I disagree with MG Siegler (TechCrunch).
I second the part where Siegler predicts that the new video recording and publishing features might have a game changing influence on how people are going to share multimedia bits.
But clearly, the performance boost is the key feature for me and the more I’ve used various apps on the iPhone 3G S, the deeper the overall impact on my happiness.
Disclosure: Apple did not provide me with a review unit, shame on you, Apple! If they would have, I’d likely had to fight with our Editor in Chief, to get my hands on it first, anyway. :-)
A little bit of History
I’ve been an iPhone user since the first generation of iPhones shipped and quickly switched to the 3G when it became available. I got a hold of the 3G S with a little help from somebody at T-Mobile Germany last Friday. My first iPhone had been jailbroken and unlocked to run it on the German Vodafone network. (Ironically, Vodafone in Germany offers a better special iPhone tariff than the official distributor, T-Mobile.) The 3G came unlocked from Italy and the newest addition to my iPhone collection, the 3G S, is a regular T-Mobile device.
I also own part of a company that develops games and utilities for the iPhone platform and I occasionally fire up Xcode and code myself.
So overall I consider myself being a pretty heavy iPhone user, trying many third party apps. For me the phone functionality is fine but I predominantly use the device to stay in touch, post updates to Twitter and FriendFeed, offline read various blogs I’ve subscribed to and check private and business email accounts.
Talking about Video
Video recording has been a missing feature ever since the launch of the iPhone 3G. Third party apps filled in the software gap but could never make up for the limited capabilities of the hardware. The 3G S comes with a much improved camera which supports autofocus, sort of a prerequisite for shooting video.
It also provides basic means for editing the video (namely, trimming the start and end point) and allows you to easily share it via MobileMe, YouTube, MMS and email. Sharing to one of these targets uploads a compressed version with significant quality loss. I could not find any setting to influence the compression rate. If you’d like to get an idea of the quality of the raw video as it has been shot, you might want do download this video (right-click and Download Linked File), a quick take out of my bathroom window.
And now to the real stuff: Speed!
When Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing announced the iPhone 3G S during WWDC 2009, honestly, I couldn’t stand but feel a little bit disappointed. So many fantastic mock-ups had rumored the Web and now all Apple gave us was an improved camera, Voice Control (which is not one of the features I use often) and twice the performance? The iPhone OS 3.0 update contains hundreds of enhancements, but I’m focusing on the stuff which is exclusive on the new hardware here.
Prepared for disappointment I unpacked the iPhone 3G S early Friday morning and got totally overwhelmed by the impact the new hardware has on the overall user experience!
It’s difficult to get this across in writing as performance is such a subtle, almost invisible aspect of a device that brings so many other shiny capabilities.
It’s starts when you press the Power button. While the first iPhone and even the 3G took quite some time to boot up – something every other vendor would have received much heat for, but Apple could run away with due to it’s forgiving fan-base – the iPhone 3G S boots significantly faster. And I mean significantly.
All the beautiful user interface animations run just so much snappier. And: There’s no latency anymore. Not when you swipe. Not when you type. The last one is especially important: The virtual keyboard has long been, well, a pain if you came from let’s say a Blackberry.
Consider keyboard latency history on an iPhone 3G S.
With OS 3.0’s ubiquitous support for the landscape keyboard, I can now type as fast as on any Blackberry that I had to use before. (Note: Makers of TweetDeck for the iPhone, please give us a landscape keyboard!)
I decided against restoring my fresh new device from a 3G backup, so I had to re-download some 90 apps from the App Store. Downloading and installing many apps in parallel slowed down the previous iPhone dramatically up to a point, where you had to wait before all downloads and installs finished. Not so on the iPhone 3G S.
It might sound weird, but I really loved the increased performance so much, that I literally had to smile during the entire process. Firing up the App Store, searching for an app, downloading it, seeing the download progress and while the install continued going back to the App Store, searching for the next app and doing it all again, heading back to the App Store – you get it. Installing 98 applications took me less than 10 minutes (on a WiFi network).
And even with some ten parallel downloads and installs, I could still use the 3G S as if it would idle.
Launching apps finally became an instantaneous experience, too. From hitting the Tweetie icon to full timeline display in less than two seconds. Pressing the Home button, switching to the Facebook app, boom, there’s my Facebook Inbox. Mobile Safari immediately displays your last visited page. Switching orientation from portrait to landscape works way better and way more seamless.
I’m currently coding an application that heavily uses GPS features. Finding your current location with an iPhone 3G S turned out to sometimes take less than a tenth of the time compared to the 3G.
Loading time of graphics intensive games like Zen Bound has improved so much, that it really contributes a lot to a much better total user experience, though these games where beautiful on the 3G already.
Did you ever have to rush out of your (home) office to make it for a meeting, catch a train or a flight and wished you could have quickly synced the latest purchased music to your iPhone? With the iPhone 3G S you can. I don’t know what exactly the folks at Apple changed but syncing is now almost as fast as a local file copy.
The list goes on and on and on.
Why Speed matters
I’m sorry, if I might sound enthusiastic. The thing is, I am.
I loved the iPhone 3G and frankly, I also loved the very first generation. However, with the increased power of the new iPhone 3G S mobile computing finally becomes true for me. The 3G was great for many things, but crafting a lengthy email never really worked. The total absence of keyboard latency on the 3G S alone allows me to leave my MacBook Pro at home even more often, while I’m on the road.
There are some obvious features, like Video, which will definitely change the way people use their mobiles forever.
But with the advent of all of these great new features we will see more and more applications that simply require more power. We’ve seen superior image editing applications arriving on the App Store. We will now very likely see advanced video editing apps, soon.
A not-so-powerful platform would have had a pretty negative impact on usability. And flaky performance risks to render even the greatest tools useless.
That’s why speed is important. And that’s why Apple calls the new iPhone 3G S for Speed.