iPhone 3GS review

The definitive verdict on the new 3G S iPhone

The iPhone 3GS
The iPhone 3GS

TechRadar Verdict


  • +

    Great touchscreen

  • +

    Faster processor

  • +

    iPhone 3.0 software

  • +

    Camera with autofocus


  • -

    Poor coverage at times

  • -

    Expensive to upgrade to

  • -

    Internet tethering costs extra

  • -

    Battery life doesn't seem to have been improved

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Update: read our iPhone 4s review.

The iPhone 3GS was delivered by Phil Schiller rather than Lord Jobs on high, and a packed crowd hung on his every word, lapping up every new feature Apple had deigned to bestow upon us. The thing is it didn't take long, as essentially Apple has released a new phone that bears a very significant resemblance to the original version.

In fact, the only palpable difference in the chassis is the iPhone lettering is now mirrored in the same way as the Apple logo was on the last iteration.

Of course, with the new iPhone 3GS (the 'S' apparently standing for speed) we're getting a whole host of new features, essentially an improved processor (up to an apparent 600MHz according to a recent T-Mobile leak), a better 3MP camera with video recording and an upgrade to 32GB of memory.

The curious thing about the new iPhone release is not only that it doesn't bring a whole lot of new hardware in the latest upgrade (we're not talking the essential jump from 2G to 3G here) but it's also been released to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 3.0 firmware update.

That in itself brings a whole host of new extras to the iPhone game. Check out our in depth review of the new software to find out what snazzy extras Apple has brought to the party.


But this upgrade is obviously available for the previous Apple handset, meaning that for the most part an updated iPhone 3G is the same phone as the iPhone 3GS, and presents most users with a real dilemma: is it worth shelling out for the new upgrade less than a year later?

The iphone 3g s

In the box

As most iPhone users will know, there's not usually a lot in the tiny Apple iPhone box, and once again, the company has perfected minimalism. There are the standard accessories bedecked in white as well as the phone itself of course.

The headphones are the same as normal, the bundled white buds symbolising that you've bought into the Apple brand and are indeed proud to wear the badge of Jobs-honour. It's a shame that Apple hasn't followed the lead of the likes of Samsung with its recent handsets, such as the i8910 HD, and realised that having a phone built for top end media should come with some decent headphones.

The iphone 3g s

We would have at least have liked to seen some in-ear buds with this iteration, or even some Bluetooth cans (something Samsung again does with certain models in its PMP range) but that would cannibalise the healthy accessories market Apple has lovingly crafted, so it's hardly a surprise to see the standard fare here again, although we were pleasantly surprised at how well the hands free kit worked on the bundled buds.

And Apple is again banking on some customer loyalty in only including a USB lead with wall-plug connector. We know this is Apple's usual game, but we'd reckon a good portion of mobile phone owners have lost their charger in the past and been forced to use the USB lead to charge the handset before buying a new charger, so if you lose this one, it's a dead iPhone for a while.

Clearly Apple is assuming that its customers have many iPhone compatible leads lying around (in the same way that Nokia chargers will grow in any draw full of wires) so has kept things minimal, and of course saved packaging, and therefore penguins and polar bears, in doing so.

Indeed, in comparison to the likes of the Palm Pre and the HTC Magic, Apple is doing the same thing in trying to reduce packaging (as it always has done). We still can't feel like there should be more in the box however, even though a video output lead is always going to be out of the question.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.