Product: iPhone 3GS 16GB
Manufacturer: Apple
MSRP: $199 with 2 year contract (16GB)/ $299 with 2 year contract (32GB)

Introduction
It's been a while since my last cell phone review, which was a Motorola RAZR2, and since then I've decided to get the Apple iPhone 3GS (16GB). I've had my share of smartphones, including Symbian and Windows Mobile devices and they've mostly disappointed me. The main problem that I have with Symbian and Windows Mobile – and this is something that I see in nearly all versions of it, including 6.5 – is lag. From the menus to the programs themselves, they all seem to suffer from lag. So I switched over to the Apple camp in hopes that it would help revive my faith in smartphones. So does it? Read on for my full review.

Features
Touch-screen phones have always appealed to me, but after using several of them, I've felt they were imprecise, and the fact that some of them actually required the use of a stylus made them seem too restrictive. The iPhone is a breath of fresh air, especially with its massive 3.5" 320 x 480 capacitive touchscreen, which allows for multitouch support.

The 3.15-megapixel camera is a great upgrade from the 2MP camera in the original 3G, but it still lacks a flash and it doesn't take particularly great pictures. In comparison, the 5MP camera on my ancient Nokia N95 8GB took much better pictures than the iPhone 3GS and it even had LED flash. The camera software is certainly good, but it seems a bit minimal when compared to some high-end camera phones on the market.

The overall design of the phone is minimalist to say the least, with really only one button on the face, but at least it's perfectly proportioned and doesn't feel too small, too large, or too bulky. The surface of the screen is remarkably scratch-resistant, though I didn't want go to extreme lengths to test that idea.



Call Functionality
I'm just going to come out and say it. The iPhone, if judged strictly as a phone, is terrible. It's a great mobile internet device, MP3 player, substitute computer, and portable video player, but as a phone I must say that I'm disappointed with it's software and call quality. The call quality is largely out of Apple's control, but the software is inexcusable. It is feature-laden, but also feels cumbersome and tacked on as an afterthought. For instance, trying to get to the keypad screen can sometimes be a multiple-click affair. While it is not deal-breaking, it does take an extra bit of effort that shouldn't be required. Also, making a phone call from the messaging application is impossible, which is puzzling.



Bluetooth
Until recently, the biggest reason why I never liked the iPhone was that, for the longest time, it lacked A2DP support. For those who don't know, A2DP stands for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile and is a standard that allows a device to stream stereo music via Bluetooth. I use A2DP nearly all the time in my car since I have an aftermarket stereo that supports it, and having less cabling to deal with is always a bonus. The new 3.0 software is great with Bluetooth, and I didn't even have to fiddle around with hidden system settings. In comparison, my last Windows Mobile device required spending several days messing with software and device settings in order to get streaming stereo music.



Multimedia
The multimedia aspect of the iPhone is amazing. To quote Homer Simpson, "groin-grabbingly transcendent". The App Store has almost every imaginable program while iTunes has you covered for anything entertainment. I spent some time downloading programs from the App Store and it was a hassle-free affair, requiring only a password to start downloads.

Movie playback on the iPhone is flawless and free of lag, which is something that I unfortunately can't say about most other smartphones. Clearly Apple has a lot of experience with music and movies, and it shows in the nearly flawless iPod functionality. Putting songs on the iPhone is a largely automatic process that can be done entirely in iTunes.



JailBreak
What kind of iPhone review would this be without this section in it? To truly get the most out of your 3GS, you really need to jailbreak it. Apple's strict control over what is available in the App Store (which is a good thing for most users) prevents the more advanced user from enjoying the iPhone. So, although it is very simple to jailbreak the iPhone 3GS, I would not recommend doing it unless you've done your research. Jailbreaking your iPhone has many consequences including, but not limited to: voiding your warranty and possibly exposing your iPhone to security hazards (by installing software that leaves your iPhone open to attacks). On the other hand, there are many reasons for jailbreaking your iPhone: the ability to multi-task, the ability to tether, customization of the look and feel, and being able to install homebrew apps which are not limited by Apple's restrictions. If you are happy with your iPhone as is and do not see yourself needing any of the above listed items, don't do it. It's not worth it.

Conclusion
Would I recommend the iPhone? Well, that's a hard question with a lot of caveats. If you're tired of the lag that you usually find with Windows Mobile and Symbian devices, I'd reluctantly recommend the iPhone. But considering the slew of next-generation smartphones coming out, the 3GS is certainly looking a bit dated. (The new HTC Touch HD2 comes to mind.) For those who don't particularly need or want a smartphone, then it's pretty clear the iPhone isn't for you.

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    madcrapper Ben's cred: 3
    Posted 1:06 pm PST 12/16/09

    Who is the *I* in this review when everyone knows 'Ben' sold Bens Bargains years ago to a corporation?

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    Deathstalker Ben's cred: 18
    Posted 1:14 pm PST 12/16/09

    I have found the 3GS to be the nicest phone I have ever owned. My two things I do not care for are:

    1) The size of the unit.

    2) The lack of battery life, especially since I am using the WiFi and Bluetooth.

    (My Aviation headset I fly with has bluetooth so for the endless hours of boredom sitting in the co-ckpit (the bad language filter will not let me spell it without a - in there for some reason) I have my iPhone connected via Bluetooth so I can use the iPod feature and take calls over my headset.)

    Deathstalker

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    demichae Ben's cred: 3
    Posted 1:17 pm PST 12/16/09

    Wow! This sounds like a really interesting device. It could be a game changer in the mobile phone market. Thanks for the heads up with this very timely article. I'm going to go google "iphone" to see if I can find any more information! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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    biggin Ben's cred: 42
    Posted 1:24 pm PST 12/16/09

    A+ WOULD READ REVIEW AGAIN!!!11!!!

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    bubba Ben's cred: 19
    Posted 1:35 pm PST 12/16/09

    iPhone would be great if it wasn't for 1) AT&T's shitty network and horrible plans and 2) Apple being anal about jailbreakers. Not all jailbreakers pirate software, some want to add functionality that Apple should have done on their own.

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    shurik74 Ben's cred: 10
    Posted 1:48 pm PST 12/16/09

    would be nice review like year ago...

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    bigking777 Ben's cred: 215
    Posted 1:49 pm PST 12/16/09

    There was a story on CNBC yesterday that claimed the crappy service was not due to AT&T's network, but a hardward problem with Apple.
    They also claimed that if the I-Phone was on the Verizon network, it would have the same problems.

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    rotorrocket Ben's cred: 75
    Posted 1:49 pm PST 12/16/09

    Get a Palm Pre!

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    shurik74 Ben's cred: 10
    Posted 1:54 pm PST 12/16/09

    Palm??? You must be kidding...

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    rotorrocket Ben's cred: 75
    Posted 1:55 pm PST 12/16/09

    I agree #7. I've seen muliple AT&T phones sitting on the same table with the iPhone having the least amount of bars every time. That leads me to believe it's the iPhone hardware. The Apple zealots always point the finger @ AT&T....

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    shafnitz Ben's cred: 14
    Posted 1:55 pm PST 12/16/09

    Pretty good review. I have a 32GB 3GS and I love it so much I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant. Previously I was using an AT&T Tilt. WinMo shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as iPhone OS. Even though I just did.

    If you're smarter than the average computer user, I highly recommend jailbreaking. It wasn't extremely difficult for me, but I believe the newer units take a bit more work. It's worth the effort, however. Whether or not there is any risk in jailbreaking is debatable, since it's all software based. You can flash it back to the stock OS with no evidence of jailbreaking.

    Last but not least, the statement about not being able to make calls from the Messaging application is incorrect. Simply tap the status bar at the top of the screen, which will scroll to the top of your message thread. From here you can place a call, view contact info and view earlier messages in the thread.

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    Towncivilian Ben's cred: 125
    Posted 2:01 pm PST 12/16/09

    "Bars" doesn't really mean "signal strength" and "bars" are not standardized for each manufacturer. Read this article.

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    shafnitz Ben's cred: 14
    Posted 2:01 pm PST 12/16/09

    One last thing in regards to the crappy AT&T service. A lot of people assume that your service is going to suck with AT&T. This is highly dependent on where you are. Ask people you know with AT&T if they have problems in your area. I've been with AT&T for years and never have dropped calls or bad service.

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    shurik74 Ben's cred: 10
    Posted 2:17 pm PST 12/16/09

    shafnitz wrote:
    One last thing in regards to the crappy AT&T service. A lot of people assume that your service is going to suck with AT&T. This is highly dependent on where you are. Ask people you know with AT&T if they have problems in your area. I've been with AT&T for years and never have dropped calls or bad service.


    Agree... Depends what area you live or move around, also, If call is made between 3G (any brand) phones, it's perfect. Besides iPhone, I have Verizon work phone, which I would say has better call quality...


    Heard some rumors, ones contract between ATT and Apple is over (2 years), iPhones should be available at Verizon ???

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    1 Ben's cred: 76
    Posted 3:04 pm PST 12/16/09

    It's a mystery. Because other phones using AT&T doesn't drop call constantly. Only iphone does.

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    bargainjp Ben's cred: 36
    Posted 3:06 pm PST 12/16/09

    I have an iPhone 3GS 32 GB White. I love it. People keep complaining about their GPS navigation not working no reception whatsoever. I have never encounter any problems with my Navigon and TomTom app except I do have to admit iPhone's GPS receiver is not too powerful compare to a standalone TomTom PND.

    I did jailbreak couple times for my iPhone 3GS. The reasons are due to crashing when the battery drains out and you get a white screen only. I restored the iPhone back to factory and jailbroke it again, too bad another crash.... this goes on and on until I unlocked the iPhone 3GS with blackra1n. The unlocking has bugs and it often resets the network while I talk and use the Internet at the same time. So now I've given up with Jailbreaking. It's fun for awhile but gets tired with the annoying crashing and network resets.

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    mike_k11 Ben's cred: 1
    Posted 3:29 pm PST 12/16/09

    This is the most random post I've seen on here...

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    2133 Ben's cred: 94
    Posted 4:31 pm PST 12/16/09

    This looks like an interesting smartphone Ben. Thanks for the heads up. If only it could pair up with a worthy carrier such as AT&T to form a balanced alliance of customer support/quality/dependability.

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    drewh07 Ben's cred: 1
    Posted 5:37 am PST 12/17/09

    bargainjp wrote:
    I have an iPhone 3GS 32 GB White. I love it. People keep complaining about their GPS navigation not working no reception whatsoever. I have never encounter any problems with my Navigon and TomTom app except I do have to admit iPhone's GPS receiver is not too powerful compare to a standalone TomTom PND.


    I'm currently doing some work with TomTom and wanted to let you know that the TomTom iPhone car kit contains a built in GPS chip. This helps boost the TomTom apps GPS signal within the iPhone. It also allows the app to work on first generation iPhones.

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    sxm Ben's cred: 22
    Posted 5:56 am PST 12/17/09

    Maybe you can do a review on the Nokia 6100 Series next?

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