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6/10/2009
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Apple iPhone 3G S Dilemma: To Upgrade Or Not?

The iPhone 3G S has some sweet new features (faster processor, video, more memory) leaving existing iPhone customers with a tough decision: Upgrade now, or stand pat?

Apple iPhone 3G S
(click image for larger view)
Apple iPhone 3G S

Apple's iPhone 3G S, the latest generation of the iPhone, has several new and attractive features, but nothing revolutionary. And money's scarce for everyone. If you're an existing iPhone user, should you upgrade, or should you sit this one out?

It's a tough decision. When I have a tough decision, I like to make a list of pros and cons. So let's get a clean legal pad, sharpen our No. 2 pencils, and get to work.

Reasons To Upgrade

The iPhone 3G S is faster: The most compelling feature of the new iPhone is speed. The unit has a faster processor and speeds graphics through hardware support for OpenGL ES 2.0. Apple says the iPhone 3G S operates two to three times faster than the first- and second-generation iPhone hardware.

Web pages often load slowly on the iPhone 3G. Processor speed is to blame for that, rather than network performance. The 3G network is plenty fast enough to download pages in reasonable time; it's the browser that takes a while to figure out how to render those pages.

More memory: The two new models hold 16 GB ($199) and 32 GB ($299), compared with 8 GB and 16 GB for the existing iPhone 3G. And you'll need all that new memory for ...

The improved camera: The iPhone 3G camera supports video capture. All that video will eat up a lot of storage fast. The camera also supports 3-megapixel images, compared with 2-megapixels shots for the existing iPhone camera.

The onboard compass: The old iPhone 3G knows where you are, thanks to its onboard GPS. The new 3G S knows which direction you're facing, thanks to its onboard compass. The compass makes the onboard Google Maps application smarter; it now positions itself to match the same direction you're facing. We'll see a lot more interesting apps that take advantage of that compass.

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