Both Apple and O2 have engaged in a form of damage limitation on this issue. They argue that: a) the iPhone's built-in Wi-Fi is better for web-surfing; b) its use of 2.5G EDGE connectivity is actually pretty good; and c) 3G is a battery killer that makes long periods of web surfing moot.
But things may be even less clear cut than that. A bunch of enterprising Germans have pitted the iPhone's web-surfing capabilities using EDGE against those of a 3G Nokia N61 and found very little difference in webpage rendering times. You can even watch the video.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) concludes from this that a fast internet connection alone isn't enough - there are hardware and software factors in the actual device that are in play here too.
Naturally curious beings that we are, we decided to put both the iPhone and the N61's bigger sibling, the N95, head-to-head in an unscientific test of our own. The conclusion? A victory of sorts for both, but with one largeish caveat.
The fat lady sings
We tried both the iPhone and N95 on a number of sites - including Tech.co.uk - and discovered that there was indeed little difference between the page rendering speed of both phones. The iPhone was always slower off the mark, of course, but the speed of its Safari web browser almost made up for the lag caused by the different connection speeds. iPhone owners can sleep safely in their beds. Only...
Fire up the Opera browser on the N95 and the race between it and the iPhone is over before it's begun - the Opera completely spanks Safari, making a virtue of the mobile-optimised interface.
So come on Apple, open up the iPhone to third-party browsers like Opera and the playing field could soon start to level out.