Faster download speeds
Talk and get data simultaneously
New, lower price
Support for third-party applications
Capacity is somewhat low
Strained battery life
Still a 2-megapixel camera
Limited GPS functionality
Still exclusive to AT&T
US$199 – 8GB
US$299 – 16GB
Looking at the iPhone 3G, perhaps you wouldn’t think it’s too different from its predecessor. But looks can be deceiving. And in the case of the iPhone 3G, they’re very deceiving indeed: the iPhone 3G is a solid jump past the first-generation iPhone.
From its faster Internet connection to its support for GPS and third-party applications to its lower price, the iPhone 3G looks to be a major upgrade.
Many things about the iPhone 3G are the same: a 2-year contract with AT&T (subsidized upgrades are available to all iPhone owners and new AT&T customers, as well as select other customers), support for all the same widgets and firmware features, the terrific multi-touch screen, and intelligent sensors that determine whether the phone is near your head and shuts off the screen and the one that knows whether the phone is oriented horizontally or vertically.
And while those familiar features are nice, the iPhone 3G’s changes should really make the device shine.
A Good Phone Gets A Little Better
The phone features of the original iPhone didn’t leave too many people complaining (though it's still missing voice dialing, a feature I'd like). Visual Voicemail felt like a breakthrough (though perhaps it wasn’t quite as useful as its hype would have suggested) and features such as three-way calling were a snap to use. While call quality was decent, more advanced cell phone features such as MMS messaging or certain Bluetooth features were not available.
The phone features on the iPhone 3G have all the same strengths and even add one: improved call quality. Because the iPhone 3G uses the 3G phone network which carries more data faster, the call quality when connected to a 3G network is superior - it's noticeably sharper and clearer on both ends of the call.
The phone still doesn’t have MMS messaging – a major failing for a device so closely tied to the Internet and media features – but that may be coming from third-party developers.
A Terrific Personal Media Player
When the original iPhone debuted, it was probably the best music player/phone on the market. And those features haven’t changed: the phone still offers an excellent MP3 player experience, complete with the CoverFlow interface that wowed many early users and the super-fast iTunes WiFi Music Store.
Probably the greatest music-related annoyance about the original iPhone – its recessed headphone jack that made most headphones incompatible and forced users to buy adapters – has been fixed. The jack on the iPhone 3G is flush, meaning you can just go back to your favorite headphones.
On the video side, the iPhone 3G is still a great mobile movie player, too. This model offers the same screen size, resolution, and widescreen orientation for movies, TV shows, and YouTube.
The major thing I would have liked to see improved when it comes to media would have been greater storage capacity. Sure, 16GB is a decent amount of storage for music alone, but when you add in movies and third-party programs and games (more on that soon), it fills up quickly. Hopefully iPhones with more capacity are in the offing.
Internet That’s Twice as Fast
One of the major flaws of the first-generation iPhone, especially for a device touted so heavily as an Internet appliance, was its slow EDGE network connection. Apple blamed the need for the slower EDGE connection on the strain 3G connections place on batteries (and battery life isn’t exactly the first iPhone’s strong suit as it is).
Apparently that issue’s been solved, because as the name would indicate, the iPhone 3G sports a 3G Internet connection that Apple claims is twice as fast as the EDGE connection (the iPhone 3G still uses EDGE in areas where 3G connections aren’t available).
The faster connection will be much appreciated, especially since the iPhone still gives users the full Internet, not a dumbed-down “mobile web.”
Along with the 3G connection comes another new feature: the ability to talk and download data at the same time. The EDGE network only supports making a call or using the Internet, not both simultaneously. The higher-capacity 3G connection can do both – no more needing to hang up to check your email.
One slight annoyance that comes from using 3G is that AT&T's coverage for that network is spottier than for EDGE. This means that in some places where I get fine EDGE coverage, I have little or no 3G service. The iPhone can switch between the two , but there's no automatic failover from 3G to EDGE, which would be nice.
Another addition to the iPhone 3G’s data services is the support for pushing calendar and address book content directly to the phone through Microsoft Exchange and Apple’s Mobile Me (nee .Mac). This is a big change and will likely make the iPhone a viable tool for many businesses, putting it in direct competition with the Blackberry and the Treo.
A small note, but a very welcome on in my life: Apple has vastly improved the process for deleting more than one email at a time from the phone. What used to be a hassle is now a snap - this is a minor improvement, but one that's going to vastly enhance my enjoyment of the device.
Introducing The App Store
The other major data/Internet change ushered in with the iPhone 3G is the App Store. This is an online store, much like iTunes, that makes third-party programs and games available for purchase and download (over a wireless connection or from the desktop) to iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod touch users running the iPhone 2.0 firmware.
The original iPhone was locked down tightly, with Apple constantly wrestling with developers who wanted to install programs. Apple has now embraced them with the App Store. Programs will run US$0.99 to $999, though most are under $10 and many free.