By August 10, 2009

Apple iPhone 3GS Review

The iPhone 3GS is exclusive to O2 in the UK and is an upgraded version of the iPhone 3G. It’s being marketed as “The fastest, most powerful iPhone yet!”. Hopefully it won’t disappoint!

I know there has been a lot of hype about Apple’s iPhones, but even though I have seen them in action, I have never understood why they are so popular. I’ve never owned an iPhone or iPod so this will definitely be an interesting review.

3GS_angled_right The Apple iPhone 3GS (exclusive to O2 in the UK)

What’s in the box?

  • Apple iPhone 3GS handset
  • Stereo earphones/handsfree
  • Sim card ejector
  • Manual
  • USB cable (proprietary connection to the phone)
  • Mains plug (the USB cable connects to this)

Apple iPhone 3GS specifications:

  • Size: H=115.5mm (4.5 inches), W=62.1mm (2.4 inches), D=12.3mm (0.48 inches)
  • Weight: 135 grams (4.8 ounces)
  • Mobile and wireless:
    • UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz)
    • GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
    • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
    • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Location: Assisted GPS / Digital compass / Wi-Fi / Mobile
  • Battery: Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
    • Talk time: Up to 12 hours on 2G and Up to 5 hours on 3G
    • Standby time: Up to 300 hours
    • Internet use:Up to 5 hours on 3G and Up to 9 hours on Wi-Fi
    • Video playback: Up to 10 hours
    • Audio playback: Up to 30 hours
  • Capacity: 16GB or 32GB flash Drive
  • Colour: Black or white
  • Display:
    • 3.5-inch (diagonal) widescreen Multi-Touch display
    • 480-by-320-pixel resolution at 163 ppi
    • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
    • Support for display of multiple languages and characters simultaneously
  • Audio playback:
    • Frequency response: 20Hz to 20,000Hz
    • Audio formats supported: AAC, Protected AAC, MP3, MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3 and 4), Apple Lossless, AIFF and WAV
    • User-configurable maximum volume limit
  • Video playback: Video formats supported: H.264 video, up to 1.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Low-Complexity version of the H.264 Baseline Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats; H.264 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Baseline Profile up to Level 3.0 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats
  • Camera, Photos and Video:
    • 3 megapixels
    • Autofocus
    • Tap to focus
    • Video recording, VGA up to 30 fps with audio
    • Photo and video geotagging
    • iPhone and third-party application integration
  • Sensors: Accelerometer / Proximity sensor / Ambient light sensor

As you can see, there is a lot on information regarding the specifications of the 3GS. What is listed above are just the main details which I have selected. For more information you can visit the Apple site.


Front – The large 3.5 inch display takes up most of the front of the phone. The dimple at the bottom is the menu button.

3GS_front Apple iPhone 3GS – front view

Top – On the top there is a 3.5mm headphone jack. The sim card is located in the top and is taken out by using the ejector. There is also a lock/unlock button (or rather a lock/activate button as you have to use the on-screen slide function to unlock the phone) If you want to know where to buy an apple sim card, just simply visit a site like to find one.

3GS_top Apple iPhone 3GS – top view

Bottom – There are two small loud speakers on the bottom of the phone along with the docking/charging connection.

3GS_bottomApple iPhone 3GS – bottom view

Left – Here you have a mute/unmute switch and an up/down rocker button.

3GS_left Apple iPhone 3GS – left side view

Right – There is nothing on this side! Very neat and tidy!

Back – The 3MP camera is located at the top left of the back of the phone. The only other items on the back are Apple’s logo and other print (eg. Capacity)

3GS_back Apple iPhone 3GS – back view


  • Stylish handset
  • Curved sides make it comfortable to hold
  • Excellent touch screen
  • On screen QWERTY keyboard easy to use
  • Apps store offers a vast array of apps
  • 3MP camera


  • No docking unit provided in the phone’s package
  • No camera flash
  • Unable to multitask
  • Must download from the apps store/iTunes
  • No camera flash


The first thing that surprised me when I received the iPhone 3GS was just how small the box was! Opening it up I emptied the contents – a nice, new and shiny 3GS with a lovely glossy black back to it. Its curved edges make it fit nicely in your hand and lack of buttons (because of course it’s a touch screen) give it a look of class and quality.

Next was the neatly packaged documents along with the sim card ejector, then the earphones, USB cable, power adaptor, and. wait a minute. is that it?? I don’t know what else I was expecting really as this is generally the extent of what you would receive with most phones! Just thought that there should be something else fancy in the box as the iPhone 3GS is quite expensive!

The iPhone 3GS is available in two colours, black and white. It’s also available in two storage capacities, 16GB and 32GB. As mentioned, it’s exclusive to 02 here in the UK.


Once I’d switched the phone on and unlocked the screen using the trademark slide ‘button’ I straight away saw part of the iPhone’s appeal. The display is absolutely crystal clear and the touch screen is a pleasure to use. The sensitivity is brilliant and navigating through the phone is so easy because of this. I found myself just flicking through all of the inbuilt features just to play about with the touch screen!

If you have a look at pictures of the 3G and 3GS you may wonder what’s so different about them. To look at there isn’t too much of a difference. The 3GS is slightly heavier and has a different finish to the body of it which is apparently water and oil resistant. I didn’t test this out of course!

With the 3GS the difference lies with the “S” – for Speed. Without getting too technical, the processor speed is faster, graphics capability is has increased, and the battery life is extended. Of course, I had mentioned that I’ve never owned an iPhone so I couldn’t tell you if it was actually better than the 3G. What I can tell you is that the performance and quality of the 3GS is definitely very good.

There are more features on the 3GS, and it seems that Apple have been listening to their iPhone and iPhone 3G customers. Mind you, this was evident when they released the upgraded OS3 software with the added features current users were crying out for (eg. the copy and paste function). Here are some other extras featured on the 3GS which were not on the 3G:-

  • Video recording capability
  • 3MP camera (upgraded from the 2MP camera on the 3G)
  • Voice control for calls and music control
  • Nike+ support
  • Digital compass (which I find to be a strange feature to use as one of their selling points!)
  • The earphones packaged with the 3GS have music controls.

I like to text a lot so checking how easy the keypad/keyboard is to use on a phone is an important one for me. The 3GS has a QWERTY keyboard which can be use in portrait or landscape mode. I’ve never really been a fan of touch screen QWERTY keyboards as I find pressing the wrong key just happens to often. As there are no defined individual buttons and the ‘buttons’ are situated so close together I’ve always found that there’s just no getting away from the “big thumb syndrome” which in turn slows down your typing to a frustratingly slow pace.

STOP! Wait a minute! Texting on the iPhone 3GS QWERTY touchscreen keyboard is fantastic! I have been converted! The screen is so responsive and the predictive typing that it offers too helps out just in case of a typing error. Definitely a nice surprise!

Setting up email on the 3GS is a breeze and of course typing emails will be a pleasure on this keyboard! Again, Apple have included Wi-Fi on their phone which is straight forward to set up so regardless of the price plan you choose you can surf the web and check your emails using this connection.

“An app for everything”??? This is what Apple have been saying in their adverts. Checking out the Apps Store for the first time was really interesting, and you know what? I think Apple are right! There does seem to be an application for just about anything! There are loads of free apps too so you don’t need to spend much money (if any at all) filling up your menu with fancy new apps. You’ll find yourself browsing for ages just to see what else you could download – it’s almost addictive!

Downloading and app is very straight forward too. It takes longer the first time as you need to register by entering all your details, including bank card details. Of course, if you have already registered from using a previous iPhone or iPod Touch you can just log in using your existing details.

The camera has been upgraded from a 2MP to a 3MP one. This now makes iPhone a competitor in the camera phone market as it’s an average quality camera. But it’s still not great. There’s no flash and no zoom. You can however get some pretty decent photos in good lighting.

The new addition of the ‘Tap to focus’ feature makes focusing in to the subject you want it to much easier. A square will appear where you have taped and the camera will then adjust its settings such as the white balance, exposure, contrast, etc.  to compose the picture as best it can for the subject in focus. If you choose not to tap the screen to focus on a particular subject the camera will just focus the entire frame.

It appears that it’s been a long time coming for the iPhone – Video recording! Yes, the 3GS can record video footage. The quality level it uses for this is 3fps in VGA mode. Not brilliant but better than nothing. Forget taking photos or videos in low light though. The lack of a flash really reduces the capability of the camera here. This is a real shame as the phone’s excellent quality screen is great for viewing photos on.

The graphics in the 3GS is brilliant and can be appreciated most when playing video and games. There is the built in YouTube player for quick access to video clips and of course the App Store offers many games for you to play with. Just seems so convenient!

I’ve heard from a few people and from reading forums about how the iPhone range doesn’t have the capability to multitask. I guess this would be a disappointment for some people. But this really depends on how you use your phone, and what you use it for. I personally didn’t find this a problem.

To make a call you can glide through your contacts or type in the number you want on the huge numerical keypad. The call quality always depends on the coverage in your area and that of person you are speaking to. I had no issues with the call quality. It was clear and loud enough. The speakers on the  3GS (located at the bottom of the phone”) are pretty good when using the speakerphone.

Voice control was left out on the previous iPhone models which is surprising. On the 3GS you can now hold down the menu/home button until the voice control view shows. You can then say the contact’s name or number you want to call and will receive audio confirmation as well as the contacts details showing on the screen. That’s not all though. Apple have of course gone further, and the voice control can also be used when listening to music to play, stop, shuffle, etc.. You can even ask it what song is playing and you will receive audio feedback giving you your answer. Fantastic!

This leads me onto something that I had almost forgotten about. The iPod music player! The large screen makes it so easy to browse through your music collection and with 16 or even 32GB of space you will be able to fit shed loads of music onto the phone! You can download tracks from iTunes, and with OS3 on the phone you can also rent or purchase TV shows and audio books.

Lastly I will mention web browsing. Although you can’t expect amazing speeds from a mobile phone the 3GS is a pleasure to browse the web with due to the large display and responsive touch screen. The iPhone’s way of zooming in and out really helps to enhance the browsing experience as with many other phones you would need to enter into a menu to find the zoom in and out options.


The Apple iPhone 3GS (exclusive to O2) has definitely opened my eyes to the world of the iPhone. The phone is stylish an one to be proud to show off to your friends.

I’ve never been a fan of touch screen keyboards, especially full QWERTY ones. But if you have read through the review you will know that my opinion has been completely changed.

The interface in which Apple have used make it so easy to type out messages, navigate through the menu and browse the web. There are so many applications in the Apps Store that you would never tire of looking for a new fancy app to play about with.

Disappointing that the camera wasn’t anything special. So if you’re looking for a camera phone this is not the phone for you.

I could have gone on for ages (which I did. but I mean ages!) about the iPhone 3GS as it’s just so jam packed with features. If I’ve missed anything out that you have any questions about you can just browse the web – there’s loads out there about this phone.

Well, definitely a thumbs up from me and I can now say that I finally see what the hype was all about!

Reviewed by: Emma

Posted in: Reviews

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