Apple iPhone 3G S 32GB Black review

Barry de la Rosa
13 Aug 2009
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Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT pre-pay; £274 on £29-per-month, 18-month contract

The new iPhone is a superb piece of design and engineering. It's expensive, however, and we don't like Apple's closed software system.



iPhone OS 3.0, 3.5in 320x480 display

Apple's new iPhone may look identical to the earlier 3G model, but the 'S' in the name stands for 'speed', and it certainly delivers.

The processor has been beefed up from 412MHz to a (rumoured) 600MHz, and RAM has been doubled from 128MB to 256MB. The graphics chip has also been replaced by a more powerful version, and the storage options have gone up to 16GB or 32GB from the iPhone 3G's 8GB.

The launch coincides with Apple's release of the third version of the iPhone OS, though many of the changes it introduces are available across the whole iPhone range.

In everyday use, the hardware changes result in a dramatic speed-up in application and data loading times. Contact lists, web pages and games all load much faster. Surprisingly, the increase in speed hasn't resulted in a reduction in battery life. It lasted 36 hours in our light usage test, which is virtually identical to the old iPhone 3G's battery life.

The iPhone's camera can now shoot video, too. After recording, a video timeline appears that lets you trim frames off the start and end so you can improve your clip straight away. As well as an increase to three megapixels, the camera's auto-focus can now be overridden by tapping on the screen where you want to focus. Image quality was respectable and exposures were well judged.

Another new feature is voice control, which you activate by holding down the Home button. As you speak, the application tries to guess what you're after and scrolls suggestions, but it only supports certain applications such as playing music and making calls. If it doesn't understand what you say, it often closes without prompting for clarification, or it starts dialling a number rather than playing the track you requested.

Our favourite feature, and one that we hope all touchscreen phones adopt in future, is the new oleophobic (oil resistant) screen treatment. It won't stop greasy fingerprints appearing on the screen, but it makes them easier to wipe off, and makes the screen practically frictionless.

There are drawbacks, the obvious one being its price - the iPhone 3G S 32GB model will cost at least £803 over 18 months on contract, or £538 on O2's Pay & Go service. The 16GB model is still expensive, at £714 and £440 respectively. We're also wary of the way Apple ties you into its iTunes service and insists on rubber-stamping applications before you can run them, a major contrast with Android's open-source credentials.

The 3G S is certainly the best iPhone yet. We don't think that iPhone 3G users should upgrade, but original iPhone users will be sorely tempted. It's a superb piece of engineering, with great apps and a wonderful design, but it's expensive and ties you into Apple's highly regulated software. New Android phones are coming out that will give the iPhone a run for its money, but the 3G S sees Apple pulling clear of the pack for now, and it wins our Ultimate award.




Main display size3.5in
Native resolution320x480
Second DisplayNo
CCD effective megapixels3.0-megapixel
Video recording formatMP4
ConnectivityBluetooth, WiFi, USB
Internal memory32768MB
Memory card supportnone
Memory card includedN/A
Operating frequenciesGSM 850/900/1800/1900 3G 850/1900/2100
Wireless dataEDGE, UMTS, HSDPA


Operating systemiPhone OS 3.0
Microsoft Office compatibilityWord/Excel/PowerPoint/PDF viewers
Email clientPOP3/IMAP/Exchange
Audio format supportAAC, Protected AAC, MP3, MP3, Audible (formats 2, 3 and 4), Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV
Video playback formatsM4V, MP4, MOV
FM Radiono
Web BrowserSafari
Accessoriesheadset, USB data cable, mains adapter
Talk time5 hours
Standby time12.5 days
Tested battery life (MP3 playback)35h 59m

Buying Information

Price on contract£274 on £29-per-month, 18-month contract
Prepay price£538
SIM-free supplierN/A

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