera preview window. Otherwise, there's noting really to discuss about the camera, but check out the samples below to make an impression of its capabilities. Menu and Software
The iPhone 3G runs on the so called 'iPhone OS', which relies on a basic variant of Mac OS X. The iPhone OS includes the software component "Core Animation" from Mac OS X v10.5, which, together with the PowerVR MBX 3D hardware, is responsible for the interface's smooth animations. The operating system fills in little under 1 GB of the device's storage space, which is quite a bit of information. The handset can be managed with iTunes version 7.3 or later, which is compatible with Mac OS X version 10.4.10 or later, and 32-bit or 64-bit Windows XP or Vista. Apple provides free updates to the iPhone's operating system through iTunes, in a similar fashion to the way that iPods are updated. Security patches, as well as new and improved features, are released this way.
The interface of the iPhone 3G hasn't changed too much in terms of looks, compared to its EDGE predecessor. By default, the Homescreen of the smartphone contains 15 icons and 1 free slot for a third-party application. These icons are opening various functions of the phone: SMS, Calendar, Photos, Camera, YouTube, Stocks, Maps, Weather, Clock, Calculator, Notes, Settings, iTunes, AppStore and Contacts. At the base of the Homescreen there's a locked toolbar that features four icons: Phone, Mail, Safari (browser) and iPod.
Still, there are some new features that have been introduced lately and which come in handy for users who like to customize their mobile desktop. iPhone 3G's Homescreen can be configured the way you want, but default icons cannot be changed, only moved between themselves. The interface now features 9 additional desktops that can be filled the way you see fit, and which are accessible by swiping the Homescreen to the left or right. In fact, the whole interface of the smartphone is based on gesture interaction. Swipe, pinch, scroll, touch, multi-touch are gestures that have become common thanks to Apple's innovative user-interface.
Another newly introduced feature is the possibility of deleting the third-party applications that you have previously installed directly from the Homescreen. You only need to keep the specific icon pressed for 3-4 seconds and an X will appear in the left upper corner, which will allow you remove it. The phone function supports conference, call merger, call waiting, caller ID. The phonebook contacts can now be selected in bulk, and the search function works perfectly. There are also some things that are missing, some of them being absolutely necessary for smartphone users. iPhone 3G doesn't feature an office document editor, copy/paste function, Java emulator, and the Safari browser doesn't support Flash. Additional applications can be installed through the famous App Store, but the big letdown is the fact that apps that are not free don't have demo or trial versions. Basically, you have to pay for an application that you might not like afterwards.
All in all, even with all that's missing, iPhone's 3G interface and operating system are the most snappy and eye-candy. Only HTC's TouchFLO 3D can be compared to iPhone's interface in terms of looks, but the Taiwanese manufacturer has big issues when it comes to performance. Communications
iPhone 3G takes advantage of the HSDPA 3.6 Mbps technology, which is one of the main reasons Apple decided to upgrade its first-generation iPhone. Unfortunately, this cannot be compared with HTC's latest devices that mostly feature HSDPA 7.2Mbps and HSUPA. Besides HSDPA technology, as a much cheaper choice, one can opt for EDGE Class 10 connectivity, but data transfer speeds will be considerably lower.
You can see the tests on 3G network, as well as EDGE and GPRS: 1593 Kbit/s download and 320 Kbit/s upload for HSDPA; 777 Kbit/s download and 296 Kbit/s upload for EDGE; 738 Kbit/s download and 317 Kbit/s upload for GPRS. That might be almost unbelievable, but the speed is way above most of HTC's devices, only Nokia offering comparable performance or better.
Furthermore, the device features Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g technology, Bluetooth v2.0, but no A2DP or data transfer support, and miniUSB 2.0. iPhone 3G also includes a GPS receiver with A-GPS support, but lacks the software for it, so you'll be stuck with Google Maps. Either way, the device includes a wide range of connectivity options, most of these being wireless (Wi-Fi, HSDPA, aGPS).
Safari is the iPhone's native web browser, and it displays pages similar to its Mac OS X counterpart. Web pages may be viewed in portrait or landscape mode and the handset supports automatic zooming by using the pinch gesture or by double-tapping text or images. It also supports SVG, CSS, HTML Canvas, and Bonjour.
In terms of messaging the smartphone continues to NOT support MMS. User will be able to successfully use SMS texting and email. Multiple email accounts can be set and, as something new, Apple introduced Push email, which is now perfectly compatible with the iPhone. Again, bulk selection is possible in case you want to delete more messages from the Inbox. Messaging works pretty good and the interface is simple and user friendly.
In terms of telephony, iPhone 3G (GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900; HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100) is definitely one of the best phones on the market. In-call sound is perfectly clear and very loud, so you won't have any problems talking in crowded areas.Processor and Memory
iPhone 3G is powered by a Samsung 620 MHz chipset, which seems to have been underclocked to 412 Mhz. The device also features a dedicated graphics chip (6 PowerVR MBX Lite 3D). While, I have been impressed by the speed of the phone compared to its main Nokia, HTC and Google rivals, it is still not the perfect handset in terms of power. You will still experience slight lags while browsing the Internet or the menus. The things that are working flawlessly are games, movies and music.
The smartphone features 16GB of flash memory and 128MB DRAM. Obviously, there's no slot for memory card and we probably won't even see such a thing embedded into an Apple-made device, as long as the company doesn't come up with a proprietary memory card.Multimedia
The multimedia part of the iPhone 3G is handled pretty much like the iPod's. The interface is very simple and offers users the possibility of sorting their music files by songs, artists, albums, videos, playlists, genres, composers, podcasts, audiobooks, and compilations.
The music player can be used in landscape mode and features an Equalizer, which is accessible from the Settings menu. The phone can play movies in wide-screen mode, as well as in full screen (double-tap to change between modes). The sales package contains stereo wired headsets, which are pretty good.
Sound quality is exceptional, regardless of the headphones you use. The only drawback I have to mention is the lack of Radio FM and stereo Bluetooth headset compatibility. Battery
iPhone 3G is powered by a 1400 mAh Li-Polymer, which is rechargeable, but not replaceable. If the battery dies or is simply defective you'll have to get your iPhone replaced at the nearest Apple Store. The iPhone 3G's battery is stated to be capable of providing up to 7 hours of video, 6 hours of web browsing on Wi-Fi or 5 on 3G, 10 hours of 2G talk time, or 5 on 3G, 24 hours of music, or 300 hours of standby. What I got was 4 days and 6 hours of use, with 1 hour of talk time, 30 MB of data traffic and 3 hours of music and video playback, as well as gameplay. This is quite a 'generous' result, which places Apple's iPhone almost on top of the low energy consumer smartphones.Impressions
Apple managed to successfully update their first-generation smartphone and increase their income in the handset market. I was pleasantly surprised by the iPhone 3G and would definitely use one as a secondary phone. It looks and feels like the perfect phone, even though it misses some features that even common handsets include. The Good
The most 'entertaining' trait of the smartphone is definitely the eye-candy interface and multitouch-gesture control system that it comes with. HSDPA connectivity is also another good addition to the phone, together with the high-quality battery and design finishes. Even though it's been a while since the first iPhone has been launched, no other handset manufacturer managed to come so close to the 'perfect phone' like Apple did with its device. The Bad
There are some issues with the phone that cannot be missed, such as: no support for A2DP Bluetooth and data transfer, no support for video-calls, 3.5mm jack port issues, lack of Java and Flash for Safari browser, no office document editor, as well as low-quality camera. Still, I believe that all these missing features or hardware issues can be easily solved, if not for Apple's conservative attitude. Sales package
iPhone 3G 16GB handset
Small folding AC adapter with USB input
USB charging cable
Earbuds / microphone
SIM removal clip