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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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    carguydc Ben's cred: 106
    Posted 7:44 am PST 12/17/09

    Wish I could afford the phone and service from AT&T. With a 4 phone family plan, its just too expensive.

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    shurik74 Ben's cred: 10
    Posted 8:26 am PST 12/17/09

    carguydc wrote:
    Wish I could afford the phone and service from AT&T. With a 4 phone family plan, its just too expensive.

    I wouldn't say it's very expensive compare to Verizon, i'm paying $150 for 5 lines with one of them iPhone (+$30)...

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    whatatay Ben's cred: 192
    Posted 8:44 am PST 12/17/09

    I am not sure, but I heard rumors that Apple was going to release a music player call the the I=Pod. There will be several versions, including a shuffle and nano. Also, several years down the road they are planning to release something called an Ipod-touch which is supposed to be like the I-phone but without the phone. Hopefully Ben will keep us updated with reviews on those. I depend on his reviews for the latest technology.

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    Juansolo Ben's cred: 5
    Posted 10:40 am PST 12/17/09

    Wow, when did Apple come out with an Iphone?

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    j0lie Ben's cred: 4
    Posted 11:20 am PST 01/22/10

    nice review.

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