iPhone 3GS review

The definitive verdict on the new 3G S iPhone

The iPhone 3GS
The iPhone 3GS

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Unless you've been living in plastic bottle with the cap screwed firmly on, stuffed under a cushion in a giant's house while he went on holiday for a few years, you might have noticed that Apple has become something of a big name in the media playback game thanks to the iPod.

That tradition has continued into the iPhone, and while the iPhone 3GS doesn't necessarily bring much in the way of upgrades, it still certainly works well within the Apple mobile ecosystem, with background working available for music playback (but not much else on the phone).

The iphone 3g s

Coverflow is back as usual, and available by flipping the phone on its side when choosing some tracks, although its use is still somewhat debatable when you cross the 1,000 tracks barrier that most people will on the 16GB / 32GB versions.

Apple has included a 'shake to shuffle' feature with the new 3.0 upgrade, but this is more of a gimmick than anything else, and something that makes you want to tear your teeth out when you leave it activated on a jog and you quickly find yourself skipping through your 'power' playlist.

We also decided to try the new A2DP Bluetooth abilities of the iPhone thanks to the new upgrade, using some Sony Bluetooth headphones we had kicking around. Set up was simple, with only the necessary switching on of Bluetooth needed to make things discoverable, in the same way as a headset.

Sound quality was good, and obviously freeing yourself from wires is a good thing. The good thing about Apple releasing phones that can accept the A2DP protocol is that it might bring Bluetooth headphones more into the mainstream (and hopefully bring the cost down).

While we love them, they are so darned expensive that it's hard to justify the price tag, so hopefully making them the must-have thing for Apple lovers would sort things out.

Video playback

All the talk about Bluetooth, sound quality and overall media performance in the audio section is true for video as well, although there are still some problems and disappointments over video in the new iPhone.

The first is the fact it didn't come with OLED screen means that the contrast ratio is once again a little lacklustre. Dark videos simply aren't happening, and since we've seen what can be possible from large size AMOLED screens, we'd come to believe there was no way that Apple wouldn't deliver for us.

The screen, at 3.5-inch, is just, just a little on the small side too. We reckon that a four inch effort is plenty, and we can pretty much get by happily with the 3.7-inch effort on the Samsung i8910 HD review.

The iphone 3g s

However, Apple has still littered the video player with nice touches, like a dual level accelerometer that lets you watch video in landscape mode no matter which way you hold the phone, so if you have a preference for which side you like your headphone socket then the iPhone 3GS has it covered.

But the iPhone 3GS screen, which might be fine for the odd cartoon here and there, isn't going to replace a large-screen Archos in the way other phones might do.


This is the first time we've included this heading in the Media section of our reviews, which should tell you all you need to about the new iPhone and its gaming capabilities (take note Nokia, and whoever put together the N-Gage).

The improved processor, the increased speed and the upgraded feature set all make for a great experience, something akin to a PSP or a DS Lite (although perhaps not as impressive on the graphics).

But to be saying that about a mobile phone is insane. The sheer ability of the iPhone is exemplified in Need for Speed Undercover, which has great graphics and a very impressive frame rate.

Having played the same game on an iPhone 3G, we can happily confirm it is an improvement. Not a massive one, as the experience on the previous iPhone wasn't bad at all, but still there is a perceptible increase in movement within the game, and loading time was reduced to just under 15 seconds on average.

But, and this is a big but, holding the phone in landscape mode means you cover the speaker with your hand every time, and using headphones makes it a little harder to hold the iPhone and game at the same time. Ergonomic fail.

The iphone 3g s

The iPhone won't replace your DS if you're a portable gaming lover, but the beautiful thing is you don't have to pay £20-£30 for a game... you're looking at around a fiver for a top effort.

There really isn't another mobile phone in the market that does all three things as well as the iPhone, and while the i8910 HD is probably the top of the range for video, and the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic maintains it's the 'top selling music player' in the UK, there isn't a phone that can throw all three in together in such a decent manner.

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.