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  • The iPhone 3GS Report: A Peeve or Two

    July 20th, 2009

    You probably know my history with the iPhone, I presume. Well, at least those of you who are regular readers. I got my first in January, 2008, a review sample from Apple. After spending four weeks with that unit, and on the day I returned it, I went over to the nearest AT&T factory store and bought one.

    The iPhone 3G was an easy acquisition. I paid $299 for the 16GB version, and sold the original model for nearly that much. I presume someone probably unlocked it and sent it overseas, but it was a perfectly legal sale, and I got paid within three days after shipping it on to the dealer in question.

    I acquired the iPhone 3GS simply because AT&T liberalized the upgrade policy to allow customers who bought their iPhones 11 months earlier to obtain the new model for the standard price, no penalty. How could I refuse?

    The most notable difference is based on the 3.0 software, so it wasn’t so different from the 3G. But the extra features are pretty well known by now, such as the three megapixel camera, auto focus, camcorder capability, voice command, and, if you care, the compass. The faster processor and the increase in built-in RAM from 128MB to 256MB means that apps load noticeably faster. Switching from one to the other feels snappier, and my usual lineup of Web pages appear to load almost as fast as on my MacBook Pro. That assumes, of course, that the unit is connected to my Wi-Fi network. AT&T hasn’t expanded the capabilities of its 3G setup here in Arizona so far, which means that performance on their network is otherwise identical.

    Although this is a subjective evaluation, it seems the tiny built-in speakers player louder with a slightly more robust sound than the previous model, but I’m not able to compare the quality to the 3G, which is now in the hands of its new owner. Photos are sharper, and, predictably, blow up larger on my 30-inch display without showing nasty artifacts. I haven’t taken more than a couple of movies, to see how it fares, so I’m not about to deliver a detailed review. But the image quality certainly beats VHS by a country mile and then some, and if Apple ever enhances the feature to match that of the HD version of the Flip Video, the latter company is going to be in a heap of trouble.

    Negatives? The worst is that AT&T’s cellular network still has a few dead spots in this area. I rarely lose a call, but voice quality does occasionally suffer. It would also be nice to be able to tether my iPhone to one of my Macs in the event Cox’s Internet service goes down, since that happens on occasion. But, no, AT&T hasn’t gotten its act together on that score just yet. I would hope, though, that as the enhanced 3G service hits this area, it will bring with it more reliable service as well, along with tethering.

    I should point out that there’s a questionable rumor online that AT&T will exact a ransom of $55 to make your iPhone serve as a broadband modem, a claim the company denies. However, it’s possible that figure simply includes the standard $30 data charge. If that’s true, paying an extra $25 a month may not be such a big deal.

    The other issue is the way Apple’s 3.0 software handles Wi-Fi logins. A standard router seems to work all right, but some retailers use setups that require several Web-based screens, where you are supposed to enter some login information and perhaps accept their terms and conditions. Here it’s hit or miss. Some systems seem to work all right, whereas others suffer through the process and fail to connect, even when a strong signal is present. In two cases that come to mind, I never had a problem making those connections with the previous iPhone software.

    According to published reports, there is an iPhone 3.1 beta making the rounds that will supposedly address some missing features, such as support for standard Bluetooth headsets for voice dialing, and some enhanced built-in video editing features. If that’s true, perhaps Apple will also take the time to improve the Wi-Fi “join” issues as well.

    Since the iPhone is represents my sole solid experience with a smartphone, I am probably not the right person to provide a meaningful wish list. With Push Notification, I’m not all that concerned about the lack of true multitasking, but perhaps a better way to handle large repositories of applications is called for. I’ve only got three pages so far, because I delete the apps that fail to convince me they should be kept — and I’m fairly stringent about such matters.

    But I realize that many of you have dozens and dozens of these applications, and you are surely going to want to find a faster way to get to the ones you want right now without the endless paging routine. Or am I all alone in this request?



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