iPhone 3G S: A Breakdown of What’s New

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First, it’s great news that the “old” iPhone 3G 8GB model now sells for $99, effective today. It’s a great device that will get even better on June 17, when the new iPhone OS 3.0 arrives free of charge. This is an incredible smartphone, and Apple just dropped the price floor in a manner that RIM, LG, Nikon, Palm, and others will eventually have to respond to.

However, this article is going to focus on the new iPhone 3G S hardware vs. the older hardware. It will not focus on the features of the new iPhone OS, since most of those come to the older models when they upgrade anyway.

As is common with Apple, the hardware has been significantly improved while the price points remain the same. Let’s look into the details about just what Apple added to the iPhone line today.

I’ll start with the stuff that has been long-rumored, and we all more or less expected:

  • RAM increased from 128MB to 256MB. This is nice, as many apps were memory-constrained. Should be less crashing now.
  • More storage. Base model is 16GB; next up is 32G.
  • Better camera. Includes 3.0 MP, auto-focus, and auto-macro. Actually, it has new camera hardware and software to go with it. I find auto-macro a pleasant surprise. Taking pictures of things close up can be interesting. Auto-focus lets you tap an area, and it will focus and adjust white balance automatically. Nice.
  • Same form factor as before. You can keep your old 3G case.
  • Price in the U.S. remains $199 and $299 (with a two-year AT&T contract).

A faster processor was also rumored, and I bet is in place. However, Apple does not advertise processor speed on the Tech Specs for the iPhone, so a breakdown on the new device, or an Apple representative confirmation, will be required for us to know that for sure.

In traditional Apple fashion, the company sprung other upgrades on us as well. Most of these had also been rumored, though with less certainty. The new iPhones include:

  • Video recording. This is part of the new camera. It captures 30fps VGA video with autofocus and auto white balance. The video shows up in the library with your photos. Just one tap and you can share via email, MMS, YouTube and MobileMe.
  • Voice control. This can be used for dialing numbers, or playing tunes in various ways (e.g., “play more songs by Radiohead”), or even asking it what it’s playing now (similar to what other iPods can do).
  • Built-in compass. This works with Maps so that you can tap to have it orient the map the direction you’re facing.
  • Accessibility settings. Various abilities such as reading text to you, color inversion, and even piping audio to different ears for people hard of hearing.
  • Nike+ support built in. Allows you to use the Nike+ sensor in your shoes.
  • Hardware encryption. A security feature aimed at businesses.
  • Internet tethering. Share the phone’s high-speed connection on your laptop. Set it and forget it. “Just works” over USB or Bluetooth. This requires carrier support, and AT&T so far does not allow it. The fact that it’s built into the iPhone is going to put some pressure on carriers to allow this.
  • Improved battery life. Now get 9 hours on Wi-Fi, 10 watching video, 30 of audio playback, 12 of 2G talk, and 5 of 3G talk. These are about 15 percent to 20 percent higher than before.
  • Locate my iPhone. This is for MobileMe users only. It allows you to find the iPhone when you’ve left it someplace. It shows a map with its location, sounds an alarm on the device (even if the phone is in silent mode), and displays a message for whomever finds it. And, if you fear the worst, you can use MobileMe to wipe the data contents off the device.

And all of these features have APIs that developers can tap into, so who knows what other cool things these features will bring?

You get all these features, including double the storage space for the same prices as before. Such a deal. I have an 8GB original iPhone, and you can bet I’m getting the 32GB model as soon as possible.

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