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Summary:

My 3GS has given me (relatively) little cause for complaint since I got it, though there was the one little replacement issue for what I thought were Wi-Fi problems. Turned out to be a persistent issue that hopefully will be resolved with a firmware update, but […]

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My 3GS has given me (relatively) little cause for complaint since I got it, though there was the one little replacement issue for what I thought were Wi-Fi problems. Turned out to be a persistent issue that hopefully will be resolved with a firmware update, but it’s more superficial than anything else. What I haven’t experienced, and what some people are reporting, are overheating issues with their handsets.

A few users are reporting serious heat build-ups in their phones, with temperatures high enough to even prevent putting the phone to one’s face, according to PC World reviewer, Melissa J. Perenson. The problem doesn’t appear to be widespread, which could be due to it being a hardware defect in only a select few phones, or it could even be due to usage patterns. Perenson was basically doing as much as possible to incur heat, by playing games and browsing on Wi-Fi while the device was plugged in.

The PC World report comes on the heels of photos posted at French blog Nowhere Else which claim to show significant discoloration on the rear surface of a white 16GB iPhone 3GS. Apple Support Discussions also exist with users claiming to have overheating issues. Over at QuickPWN, they’re pointing the finger at iPhone OS 3.0, not the 3GS hardware specifically. Just to be clear, no one is reporting actual hardware failure as a result of heat, just temperatures so high that they make using the phone uncomfortable or almost painful.

Even if usage is to blame, as most people’s experiences seem to suggest, that’s no excuse for the devices to overheat. Apple is pushing the gaming abilities of the 3GS, after all, so it has to expect device owners to be using the iPhone for gaming for extended periods of time. And Wi-Fi web browsing is hardly undue wear and tear.

Like I said, I’ve yet to experience any heat issues, and I use my 3GS with my recently purchased Mophie Juice Pack Air to really push the battery life to the max. It does get rather warm when I flick the charging switch, but the front surface remains plenty cool enough to hold against my face without discomfort. Admittedly, I’ve yet to do any marathon gaming sessions, which was pretty standard practice on my 3G, but I plan on doing some later today, so I’ll get a chance to see if that incurs any temperature spikes.

Some are already talking wide recalls, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Apple will definitely try to resolve any outstanding quirks the 3GS may have via a software update before resorting to a much more expensive product recall. And the percentage of users reporting this problem is still small, though vocal, but that could just be because most people don’t use their iPhone for prolonged, intensive tasks, or while charging.

Let us know if you’re having heat problems below, and what seems to be causing your issues.

  1. Brett Kloesel Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    Howdy!!!!

    I have the 3GS 32G white. And well I haven’t seen any discoloration. But when any music or like game that I play with the volume cranked all the way up ( like any gamer would do ) about an inch around my speaker get extremely hot like I can feel it burning my hand and while it doesnt have like a strong scent coming from the speaker, I can still smell something strange. Also I believe it happens when I’m putting in a good beat down on TAP TAP REVENGE the back of my phone heats up but it may just be a combo of my hand and finger placement with the hardware keeping everything tapulous!! But other than the heat issue, not one complant from me!!!

    1. iphone 3g 8gig, just upgraded 221 to 312 now calls from 5-45 minutes get hotter the longer the call. i had wifi and bluetooth off. all other programs closed, just a long phone call with 3.0 causes my overheat.

  2. I have noticed the back of my iPhone 3GS 32 gig get noticably warm, although not hot, after only 15 minutes of talk or 30 minutes of watching UTube or using the GPS on Urban Spoon. My 3G 16 gig, that I traded in, never got warm at all, even after prolonged use. I intend to watch this issue closely and if it continues to heat up after only moderate use I may ask them to replace it. Is it normal to get warm like that?

  3. I recently used a GPS app to track my bike ride for about an hour. When I finished, the back of my white iPhone 3GS was extremely warm, but there was no discoloration.

  4. what about the palm pre.. anyone used it? does it heat up?

    1. I have a Pre. With the standard back on the phone I did notice it at times getting warm during heavy activity (remember, the Pre multitasks so this is when I have several browsers open, watching YouTube or Sprint TV, and talking a bit). However, it was never ‘too hot to handle’… it never got hot, just noticably warm.

      I’m now using the Touchstone charger with it so it has a different back cover on (for the Touchstone to work). With this cover on, it never even gets warm to the touch.

  5. Hi,

    my problem is a got a yellow-ish display. Because I got 2 iphones 3G´s 32gig the new 1 1/2 weeks ago and now the 2nd one already with a yellow-ish display background from last Saturday. I brought it back immediatley and got a new one same problem!!! So ordered another one if this is coming in like that I must wait a while maybe before odering again maybe. I called Apple store (Germany) and they are aware of that Problem , HELLLLLOOOO?
    So by putting both ´s :-) next to each other (menue/display/ light high-low) show a completley different background color- one with a clear white white display screen and the other one with an off white/yellow-ish touch.
    Anyone experienced that too? Not heat problem so far just a bit warm same like Nokia N95 sometimes.

    Thoughts?

    Thx, Kerry

  6. What to read on the GigaOM network Tuesday, June 30, 2009

    [...] acquired (NewTeeVee) Google inks first European utility partnership for PowerMeter (Earth2Tech) Are you playing “Hot Potato” with your iPhone 3GS? (TheAppleBlog) Acquia Search now out of beta (OStatic) Embracing information overload [...]

  7. When I upgraded to OS 3.0, my iPhone 3G did not charge properly, had heating issues etc. Finally managed to solve it. Guess this may be the case with 3GS also.

    http://www.manu-j.com/blog/fix-iphone-os-30-battery-charging-problems/353/

  8. I have used my 3GS 32gb with the ATT navigator on a hour and half commute and it was not hot at all, it did warm up when on a long 45min+ phone call but never HOT. The overheating issue sound very suspect to me or at least limited.

  9. I’m holding out on a purchase until heat issues and possibly the camera rattle are resolved. I’m hoping they do it soon, but I may be waiting until the end of August/September before dropping down on an iphone.

  10. schadenfreude!

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