When I first began using the Apple iPhone 3GS, I noticed that the colors didn't quite pop as I'd come to expect with the iPhone 3G. The more I explored various menus and apps, and the more I compared the phones side by side, the more I noticed that the iPhone 3GS seemed...well, different.
Take a close look at the accompanying photo (click the thumbnail to see a larger version). The photo doesn't quite do justice to the very visible trend we noticed here at PC World's offices. On the left is an iPhone 3G. Note the deeper browns at the top of the notepad, and the deeper grays of the keyboard. At right is the same screen on an iPhone 3GS. Note the dullish gray of the keys; they simply don't pop in the same way. In both instances, the auto-brightness setting was off, and the brightness level was identical.
In some images, we detected a slightly greenish cast. We found the color distinction quite noticeable on screens with white backgrounds, such as the search tab, the calendar, and the photo library. While some of these differences may not have stood out when we looked at the iPhone 3GS on its own, the distinction was stark when we put the new handset next to the 3G.
Looking at six iPhones (three 3G models and three 3GS models) with identical settings, we noticed that the 3G models shared the same screen characteristics. The 3GS models appeared to have a slight variance: Two of the three appeared to have the duller texture, while the third seemed slightly brighter than those but not as bright as the 3G handsets.
When we asked Apple about this differentiation, a spokesperson said that the new oleophobic (oil-resistant) coating had no impact on the screen, as the coating is transparent. The representative also said that the coating should have had no impact on the color temperature or the brightness level of the screen, since those settings are the same in the 3G and 3GS. In moving from the original iPhone to the 3G, the company did alter the color temperature to achieve a warmer, more natural tone.
None of that information explains why we saw what appeared to be an even warmer screen on the iPhone 3GS.
The aforementioned smudge-proof coating, at least, is the real deal--during similar use, it attracted fewer fingerprints than an iPhone 3G did, and those fingerprints wiped off easily. Another benefit: The new screen's texture has an ultrasmooth glide to it. In contrast, my fingers would more easily catch on the iPhone 3G (typically as they passed over a fingerprint or three).
On top of everything, text appears slightly sharper. That's surprising considering that the iPhone 3GS has the same resolution as the iPhone 3G does. Apple says that fonts on the iPhone 3GS are rendered by the phone, as opposed to being bitmaps, and that this approach accounts for the smoother and sharper appearance of text.