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Also, text appears slightly sharper on the 3GS compared with the 3G. 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.
Everything Else--Including OS 3.0
A couple of stray features have been crammed into the iPhone 3GS, and while they may seem minor, they're sure to find their fans.
The newly integrated compass is handy for location-based and mapping applications (and if you're communing with Mother Nature). The compass has distinctive, easy-to-read graphics, and it allows applications to orient to your current position. For example, the Maps app will reorient based on your directional heading.
Nike+ support is built-in now, too. Take iPhone 3GS on a workout with you, and it can track your progress together with the $19 Nike+ accessory.
Certainly, the OS 3.0 software update, which makes many cool features available to all iPhone users, could persuade some people to decide they don't need a new handset. Among OS 3.0's features: a landscape keyboard for all core apps; an innovative and useful implementation of cut, copy, and paste, the long-elusive iPhone feature; A2DP stereo Bluetooth; push notifications, an improved call log that shows details like the time and length of a call; spotlight search for searching apps, e-mail (subjects and to/from lines), music, and more; shake to shuffle; voice memos; and support for MMS and tethering, common features bizarrely not available to AT&T until later this summer.
Although the iPhone 3GS offers some compelling improvements for heavy users, I'm disappointed that Apple didn't build more innovations into the handset, to differentiate itself from the pack. Some areas are still lacking, and there's still no true multitasking (you can't log into instant messaging while surfing the Web, for example).
But the performance enhancements do distinguish this otherwise evolutionary step-up phone from its previous iterations. The new features of the 3GS are few but choice. With 32GB of storage and its data and multimedia strengths, Apple's iPhone 3GS is, despite the reservations noted, one of the best smartphones you can buy for the money.
--Melissa J. Perenson
Apple 32GB iPhone 3GS
Apple 16GB iPhone 3GS