Home > Apple > Review: iPhone 3GS 16GB, White Review: iPhone 3GS 16GB, White Thom Holwerda 2009-11-22 Apple 53 Comments A few weeks ago I explained that because Palm is still not selling the Palm Pre here in The Netherlands, I decided to buy an iPhone 3GS. Well, we’re a few weeks down the line now, so let’s review the darn thing. 1 2 3 4Next About The Author Thom Holwerda Follow me on Mastodon @firstname.lastname@example.org 53 Comments 2009-11-22 6:21 pm ple_mono Tunes itself is a slow and heavy program; it takes 14 seconds to load up. Compare this to Windows Media Player 12, which has the exact same library of music, but takes only about two to three seconds to load. I’m talking about a quad-core 4×2.2Ghz 4GB of RAM Windows 7 64bit machine taking 14 seconds to load a music player. This is unacceptable. That’s very sad indeed. On my mac mini it does start *instantly* though. I believe I should cover the means with which you synchronise your iPhone with your computer. As most of you will know, this process is done through Apple’s very own iTunes Which sucks IMHO. People are very different, and “syncing” just doesn’t fit my “workflow”. Fortunately, if you are like me, there is a way to turn syncing off, and copy mp3’s and movies to the phone like you would a USB drive (albeit still using iTunes); When selecting the iPhone i intunes, in the “summary tab” > “options”, tick the “Manually manage music and videos”. Still, i would be much happier if i could copy files with nautilus (or any other file manager) like i would with a “removable device” instead. 2009-11-22 10:55 pm dulus iTunes starts to 2-3 sec on my mac mini. Interface is maybe unusual for some old winamp hacker, but compare itunes to media player ??? I have IQ 135, master degree from IT and I never figured out how to use Media Player 🙂 Ok I never bothered to press F1, but iTunes handles also my mother which barely manages to open browser So Tom, get mac, try some dozens of multimedia players on mac just to figure out that iTunes rules and write review aagain ! Edited 2009-11-22 22:58 UTC 2009-11-22 11:03 pm Thom Holwerda So Tom Thom. get mac, try some dozens of multimedia players on mac just to figure out that iTunes rules and write review aagain ! I have a Mac. Several, in fact. I dislike iTunes on the Mac too – I never expected it to be this bad on Windows. 2009-11-22 11:13 pm sultanqasim What media player do you like the best on Mac and Windows? Why do you dislike iTunes on Mac? You can’t complain about speed (it starts in 1 second on my 2006 iMac). Edited 2009-11-22 23:15 UTC 2009-11-22 11:47 pm Erunno I find it *very* hard to believe that iTunes start instantly or close to it even on OS X where most of the libraries are preloaded, at least if we are talking about a cold start on a standard Apple issued 5400 rpm hdd. I made a quick test on my freshly booted MacBook Pro 5,1 and it needed 7 seconds to start with the (empty) video pane being preset. It takes longer if iTunes has to read all the thumbnails for my music collection directly after startup. 2009-11-23 12:22 am sultanqasim You have a slower HD than me. My iMac came with a 160 GB Seagate 7200.9. The hard drive failed in early 2008, and I replaced it with a 250 GB Seagate 7200.10. Cold starts take 3 seconds, and warm starts are under 1 second. Edit: I forgot to mention the speed difference between a Desktop and Laptop HDD. Edited 2009-11-23 00:26 UTC 2009-11-22 6:31 pm johnt Excellent review! You picked up on many of my sore points, including the problems with iTunes (though I’d argue it’s also bad on Mac) and poor iPhone button placement. I can’t believe how cheap your cell plan is in the Netherlands! 2009-11-22 7:26 pm Tuishimi I know it. I almost started crying when I read the price. I’ve got a family plan here, for my wife’s 3GS iPhone and my scrappy little Samsung that does nothing. I have pretty minimal minutes and I am still paying well over $139.00/mo. for the plan. Of course I am not taking into account the exchange rate… 2009-11-22 7:07 pm darknexus I think the reason they don’t use MicroUSB is that their proprietary dock connector has gained a lot of traction, and to go to MicroUSB would cause an uproar among all those iPod/iPhone accessory owners. They would either need to make an adapter for dock accessories or force people to buy new micr oUSB-based accessories, neither of which would go over too well with a large majority of Apple’s consumers. As for the USB transfer of files, I’m in full agreement. The other iPod models allow you to enable disk mode, why not the iPhone or iPod Touch too? However, as for accessing your music via simple USB mass storage, I see this a bit differently. I don’t think it’s just because Apple wants to lock us into iTunes, although I’m sure that’s part of it, but keep in mind that Apple is a content distributor in addition to a portable device manufacturer and has to keep a balance between the ridiculously paranoid content studios and the consumer. I guarantee that if you were able to access your music or movies via MSC the usual suspect organizations would have a fit. Most other device makers are not content distributors and so can do basically whatever they want. And yes, iTunes for Windows is plain horrible. Slow doesn’t even begin to describe it. I must say that the Mac version gives a completely different, and actually pleasant, experience. Apple never seems to put much effort into their Windows software, as Quicktime itself is almost as bad in Windows. 2009-11-22 7:09 pm Chaos_One I can cover the whole screen with either thumb. That’s how I browse, for other use I use my index finger. Oh, and I like iTunes and it starts a lot quicker on my dual core. 2009-11-22 7:20 pm SANGEKi # unlimited data # 2048Kb/sec download # 384Kb/sec upload As long as you don’t go past 300 MB… then it’s 64 kbit/s down and 16 kbit/s up. Unless T-Mobile contracts are hugely different in The Netherlands. 2009-11-22 9:40 pm jalnl As long as you don’t go past 300 MB… then it’s 64 kbit/s down and 16 kbit/s up. Unless T-Mobile contracts are hugely different in The Netherlands. You really mean that not having a download limit is “hugely different”? Go check yourself: http://www.t-mobile.nl/iphone/abonnementen.html?WT.ac=sc_iphone2_ab… does not mention any restriction. It says “Onbeperkt”, i.e. “unlimited”. 2009-11-22 9:43 pm henno Nope, unlimited. Never had an issue, even with pretty heavy usage (like streaming missed tv shows from the “gemist” application). 2009-11-22 7:27 pm Tuishimi …you aren’t using your iPhone while you are driving, right? So you should have two hands available to do most things. (I know, you don’t want to have to use two hands and what if you were missing one hand?) 2009-11-22 8:32 pm aahjnnot …you aren’t using your iPhone while you are driving, right? So you should have two hands available to do most things. (I know, you don’t want to have to use two hands and what if you were missing one hand?) Ever tried reading emails in the street while carrying a laptop bag? I do it every day and hate having to switch to two-hand mode on my Windows Mobile phone. 2009-11-22 11:33 pm Tuishimi I was hassling Thom, not really serious. But to answer you, no, because I prefer to keep my computer in one place because I have that option, I understand that others do not. 2009-11-22 7:30 pm Tuishimi …My wife drives me CRAZY with her iPhone. Everything is iPhone. I think it is addictive or something. She does everything on it and barely uses her Macbook anymore. She checks her email, sends mail, browses the web, uses it while geocaching to track notes, log notes… If she could use iWork and iLife apps on it she would… maybe she CAN and doesn’t know how yet. 2009-11-22 7:55 pm bousozoku My first month with my 2nd generation iPod touch, I thought that people were crazy saying that they could use the keyboard reliably. Now, I could almost use it blindfolded. It even works well for Japanese and Chinese and there is an entry mode for Chinese where you draw the character. I still have trouble drawing in the small space but like the keyboard, I’ll adapt. As far as iTunes not being native on Windows, I’d say out of 30 applications, 28 violate the Windows look and feel. It’s a circus. I’m not saying that Apple are right or wrong for doing what they’re doing visually, but I can say that performance, improved or not, is lousy compared to Mac OS X’s version. I do care for the point-and-click way to handle things and being able to re-arrange my applications on the home screens is great. Juggling has never been quite so simple. 2009-11-22 8:03 pm OSGuy Thom, have you tried to HTC Hero? Just curious what’s your opinion on it? 2009-11-22 8:18 pm StephenBeDoper Of course, it’s hard to measure build quality objectively, so all I have to go on is holding them in my hands and using them – but doing that, the iPhone feels more solid, robust, and sturdy than other phones. You could always use the Ars Technica approach: intentionally destroy the device to see how much abuse it can take. Just make sure to put in your insurance claim *before* posting the results 2009-11-22 8:25 pm kragil It has a better bigger screen, smaller size, a real keyboard, better email etc. (IF you use Google stuff), multitasking and is just a USB storage device. I think it is worse for photos (I don’t mind that), but better for videos (which I like more). So I will wait for the Milestone. 2009-11-22 8:47 pm mkone About typing with apostrophes and all, and perhaps this is because I type in English a lot, I don’t type apostrophes much. The phone seems to know where to put them mst of the time through its autocorrection functionality. However, I do think your review is just about spot on. 2009-11-22 9:05 pm REM2000 I personally have loved the iphone since i got the 1st gen for xmas. Before the iphone, every phone i used was annoyingly crap. I had used the Nokia E61i, the Sony P910i, Sony K550, Orange SPV2000 and other WinMo etc.. They all had buggy inconsistent interfaces, the software such as email clients were unstable and very basic. The closest i got to surfing on the net was by using the built in opera browser on the E61i using specialist made for mobile web sites. Apps were a complete no no, i tried a couple but with Winmo it would always run out of processes and lock up. However what really got me was that the phones were so annoying that i had to change phones every 6 months to try and find something usable. The longest serving phone was my P910i, which managed to sort of hold it togeather. The iphone is so much more stable, the UI is the best ive ever used, one of the few phones which doesn’t need an manual. The email client and text msg clients are both really excellent. I love browsing the net with mobile safari and ive found it really useful when ive been out and about. Google maps again has been a real life saver, finding places on the spot such as cash machines, fast food resturants etc.. I also believe that if it wasn’t for the iphone we would still be stuck in a mobile phone ice age. However i wanna see the use of the iphone and indeed all newer smart phones such as the pre and androids pushed, i wanna see the innovation continue and not for any to rest on their laurels. Augmented reality looks very promising, but like in japan i would like to start seeing micro transactions such as vending machines being transacted on a phone, train/bus tickets all transacted, allowing for a more cashless system. Also the ideas we saw a few years ago such as being able to stand outside a starbucks and order a coffee and then walk in and pick it up, to stand outside a resturant and have the menu and specials downloaded and viewable on my phone. We have phones which know where we are and are always connected i can’t wait to see what we do with this technology. 2009-11-22 9:24 pm Elv13 “One thing I do miss is the ability to show upcoming appointments on the home screen. ” Its one of the feature you get when you failbreak your phone. The “unlock” and “home” screen are HTML+CSS, its quite easy to extent once you have access to the code. Calendar, weather, date, email and appointments oriented screen are available in Cydia. The ability to create folders for less used applications is also useful, even if for most case, a well organisated page system is better. Of course, other feature such as SSH server (with non-default password ), terminal, bash scrips, remote syncing. emulators and appearance customization are nice to have too. 2009-11-22 9:38 pm bnolsen That’s nice, but jailbreaking isn’t part of the normal package. I’d compare it directly to the psp hacking. It’s something a very experienced user can do, but it’s not really for a normal user and definitely not without risk, which means it probably doesn’t belong in a review unless the review is specifically about jailbreaking. Edited 2009-11-22 21:39 UTC 2009-11-22 9:47 pm darknexus That’s nice, but I’ve never understood why people would want ssh on their phones. It’s a phone, not a server. What’re you going to do with it, hide it somewhere and remotely prank someone by playing sound files? Bash scripts, seriously? I love them as a power user but I don’t see what use they’d be on any phone. I certainly see the use for jailbreaking, I just don’t specifically see any use for ssh or shell scripts on a device who’s primary interaction is the GUI and further is a device that you usually have on your person. It seems to me like one of those “oh, look what I can do” things. 2009-11-23 2:41 am Elv13 SSH: That one is simple: 1- use sshfs, so I can access the media folder from my laptop 2- SSH port fowarding, so I can use the 3G network on my laptop without itunes, but I most admit that I never tried creating an ad-hoc network between the phone and the laptop. Shell script: That one is useful when you want it to be. Its quite nice to be able to automatically sync stuff the iPhone when I get home. There is probably “an app for that”, but my way work too. 2009-11-22 9:42 pm jalnl I have a car, and would rather be found dead than listen to mp3 instead of CDs I have difficulty parsing this, but I think you mean that you prefer CDs over MP3s when driving your car? In that case you must have one hell of a car audio system and one hell of a silent car, to be able to tell the difference! 2009-11-22 11:05 pm Thom Holwerda I have difficulty parsing this, but I think you mean that you prefer CDs over MP3s when driving your car? In that case you must have one hell of a car audio system and one hell of a silent car, to be able to tell the difference! Agreed, I worded that oddly. What I mean is this: I have no need for personal audio because I have a car. On top of that, I “would rather be found dead than listen to mp3 instead of CDs” – in other words, I won’t use the iPhone or any mp3 player as my main audio system. 2009-11-22 9:44 pm Piot “A few weeks ago I explained that because Palm is still not selling the Palm Pre here in The Netherlands, I decided to buy an iPhone 3GS” ONE WORD. Hypocrite ! http://cogscanthink.blogsome.com/2009/07/29/im-officially-quitting-… 2009-11-22 11:02 pm Thom Holwerda Hypocrite ! When your choices are between a dying platform, a fragmented incomplete platform, another dying platform, and the iPhone… Well, then I’d rather be a hypocrite. I rely heavily on my phone, and I need quality. If I have to be a hypocrite for that – well, so be it. 2009-11-22 11:33 pm kragil OK, Symbian and current WinMo are probably dying. But how is Android incomplete? And I honestly don’t get the fragmented… 2009-11-23 1:09 am Piot You were aware of your ‘mobile’ choices before you made your “official” announcement. If you want to make some kind of principled stand… them do it! Don’t back out with some lame excuse. Why should anyone take an Apple product review (on this site) seriously, when it’s written by someone who thinks the company is “rotten to the core”? 2009-11-23 1:39 am darknexus Oh come on, that review was fair. I’d say that, coming from someone who hates Apple, such a fair review means a lot more than coming from someone who loves Apple. Maybe actually read the review before commenting? 2009-11-23 2:20 am Piot You misunderstand me. I am not criticising the review, only the reviewer. 2009-11-26 4:52 pm klagermkii Haha, I must say I do love your shameless hypocrisy. One could summarise your blog post as a “To arms men! We must not waiver against the evil Apple, rotten to the core! Stand together against their oppressive practices and EULA” Followed a few months later by General Holwerda visiting his troops in the trenches, who are suffering agonizing pain from Symbianitis and a bad case of the WMs, saying cheerily “Have you seen my new iPhone? It’s really awesome!” I sure hope that “OSGuy”, who commented on your blog, is proud of the firm stand his comrade made: “I agree withe every point you have outlined in your post hence for not owning an iApple Product. I really do like the iPhone but guess what: I am not getting one for the exact the same reasons you have mentioned. Guess what I am getting instead of an iPhone. I am getting the HTC G2/Magic! A pure Android experience. I will never consider any Apple product.” Sucks to be you OSGuy, looks like you’re the chump here. 2009-11-22 9:50 pm mrhasbean Overall. There are a few things I don’t / can’t agree with but they are all personal opinion anyway. Fortunately I don’t have to use iTunes on Windows, but for those who expect Apple to put a lot of time into improving the speed of software for Windows that they give you I have two words – Microsoft Office. As part of one of the businesses in which I have interests we regularly have to download and manipulate very large Excel spreadsheets – we cannot do this on the Mac at all – Excel on the Mac takes around 25 minutes to open a file that it’s Windows counterpart takes less than 2 minutes to open and often it will generate a fatal error on the Mac version. And this isn’t a free app. The only part of the review I have a real issue with is this: I find the portrait keyboard pretty much unusable, as the keys are too small and positioned too close together to comfortably type on. And the reason for my issue here is that Thom is a proponent of “real” keyboards on phones. I have never yet seen a “real” keyboard with keys as large as the ones on the iPhone’s portrait screen – not even close. Surely if the iPhone’s portrait “keys” are too small the so-called “real” keys on phones are miniscule. The other reason I have a problem with this statement is that I have big pork sausage fingers and I can type very comfortably on the portrait keyboard. I do however agree there needs to be some work done on the consistency between portrait and landscape modes. The other thing is microUSB. There is no way Apple could have used that interface and still provide the functionality they provide via the dock connector – check it’s specs and you’ll see why. WRT USB file transfers, think of the security implications here and the other provided options. We know the iPhone is lockable with a code, and can be set to wipe itself if that code is entered incorrectly too many times. We also know that other than home-made boxes every computer you buy nowadays has wireless support, and there are numerous free wireless file transfer apps available for the iPhone. If it were to have a simple plug in and transfer files mode it would make the other security measures quite moot, and if (as I can here some retorting) you had to go into the iPhone’s settings to specifically enable USB transfers there’s no real difference between that and launching an app. I agree it would be a handy feature, but to fit with the current security model it would have to be architected correctly. Maybe if we could come up with a consensus on how it should work we could let Apple know Oh, and if you don’t want it to feel like a bar of soap – which I agree it can if you have the slightest bit of moisture on your hands – grab a silicon case for it – gives the added advantage of some small amount of protection if you do happen to drop it. 2009-11-22 10:03 pm sicofante You bought an iPhone after telling everyone how evil Apple was and, as if that wasn’t enough, you bought it white???? You’re definitely a masochist. 2009-11-22 11:04 pm mckill I read a few of your comments and it seems you simply haven’t had it long enough. the feeling that the phone is going to slip out of your hands will go away soon. as for the keyboard in landscape mode, i actually don’t like it as im used the other smaller keyboard when the phone is up right. as for holding the phone in portrait mode and covering the speaker, you just need to get used to turning it the other side so your hand wont cover it (unless you’re using two hands?). in terms of your image showing how far a thumb can reach, i would have to say you have small hands or again just aren’t used to it. i think i felt the same way at first when trying to get my thumb across, but i just checked and my thumb and reach the entire screen, maybe that comes with being more comfortable with the phone holding it differently. 2009-11-22 11:06 pm Thom Holwerda in terms of your image showing how far a thumb can reach, i would have to say you have small hands Small hands. I buy my gloves in women’s stores. I’m not kidding. Same for my feet. My feet are smaller than those of my girl friends. 2009-11-23 7:23 pm Chaos_One Why didn’t you mention this in the review? Most people who can afford an iPhone have adult sized hands and can cover the whole screen, but instead of mentioning this you even included a graph supporting your claim that the iPhone screen not suited for the one-thumb-to-rule-them-all technique. 2009-11-23 7:26 pm rockwell How ’bout yer brain size? 2009-11-23 1:48 am tyrione The design of the iPhone is not necessarily its strong point. I’m personally not a fan of rounded corners and smooth curves, as I prefer sharp edges and straight lines. There’s no accounting for tastes, obviously, and at least the colour combination (black front, silver bezel, white back) is very nice to look at. One can tell by your site you’re not a fan of rounded interfaces. But I just couldn’t help teasing about the implied sweaty palms. 2009-11-23 8:36 am puenktchen dutch t-mobile 150 + unlimited data 29.95 â‚¬Â per month + 99 â‚¬ = 817,8 â‚¬ german t-mobile 120 minutes + unlimited data 49.95 â‚¬ per month + 89,95 â‚¬ = 1288,8 â‚¬ i hate them. 2009-11-23 9:40 am electr0n Tom that was a great review which also included the flaws of the product – but I fully agree with you that the iPhone is the best damn cellphone I ever had, too. I’ve got a German iPhone 3G and, hell yes, the Netherland contract is much cheaper and has more features :…( 2009-11-23 10:42 am spiderman Nice review about iPhone’s UI. I would have liked to have more informations about non-UI related stuff. Battery life, camera quality, bluetooth connectivity, etc… After all, the UI is supposed to give access to the functions, not to be a function itself. 2009-11-23 1:28 pm electr0n The Camera of the 3G (without S) is quite primitive and AFAIK the 3GS isn’t that much better – despite the fact that the 3GS can capture videos and has a better Auto-Focus. The Resolution is OK for a Snapshot but you can take more or less still images only. Any kind of movement (by the photographer or the object) will unsharpen the picture. I believe the exposure is really long and you can’t change its’ value. Also you’ll never know when the iPhone actually captures – this leeds to funny pics Here http://www.cfbsoest.de/jugend/images/Bilder/Championate/Oberhausen0… you can find a picture I’ve taken with the 3G cam. The person on the right starts “smoothing” because of the effects described above. 2009-11-23 12:37 pm joaomcarvalho One of the best reviews on the iPhone. Clearly it’s a nice device which changed the way we see smartphones, but it’s not that huge thing most people say. The few times I used an iPhone I didn’t saw so much that explain the huge price and all the hype around it. It can’t do much more than on other phones, and sometimes it’s clearly limited by Apple politics. 2009-11-23 1:53 pm siraf72 Its not perfect. but a quick double tap on the space bar results in a full stop. This saves going to the punctuation mode. 2009-11-23 6:35 pm darknexus Yeah, but they don’t have any similar shortcuts for question mark or exclamation point. Personally, I think the on-screen keyboard should be a bit less controllable by the application and should always display certain punctuation (which ones would vary depending on the keyboard selected). Right now it’s too controlled by the applications and some of them have very odd keyboard layouts in certain areas. The application should have minimal control over the keyboard, enough to maybe add a symbol or two. The rest, including the portrait/landscape swap, should be standardized and further should have a global option to shut the portrait/landscape movement off. I, personally, always use my 3gs in portrait mode as it fits better in my hands that way, and that blasted accelerometer is too sensitive sometimes and switches to landscape when I barely even moved the phone. 2009-11-25 1:21 pm Francis Kuntz I am amazed that the review didn’t raise the point that the 3GS phone reception is totaly crap. I got one, and when I compare the reception with a 3G, the 3G always have two ‘bar’ more than the 3GS. Worst, sometimes, my 3GS (in a building in a big city) lose totaly the network, while the 3G still show 2 ‘bars’. You can see a lot of comments about that on Apple’s forum, and the fact that the GPS is often showing bad position since iPhoneOS 3.0 2009-11-25 4:04 pm Thom Holwerda Number of bars != reception quality. You can’t compare the number of bars on phone Xyz to that of phone Abc. They use different metrics. For me, the iPhone has much better call quality than my previous Nokia E71. Dropped calls are virtually unheard of – I haven’t had a call drop since my first mobile phone, about nine years ago. 2009-11-25 8:29 pm zkhizo On my macbook pro 13″ there’s absolutly no problems, loading or responding while working, etc. I don’t buy the complains about iTunes on the mac, not in the last year at least.