I admit it. I waited in line to buy the new iPhone today. For more than two hours. In my defence, I've been without a functioning cellphone for almost two weeks, and I felt it was finally time to take the plunge and pick up a smart phone.
Right out of the box, the 3GS feels smooth and snappy. Load time really has been cut substantially-it will certainly give the speedy Palm Pre a run for its money.
Not having the Palm on hand (sometimes it sucks to be Canadian), I conducted the most unfair and unscientific match up of all time, comparing the load time of Globetechnology.com on my new 3GS and my old iPod Touch. The iPhone was almost exactly twice as fast: The full page loaded in 15 seconds, compared to about 32 on the Touch.
I shot and trimmed this video on a second 3GS, and then sent it directly to YouTube. The whole process took under five minutes and was dead easy.
The only snag is that, as you can see, I couldn't get the video to upload in landscape mode. I'm going to be taking a closer look at the video applications on the new iPhone in a future post, so we'll know soon enough whether to blame Apple or user error for my lack of proper orientation.
Videos also tend to blow out fairly easily, so I wouldn't recommend counting on the iPhone's exposure for those must-have shots. But I think the casual shooter will be more than happy with the iPhone-which may soon make devices like the Flip video camera obsolete.
Some of the 3GS's other new features, while kind of nifty, are of limited appeal.
Voice command works as advertised, though I'm not sure how it would stand up in a crowded room. (I feel silly enough giving verbal instructions to my phone when no one's around.) The program itself is also a bit difficult to find-the only way to get to it is by holding down the "home" button for a few seconds. I had to actually read the instructions to figure out how to launch the application, which is not something I'm used to doing with Apple products.
Then there's the compass. Urban explorers and hunters aside, I doubt many of us yearn to know which direction we're facing (77 degrees East, in case you were wondering). But there's still hope third-party developers will be able to turn the compass into something useful-its integration with Google Maps gives a hint of what might be possible.
But the most useful update, by far, is the introduction of copy-and-paste. Leave it to Apple to pitch as novel a feature that's standard on most other smartphones. Still, to their credit, they got it right, albeit two years late. The touch controls are simple and copying between applications is a breeze.
While the new iPhone is certainly speedy, I'd have trouble recommending it to current 3G owners. The hardware bump just isn't enough to warrant the hefty price tag, especially considering Apple will no doubt have an even faster phone on the market in a year's time.
(Admittedly, the fellow standing in front of me in line clearly thought differently-the promise of better battery life and the ability to shoot video was well worth the upgrade, he said, confessing, "I'm kind of a sucker for anything Apple.") What's clear, though, is that phones like the 3GS and the Palm Pre are bringing us closer to the Great Big Smartphone Dream: The pocket-sized computer so fast and intuitive that it doesn't feel like you're using a computer at all.