Tuesday, June 23, 2009

iPhone 3G S - Initial Feelings

Normally, my review would consist of 3 to 4 parts. The first part being the specs, the unpacking, my initial feelings, ease of use, etc. The second part would consist of a few weeks to a month's usage listing such things as issues, complaints and life integration. Finally, I'd compile everything into a final review which usually happens over several months. However, seeing as how much of the iPhone 3G is the iPod Touch, I feel that I already have several months living with the device. Thinking about it though, the iPod Touch may actually be more like the 3G S due to Nike+ support on the iPod and not on the 3G; but the iPod Touch doesn't have a compass so it's in-between 3G and 3G S.

A quick explanation; the 'G' in 3G refers to the network generation the model is built for. The original 2G only ran on the EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) network which is slow. The 3G model runs on the HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) and EDGE networks. While 3G S works on HSDPA and EDGE, the S is an upgrade in HSDPA's speed. Jokingly, S is for Speed!

Ok! Lets dive in!

First, the basics. While the iPhone 3G S and iPhone 3G (which I haven't had) look the same, the 3G S is an upgrade in many ways. Internally, Apple has upgraded everything and added stuff too. First is the capacity. The largest 2G and 3G maxted out at 16 GigaBytes (GB) of storage for your music/videos/apps. The 3G S starts at 16 GB and comes with a 32 GB counterpart. Next is the CPU. Upgraded to a 600MHz ARM 11 from a 412MHz ARM 11 (3G), you'll be able to process things just a little bit faster. You'll notice this when starting apps such as camera and looking up contacts. These tasks run smoother with the upgrade to 256 MegaBytes (MB) of Random Access Memory (RAM) as oppossed to 128 MB. The addition of recording movies comes from the upgrades that include the camera from 2.0 MegaPixel (MP) to 3.0 MP and graphics system from OpenGL ES 1.1 to OpenGL ES 2.0.

"'S' is for Speed."

The next upgrade comes in the form of the 'S' in 3G S. Putting a 'VTEC' sticker on a Honda doesn't give the motor an extra 15HP (horsepower) and extra 1000 RPMs (revolutions per minute), so putting an 'S' on a 3G doesn't give it 7.2 Mbps (Megabits per second) from 3.6 Mbps. But that's EXACTLY what the 'S' stands for. AT&T uses the EDGE system for it's 2G network and HSDPA for it's 3G network. AT&T's HSDPA can run at 3.6 Mbps downlink which is on par with many DSL networks but the upgrade means that the the 3G S network is capable of 7.2 Mbps. For those of you who don't pay attention most cable companies that provide cable internet usually provide an average datarate at 7 Mbps. That's quick enough for most people so you can imagine running that fast on a mobile device. HSDPA technology is capable of running near 14.4 Mbps. The next upgrade is to the BlueTooth module from 2.0 to 2.1 and still has Enhanced Data Rate (EDR). With all these new upgrades you would think that the battery life would drop, so Apple upgraded the battery. You should be able to get about 10 hours of video, 30 hours of audio, 9 hours of WiFi data, 12 hours on EDGE, and 5 hours on 3G. Not bad at all.

New features to the 3G S include a magnetic compass with compass app, an oil/water resistant finish, voice command support and has Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) support, though AT&T doesn't support MMS on the iPhone yet. The 3G S also comes with iPhone OS 3.0 pre-installed, which is nice as you can now auto-connect to a WiFi network when in range as well as use various other features.

What is nice is that I now only carry one device as opposed to carrying a cell phone and a media player, though the iPhone is about the same dimensions as having my Motorola Q9m and the iPod Touch screen-to-screen in my pocket. Integration has its problems though. I used my iPod Touch a lot; mostly playing solitaire but still that chews through the battery. Having a cell phone separate from my iPod was nice becuase I could drain the battery on the iPod but then I could still make a long call/multiple calls without managing my playtime.


The iPhone comes in a nice little black box. Inside is the phone, a USB cable, wall socket power USB adapter, headphones with inline music control, screen cleaner cloth and documentation. Everything is done in the usual Apple style; clean and well laid out. I picked up the usual assortment of accesories for the phone as well. I bought a really tough looking OtterBox Defender case, AT&T car charger and AppleCare Protection Plan. The case is nice. It has a 2 piece hard plastic hardcase with plastic window that the phone sits in then has a thick silicon skin that surrounds the hardcase. It makes the phone overall larger than it is but considering the amount of protection it should provide makes it nice. The down side is that the edge of the screen is blocked by the hardcase. For example when you try to move apps to a different page the trigger to move to the next page is covered by the edge of the case. Not that big of a deal. Defender Case


The iPhone is great! If you haven't used either an iPhone or iPod Touch then you haven't used the most user freindly 'smart' phone/internet media device available. I've had regular phones and another smart phone. The smart phone (Moto Q9m) was easy to use but was Windows and menu based. Which means that I had to hit start then find my app. What I like is that I had a ton of apps for the iPod Touch, it would have been a real turn off if I had to go back and rebuy them; but I didn't. I just synced my iPod to my laptop then hooked the iPhone up and put the apps on it! No problems at all.The iPhone puts the app on a 'page.' There are 16 apps per page but then there are 4 apps at the bottom that don't move when you change pages. You flip through the pages to find the app your looking for. This is great but when you have like 100 apps you'll have to flip though 7 pages to find the one you want. It can get overwelming quickly.

Anyway, the day I got it I used it's GPS and map app to get me down to Roanoke, VA. This is pretty easy as I normally just go down I-77 but I had to go to PA first to see my Dad and I was forced to take a whole different route. I remember the route since I've taken it twice a year since I was born to go to WV from VA. But as I was hauling down Route 19 (about 3/5 there) I looked at the phone and noticed that I had just missed a turn! I'm thinking to myself, "where are you taking me? We still have like another hour till we get to I-70!" The iPhone was telling me to go down Route 60. So I make the U-turn and head back. As I pull onto 60 I see where it turns into 2 lane... I'm thinking "you'd better be right. If there is traffic this is gonna suck... But I'll trust you..." So I did. After seeing that the road turns into SUPER twisty turny back roads I knew this thing was doing me right.

It took me down through 60 to an empty I-64 which isn't the way my parents took me to WV as a kid but it was SOOO worth it! I even dropped a pin as a point of interest so I could go back to drive that Route again! Good phone, you know what I like, and how I like it ;)

As I'm traveling, Maps is constantly updating my GPS location and comparing that to the database and updates the location on the map. Depending on how close you drop in on the map the faster Maps has to pull a new map image. This is a good test on several levels. One is how fast the network is, how fast the phone can process the images and update everything, and finally the battery life. When I was on Route 60 I was in EDGE coverage, pushing about 50 MPH and I had the map really close in. The phone was updating the image constantly but was, minus one incident, keeping up; and so was the network. At one point I did lose service but it wasn't very long till it came back. However, during the whole time I chewed through the battery, even though I was hooked to the car charger. Becuase I was so close in on the map, the phone was constantly retrieving data. If I had backed out the map zoom then I wouldn't have used so much battery life. I used around 32 MB on AT&T during the trip one way not bad. Not like it matters, I have unlimited data anyway..

Texting or SMS (Short Message Service) is great. The iPhone organizes the conversations you have with various people. Basically each SMS you receive from a number is put into an individual file and organized by time. You see the entire conversation as if it were an IM in iChat. Your message is in a green bubble on the right and their message is a white bubble on the left. Its really nice when you are texting with say 4 different people and want to go back and look at what you put earlier.

Being on Twitter I use the TwitterFon app a ton! And actually, I like it more then going to the Twitter webpage. With the app I know when I have a mention or message. The Facebook app needs a few things added to it. Loopt is cool too. My buddy is on Loopt as well. He met me in Marieta on my way home which it was funny watching Loopt update constantly seeing his and my marker getting closer faster and faster. I know I was booking about 110 at one point before I decided I should be good.

The network.

I'm going to create a separate post for comparing Verizon to AT&T but I'll put it here too.

I've had various phones from Verizon for around 7 years. The network is good, I would have probably stayed with Verizon if they had the iPhone but I REALLY wanted an iPhone so I moved to AT&T. I had covage in the places I visit and better coverage in the places I frequent, except one; my Mom's house. When I was living with her, my room was in the basement. That ment that I RARELY would get a call or make a call on my cell though I could get a text message. Being up stairs wasn't much better. If I wanted to have a decent convorsation then I had to go outside or use the landline. When I got there last weekend the first thing I did was grab my Moto Q9m and my iPhone and compare the signal levels. Upstairs the Q had 1 bar but the iPhone had full signal. Then to really test it out I went downstairs. 3 bars for the iPhone and no bars for the Q... AT&T is the clear winner here!

That's it for now. I'll post up what its like to live with it such as ACTUAL battery life etc.


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