Apple started selling the latest version of its popular iPhone this morning. Rather than wait in line at a local Apple store, I ordered mine online a couple weeks ago with a promise of delivery today. Sure enough, the UPS driver appeared in my driveway at 9:05 AM.
As I signed for the package, the UPS driver asked, "New iPhone, eh?" Then he started asking lots of questions. I think he was more excited about the iPhone than I was. He also told me it was his first delivery of the day to a private residence, and he decided to deliver to me first as he realized the package contained a new iPhone. The driver had other deliveries to make, so he didn't wait around for me to open the package.
Unpacking the box was a typical Apple experience: no surprises. Everything worked as expected, but with one small catch: I plugged the iPhone into the USB connector of the Macintosh on my desk to get it to sync up and to register the new device as a replacement for my old, first-generation iPhone. A pop-up message appeared that said, "Unable to register phone now as all servers are busy. We apologize for the inconvenience." Well, that was no surprise. I suspect that tens of thousands of new iPhone owners across the country were unpacking their boxes this morning and plugging them in almost simultaneously. I'm not surprised that the servers were busy!
The first window was then replaced by another that stated, "Awaiting activation." I dismissed that window, and another message appeared that assured me that I would be notified when the activation was complete.
I proceeded to experiment with all the new features that did not require registration. I was upgrading directly from a first-generation (non-3G) iPhone to the latest, third-generation iPhone. I never owned one of the second-generation phones, the original 3G devices. Therefore, lots of things were new to me that might be "old hat" to someone who owns a second-generation 3G iPhone. Some of the changes are due to the new hardware, but some others are because of the new version 3.0 software that was also released this week. Owners of first and second generation devices will receive a lot of new functionality when they upgrade to version 3.0 software.
Once I connected the iPhone to my in-home wi-fi network, most everything worked with the exception that I couldn't make or receive phone calls. Almost everything else worked through my wi-fi network. I surfed the web, checked e-mail, synchronized the address book and calendar, and performed most of the other chores that I have been accustomed to with the old iPhone. I couldn't test the new 3G network speed, however, as that required activation. Instead, I used the even faster wi-fi connection. Of course, if I left the house, I would have lost network connectivity. Luckily, the activation occurred about an hour later, before I had a chance to go anywhere.
The first thing I noticed is that the iPhone 3G S is quick! Windows pop open quicker than what I ever saw on my old first-generation phone with 8 gigabytes of memory. The new phone has 32 gigabytes of memory (a 16-gigabyte version is available for $100 less) and also has a faster processor.
I first used the new iPhone on my in-house 802.11g wi-fi network which, in turn, connects to a Verizon FIOS fiber optic connection. Surfing the web was quick and easy on that connection. I was disappointed later, however, when I left the house (after activation) and used the AT&T 3G wireless network. It was slower than I expected.
I also have a different device that uses Verizon's 3G wireless network, and I can tell you that Verizon's 3G network is significantly faster where I live than AT&T's 3G network. Admittedly, my test was not conducted under scientifically-controlled conditions. It simply reflects my experience within a few miles of my house. It is possible that Verizon's local tower is nearer to me, producing a stronger signal than AT&T's nearest tower. You might try the same experiment where you live and have the opposite experience. However, I will say that the AT&T 3G network is a lot faster than my old iPhone's 2G network connection!
The new smartphone is equipped with a 3-megapixel camera with video capturing and editing capabilities. The earlier versions were 2 megapixels and only took still pictures. I made a quick capture of video, and it seemed to work; but I need more time to become familiar with video on the iPhone.
The new iPhone 3G S has improved battery life with up to 12 hours of talk time and 30 hours of audio. It also supports voice commands ("E.T. phone home") not only for the cell phone but also for most of the included applications. When playing music by emulating an iPod, you can say "next song" and the music will skip to the next track. It will even recognize (after a bit of training) the names of artists or the names of specific albums. I can say "B. B. King," and the iPhone will jump to the first B. B. King song in its list of available tunes. Of course, with 32 gigabytes of available storage space, I can carry a lot of songs!
The new iPhone 3G S also has a built-in digital compass. The second-generation iPhone already contained a built-in GPS, and that feature continues in the newest iPhones. The compass is only in the new 3G S phones, however. There is also a promise of new software from third-party vendors that will provide turn-by-turn driving instructions in the same manner as most dashboard-mounted GPS devices. However, those applications are not yet available.
All in all, my early experience with the Apple iPhone 3G S has all been positive. So far, I have been pleased with it. If I change my mind after a few days' use, I'll write about my experiences here.
The 16-gigabyte iPhone 3G S sells for $199 with a new contract with exclusive carrier AT&T. The 32-gigabyte version costs $299 with a new activation.
My previous first-generation iPhone was purchased 23 months ago, and AT&T agreed to waive the last month's fee and make the third-generation iPhone available at the same price as that given to new customers. However, anyone who purchased a second-generation phone in the past year or so may find themselves locked into the contract they agreed to. After all, when you sign a 24-month contract, you are obligated to live up to the terms of that contract. Upgrades are possible, but only at very high prices.
The new 3G S has several nice new features, but I don't see them as compelling reasons to pay a high price to upgrade. If you already own a second-generation iPhone 3G, I'd suggest you keep the credit cards in your pocket and stick with what you have. In my mind, the new features are not worth the ridiculous upgrade charges for 3G owners to upgrade to the 3G S
I think the best bargain of all has been almost overlooked by the news media: anyone who does not have an iPhone at all can now purchase a brand-new, second-generation iPhone 3G (not the latest model) with a two-year agreement for $99. That strikes me as a bargain.
More information about Apple's new 3G S cell phone is available on Apple's web site (http://www.apple.com/) as well as on hundreds of web sites. You might start at this link: http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=&=&q=iPhonbe+%223G+S%22&btnG=Google+Search.