Blog Post

iPhone 3G vs. 3G S: Our Unscientific Speed Tests Show a Clear Winner


Apple (s aapl) claims the iPhone 3G S is much faster than the iPhone 3G, but is it? Keep reading for our impromptu, unscientific speed tests.


The iPhone 3G S may be a faster device, but the upgrade process is slow. Be prepared when you hook up the new iPhone (to the machine you previously synced your old phone with) to be asked to accept a new license agreement. You will then be asked to enter your Apple ID. Thus, you’ll need an active Internet connection. You’ll likely want to restore from your old iPhone backup and then you’ll have to wait…a very long time. My restore took about 40 minutes.

After the phone data is restored, iTunes will start restoring applications and other content you specify. Unlike previous restores, this one actually kept the icon positions on the iPhone (this may be a new 3.0 feature), but for some reason, it didn’t remember saved passwords for Wi-Fi networks.

One test I recommend running before going any further is a pixel test to confirm there are no stuck pixels on your new phone.

App Speeds

Now comes the fun part: app speed testing. I still had my old iPhone (now a glorified iPod touch!) so I could easily compare how my apps ran on the old phone with the new one. The iPhone 3G was already upgraded to 3.0 (which I recommend before switching to the 3G S), and they were both on the same network.

These are averages after three separate tests. Human error does slightly figure in, as I pressed the stopwatch on one iPhone while my assistant simultaneous pressed the icons on the new iPhone 3G S and the iPhone 3G.

  • Scrabble was one of the slowest apps for us. It loaded in 14.5 seconds on the 3G S and 21.4 on the 3G.
  • Next test was Rolando: 13.8 seconds on the 3G S and 21.5 on the 3G.
  • Trism 3.5 seconds on 3G S and 6.3 on 3G.
  • Calendar: 1.6 on 3G S and 2.1 on 3G.
  • Weather Underground on Safari: 5.9 and 9.6.
  • And finally TwitterFon: 1.6 on 3G S and 3.0 on 3G.

Overall impression after owing it for two hours: The iPhone 3G S is one-third to twice as fast in this blogger’s real-world test. Share your test results in the comments!

51 Responses to “iPhone 3G vs. 3G S: Our Unscientific Speed Tests Show a Clear Winner”

  1. Johnny Cartham

    Hey, I’m thinking about getting an iphone for the first time, I gave a choice of the 3g or 3gs, is the 3gs worth paying more? How about a refurbished 3gs from att, are they any good. Help!! lol

  2. Chris M.

    I just wanted to say thanks. I searched the internet for hours trying to find good user reviews on the 3G vs. 3GS to see if the “S” was worth it. For now, no “S” for me, save $1-200 and upgrade in 2yrs. And maybe I’ll come back and comment on my experience. Again, thanks for ending my infinite google search.

  3. My boss has had the 3GS for 3 weeks now. The only problem he has is that he has to “reboot” it every 3 days otherwise the phone locks up. Other than that, he loves it and plans on getting the rest of the management team that phone.

  4. Its true that apple do tend to create products, with out-dated features and technology, but the difference is that when they do it, they get it right. For instance, the iphone has been described as the first real gaming phone, but games on phones have been around for years. The same as accelerometers have been in phones before, but apple use the technology to its full potential. Video calling is out-dated by now, and not many people use it, but when apple introduce it, they’ll get it spot on and it will be huge. No need to complain about the iphone missing features, it’ll come out when the time is right. Keep up the good work apple.

  5. passerby

    I do not have the extra cash to spare to just upgrade to an iphone 3gs, but if i had i would probably have done it just for the fun of it.

    But after being on Nokia and motorola phones for so many years, i feel that there is a major difference between iphone and the rest. The design of an iphone may have left a lot of features out as somebody mentioned above, but it takes me a lot less keystrokes to do stuff than what i had to do with a Nokia or Motorola and it is just the simplicity of the robust user interface with easy to use navigational features that had me hooked on to iphone.

    The telecommunication sector has to keep up to speed to provide the infrastructure to support the ever up-coming bandwidth consuming appliances. But all in all the designers at apple have done a good job. But the real Kudos should actually go to the apple marketing team who are keeping the consumers on their toes to actually lure them to even consider 3 upgrades in two and half years for the same basic phone (already there was some news on CNN of an iphone 4g prototype being stolen)…..

  6. I got my first Apple Iphone two weeks ago from the Apple store (leaving more poor little Krazor in the graveyard of cellphones AKA my desk drawer). After spending 2 hours in the store trying to decide which one I wanted, I decided to get the regular 8G Iphone currently going for $100. NOt bad for a phone! I tried ATT’s Samsung Imprssion for two weeks (terrible) and then the Eternity (not as terrible). Then finally went to Iphone. Now I feel like I dont know how people have lived without one. But Im writing for all the first time purchasers and people considering upgrading… I had a long conversation with the sales associate and he informed me that if Im not big into games, and it doesnt bother me to not have video (it does but Im willing to wait until something better comes out) then he said the 3G would suit me fine. He said ther is not that big of a difference between the 3G and 3GS, not one that I would notice! ANd he informed me that if I download the OS 3.0 software I will get a lot of the cool features that the 3GS users get.

    Im excited for the next improvement and will consider upgrading in 2 years or so ( hopefully better camera features will be nice, considering even my Krazor took video) ……other than that I do not need a compass so the 3G was a hands down no brainer. And $100, not bad considering how expensive the other phones at ATT were.

  7. newuser

    So after years of basic phones, I’m considering getting an iPhone (and I qualify for an upgrade) – here’s my question though…is it really worth the extra $100 to get the 3G S or can I just take advantage of the lower price on the 3G though that will lock me in for 2 years? Any advice?

    • either phone will lock you in for 2 years…that is the deal.

      after downloading software for 3G the main difference will be compass, voice dialing and video camera. Are those things you cant live without? if so get 3GS if not 3G is well worth it.

      when it comes to speed the two phones are not that diefferent, not enough to notice a huge imporvement…it is ATT who has to upgrade their stuff in order to have the 3GS work as fast as it actually can. I dont think ATT is there yet…

    • Actually, i think it is definitely worth the extra $100. Having double the RAM really is helpful (on my 3g i constantly had under 10mb of memory available) and the speed improvement makes it so much snappier and even more fun to use. Plus, the 3MP camera is far better, and the ability to record video is great.

    • ex2bot


      Did you attach the new phone to the same computer you had your old phone synced to?

      If so, did you . . .

      Hook up the new phone to the machine and wait for its icon to show up on the left side of the iTunes window. Click once on that icon and click the “Applications” tab. Make sure the apps you want on the phone are selected. Then click the “sync” button (or is it “Apply”?).

      Let us know how it goes.


  8. IT Guy

    On Wednesday, I upgraded my 1G iPhone to OS 3.0. Download went fine, but activation server was down for the first 90 minutes or so. After that, everything went smoothly. On Friday, my 3GS showed up and I activated it that afternoon. That was a very smooth process. The only thing glitchy that I’ve experienced is that initially some of the apps like Weather, Stocks would not update even though I had good 3G signal. A reboot seemed to take care of the problem. 3GS boots really fast (about 25 seconds)–a welcome improvement.

  9. IT Guy

    I upgraded from a 1G and am delighted. Two years ago I paid $499 for an 8 GB iPhone. Two years later, I paid $299 for a 32 GB iPhone that is nearly twice as fast has four times the capacity, 50,000 3rd party apps, GPS, video recording, a better camera, Exchange integration, better battery life, subtle refinements everywhere I turn. I consider it borderline miraculous that my 1G still functions after carrying in my pocket for two years with keys and change. It’s now my insurance policy for the next two years with the 3GS. Thanks Apple, for making something that borders on the perfect balance of design and technology.

  10. I think its funny that apple comes out with video recording when my old sonyericsson from about 5 years ago had flash 3.2 megapixel camera, video recording, nice calendar (WITH A FREAKING WEEK VIEW), a todo list that actually has an alert. i think apple has created a gaming device not a true business phone. there’s nothing regular about apple, infact, they come up with technology that has already been out for 5 years and hype it up as revolutionary. apple just has a good PR and good advertising schemes.
    heck where is the flash on their new phone

    where was voice dialing 2 years ago WHEN Almost all phones had it. the call log didn’t even tell you your duration of your previous calls until os 3.0, a VERY BASIC feature that appears on all phones. and still no MMS? what is wrong with ATT and why the hell did apple not put it in when every single other phone in the world had MMS two years ago.
    by the way I still can’t record phone conversations i have with people, something I could do with my old sonyericsson w0810. I have no idea when I took the pictures on my phone until I upload them to my computer. and look inside the file tag. how hard is it to put a date and time of when you took your picture? I still don’t have a week view on my calendar. I still don’t can’t run flash on my phone…i could go on..

    i miss 2 years ago when I could use my phones flash as an actual flash light.

    but I’m bound by ATT’s two year contract!!!

    • quote: i miss 2 years ago when I could use my phones flash as an actual flash light.
      but I’m bound by ATT’s two year contract!!! unquote

      ummmm, Apple has a Free application called Flashlight, that’s, well, a flashlight. in different colors and even in strobe. go for it.

    • No, lol, he didn’t mean flashlight. He meant “Flash Lite”, Adobe’s portable version of the Flash player. Older phones had other versions of Flash which performed similar to Flash Lite, but the stupid iPhone is way behind in that area.

    • BAHAHAHA why did you even buy the phone? If you’re SO unhappy with it and you have the time to rant about it on the internet…why did you buy it? You spent AT LEAST $200 dollars on something that you KNEW you hated…making the assumption that you have both the 1st Generation and the 3G…and now the 3GS from the comments about ‘2 years ago’. My only reaction is to call you an idiot…I have absolutely NO sympathy for you. And it DOES have real notifications for calendar events, but I find it doubtful that you can find your way around your own bedroom let alone a piece of the world’s highest technology.

      And no, he WAS talking about using the flash as a flashlight (as in a light to use in the dark), I had the W0810 and ALWAYS used that feature!

    • Agreed. It was just nice to have one when you didn’t happen to have a real flashlight in your pocket…and that wasn’t meant to sound rude to you, I was just really frustrated with the original poster!

    • lol i know, no harm done. i find it kind of sad though that in a 3G vs 3GS thread we are discussing, with open hatred, how we cant use a several hundred dollar piece of all-in-one portability as a flashlight. *sigh*

    • HAHAHA you’re completely right! It’s such an amazing device, sometimes you forget that you’re using your phone to be a flashlight! I have the App she’s (Julie) talking about and I actually use it quite often…but I know what you mean, it’s really frustrating when people who don’t have the device bash it…but it’s even MORE frustrating when people who have bought the previous model(s) and now the new one and then rant about how much they hate the thing…stop buying them!

  11. ex2bot

    I don’t think I agree (Eric, Dave, etc.) that it’s a minor update. The camera is _much_ better, 3 MPX autofocus, macro; it does decent video; the graphics system is significantly better, meaning better graphics apps and games in the future. And extra speed is not insignificant.

    I want one.


  12. kittilia

    I think Iphones are cool, but they, in general, with all the apps and cool little videos and and the internet-capability, are still not worth 200-500 well earned dollars. a normal phone is good enough for me.

  13. My experiences have been about the same as Dave Greenbaum’s. The phone is just overall snappier. What it feels like is the change when I went from my first generation intel iMac to the newest 24-inch iMac…everything was just….faster….felt faster….hard to quantify, and the OS was the same (Leopard on both) but the new Mac felt quicker…and so does the new iPhone.

  14. Wait until nxt year where apple will probably add flash player on the iPhone. Who cares about a couple seconds?! Just wait until nxt year. Ull be glad u did

    • my two cents is that every time a newer version of a product came out, ppl would say ill wait tell the next one its going to be worth it , u will say that every single time that new product comes out . i think what makes this easy for ppl to say that is that the new 3g s has the same outside case which was a bad mistake on apple, but when the 1st gen iphone went to the 3g, the only real upgrade or add on was the gps n 3g but they change the case so everyone got all wet over it, and they even change or up the processor , video, camera , or etc. . and yes when that came out there where prob. still ppl saying “ill just wait for the next one” there will always be a next one , it will always be better then the prev. it just comes down to if you can afford to keep up with the latest one, i personally have had all the iphones from the beginning of the 1st but thats just cuz thats my fetish and wat gets me all wet , cuz i got a better phone :)

  15. Jonathan

    I set mine up the same way as above, and everything works but the phone sevice. Im still waiting after 4 hours for the “your phone has been activated.” Until then its just a bulkey ipod touch. Has anyone else had a delay in activation?

    • People seemed to be having problems in the store like that, but my observation was these are people who didn’t upgrade to 3.0 at first. Also, and this isn’t so obvious due to the error messages, but make sure you have a working Internet connection. One guy at the store was using an Internet connection that required a login, so he thought he was online, but had to do one of those stupid website logins before TCP/IP traffic would be passed.

  16. delhiboy

    How about a more “scientific” test – do an “erase and restore” on the old 3G phone and repeat the speed comparison? I believe the “restore” on the old 3G will speed it up….

    • I thought of the best way to do the test, and with a typical 3G phone that had typical use would be the best test bed. Of course a new iPhone 3G with OS 3.0 would have been the best test bed.
      I chose my slowest and quickest loading apps so we could do a fair comparison. Scrabble is sooo slow on the iPhone and Facebook