Microsoft/Mac Monday

As promised, today we’ll be reviewing the iPhone 3G. Now that we’ve had it for about two weeks, we felt as though we could give an accurate and honest review. We’ll cover what we think of the GPS, 3G data speeds, applications, the new firmware, and more…


We determined that the GPS on the iPhone 3G can acquire a signal very fast compared to a traditional GPS unit. It took us about 15 seconds for the phone to get a signal while we were putting it to the test a couple of weeks ago on our trip around Lake Michigan. It’s able to acquire a signal faster because it uses cell towers and Wi-Fi to figure out your location.

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Another plus is that we were able to get a GPS signal not only in the car (which is a necessity) but also in buildings like our hotel and home. A downside is that the GPS definitely drains the battery a lot faster.

For those of you unfamiliar, the GPS is integrated into Google maps. It does have the turn by turn directions, but it’s no different than what it had in previous versions of the firmware in that it takes you step by step through your turns, but you have to manually switch between the steps whether you’re using the GPS or not.

At one point on our aforementioned trip, we decided to park in an unfamiliar city on a side street and then head to the downtown area to check it out. Because we knew we’d be coming back to the car at night when it was dark (and can be confusing), and we didn’t know how far we’d travel on foot from the car, we decided to drop a pin where we parked. Then we bookmarked it on the iPhone so that when it was time to walk back to our car, we were able to get directions back.

Finally, the GPS is really nice for location based services and applications like the ones that find hotels, gas stations, and restaurants near you, just to name a few. It’s also great for geo-tagging photos.


The 3G speeds are great, really. We mentioned before the day that we bought the phones that we did some speed tests and found that we were getting about 820 Kbps which is 5.5 times faster than the original iPhone. Speed is definitely one thing that is great about the iPhone 3G, assuming you have access to it.

While we were on our trip, we only had 3G access in a couple of places. Right now it seems as though you have to be living in a major city if you want 3G access. If you do have access on a regular basis like we do living in the Chicagoland area, the speed benefits can really make a difference in the usability of the phone’s Internet.


Of course the applications aren’t special to the iPhone 3G, but they are sure nice. We’ll go into our favorites next week but what we do want to say is how quickly we’re becoming addicted to downloading the free programs. Some people are criticizing the apps saying there aren’t any good ones out there, but we’ve already taken advantage of some of them and don’t have one complaint.

Another thing people are criticizing Apple for is that they require developers to host their apps on iTunes. Users say they should be able to go to a developers site to get the applications they are looking for, but the current system is nice because there is one centralized place to find what you are looking for. It’s also nice because then you can easily download and install the apps directly from your phone. As long as the apps are under 10 MB, a user can download them over the cellular network. If they are over 10 MB, a user must download apps using Wi-Fi or iTunes.


With the updated firmware has come some other goodies like being able to take a screenshot, or how the calendar icon now updates itself. When filling in web addresses, you can press and hold the “.com” button for more options like .edu. When typing out an email address and you have the email keypad screen displayed, you can press and hold the period next to the “at” symbol and it will pop-up with options like .com or .edu to help you complete the email address with little effort. You can also search contacts.

What we like…

A few other things we noticed that don’t really fit into any of the categories are:

  • Call quality is better
  • Holding it in your hand is nicer because it doesn’t slip out thanks to the black (or white) plastic
  • The headphone jack is no longer recessed

Things we don’t like

  • New black plastic back shows fingerprints a lot where the aluminum didn’t
  • Since the new phone is curved slightly, if you put it on a flat surface to use it, the iPhone 3G wobbles just a bit
  • We’re bummed it didn’t come with a dock, but you can order them from Apple for $30
  • New firmware tends to crash somewhat frequently because of the apps – we’ve both experienced this a few times when starting up 3rd party applications and the iPhone ends-up restarting itself
  • There are times when the phone feels a little less responsive – it won’t pick-up inputs right away. It’s not often but it does happen…
  • When you update a program, it moves it to the very end of the list. For those who spend time organizing their applications in a specific order, they will be annoyed when there’s an update and they have to rearrange…

Wrapping it up

Overall we are very satisfied with our iPhone 3G’s. The ease of use and battery life is what we fell in love with when we bought the original iPhones and that hasn’t changed with the iPhone 3G.