Review: Apple's Speedy iPhone 3GS

Its blazing speed and new features make the 3GS Apple's best iPhone yet, but its App Store, and easy-to-use OS are what set it apart from the Palm Pre and Nokia N97.
One of the iPhone's continued weaknesses is battery life. An AMOLED screen might have been able to provide a significant boost in the iPhone's power management. This isn't to say that the display on the iPhone 3GS is bad. Not at all. It looks as great as ever, and with with the new "smudge protector" coating, it is can be completely cleaned by swiping the iPhone across your pant leg.

Not only could an AMOLED screen have made the iPhone more dazzling, but it also could have made the phone thinner. Most, however, will be pleased with the iPhone's (lack of) thickness.

On the plus side, the iPhone's earpiece speaker and speakerphone are louder. Phone calls, even in a noisy Starbucks, were easier to hear. In testing the speakerphone, I was pleased to discover that you no longer have to set the volume all the way up to hear the call. It is quite audible at a more modest volume. What's more, calls are not just louder, but clearer.

Yes, the iPhone 3GS is a better phone than previous models. In fact, I used a number of different phones over the weekend, including the BlackBerry Storm, Nokia N97, and Nokia E75, and the iPhone was better than all of them with respect to phone call clarity.

Signal availability and strength appeared to be on par with previous models of the iPhone.

In Conclusion

The iPhone 3GS is no doubt the best version of the iPhone yet. Does it present a revolutionary leap compared to the previous models? Not really, but it offers enough to make it an enticing pick.

What's important to note is that the iPhone 3GS is hitting the market amidst intense competition. Since the launch of the original iPhone, nearly every other cell phone maker has debuted a touch-based device that includes user-interface improvements. Just this month, Palm released its comeback device, the Pre, and Nokia has made its 2009 flagship device, the N97, available around the world.

On a feature-for-feature basis, the iPhone 3GS now matches nearly all the closest competing models. Where it excels is its tight integration with iTunes, some Google services, the App Store, and the (still) easy-to-use operating system.

Are the new features enough to convince the iPhone faithful to upgrade as well as create new converts? Opening weekend sales over one million units appear to suggest that they are.

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