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The Night Owl’s iPhone 3GS Odyssey

As many of you readers know, I took a slightly circuitous path to getting an iPhone 3GS. In a sense, my purchase of a 3G was similarly troubled.

Just to recap: On the day the 3G was released last July, I made the 10-minute drive to the nearest AT&T factory-owned store, and discovered that they only had half the stock needed to service the waiting crowd with immediate delivery. I was too far back, so I was directed to a second not-so-nearby location. I struck out there as well, but finally achieved success at an Apple Store in Chandler, Arizona.

Typical of Apple, they pushed their inventory towards their own stores, despite denying favoritism. However, I didn’t suffer from the delayed activation disease others encountered. Mine was set up without a hitch, and that included the restoration of the software from the previous phone. Typical of an iPhone, it suffered from occasional system crashes that were not well addressed until the 3.0 software came out.

My upgrade to 3.0 was also uneventful, and I gather that holds true for most of you. Not only was performance improved, but the occurrence of crashes was reduced by a substantial order of magnitude.

With the arrival of the 3GS, and boy was I grateful you no longer have to put a space between the G and the S, I took a more laid back approach. That is, until AT&T decided to honor the customers who paid them big checks every month with a penalty-free upgrade after a mere 11 months.

I settled on a black 16GB. I haven’t come close to filling the storage space on my white iPhone 3G 16GB, so I am sure I can find other uses for the $100 I saved. But rather than visit an Apple Store directly, I decided to take the lazy way out, and order online. My initial order was placed on July 23rd, and I was quoted a 2–4 day shipping timeframe.

On July 25th, I got a strange letter that AT&T had rejected the order, which was subsequently cancelled. This was odd, because you have to undergo a preliminary approval process prior to placing an order. That way, such happenstances are supposedly avoided. A quick phone call to AT&T delivered the news that one of their servers had timed out, thus a small portion of the pre-shipping verification checks were bounced.

Apple was happy to redo the order, and just as happy to give me a free case (I chose a Belkin with an attached belt clip) for my time and trouble, but no amount of pleading would persuade them to put me in front of the line, where I surely deserved to be in light of the fact that my new iPhone would have shipped that very day. Alas, Apple’s iPhone ordering process was getting backed up, and this time the shipping timeframe was 5–7 days.

So I waited.

I received the shipping notice on July 3rd, confirming it departed an ordering center in China on that date. Delivery was promised by 10:30 AM on July 6th or 7th. It arrived Monday morning, and I went to work getting it activated, so I could submit it to a few preliminary tests.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long for a full charge. The battery arrived with the charge indicator showing it to be roughly 75% full. The process of activation and restore took only a few minutes to accomplish, and I removed it as soon as the indicator displayed a full charge.

The first few hours have been equally uneventful. As before, all the data on the old iPhone was successfully transferred to the new one. I did have to reenter passwords to my favorite Wi-Fi spots, including the one in my office, but that’s an important safety issue from a security standpoint. I then unpaired my car’s Bluetooth mating with the 3G and paired it with the 3GS.

Understand that having Bluetooth in one’s motor vehicle these days doesn’t require buying a costly luxury vehicle anymore. Even a basic Kia sedan can be outfitted with one.

While I haven’t pushed the extra power to the limits, I do notice that the mere act of trashing an email is performed in a more graceful and fluid fashion on the 3GS. Internet access proceeds more rapidly as well, and I was pleased with the quick response of the new auto-focus three megapixel camera. I was thinking, in retrospect, that my son’s first digital camera had just four megapixels, and it was capable of extremely good quality, so I’m optimistic.

I know that those people at Consumer Reports continue to single out the iPhone as having less-than-stellar audio quality, but I don’t see it. The iPhone’s audio on regular phone calls remains robust and as loud as I can stand. The other mobile handsets I’ve used, from from such makers as LG, Motorola and Samsung, don’t sound audibly better. I realize that audio quality is also highly dependent on network conditions, and it’s possible CR’s test situation in New York — and CNET’s in San Francisco for that matter — involve saturated 3G network conditions where just getting a stable connection is a miracle.

There is, as you might expect, a lot more to come.