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First look: iPhone 3G S still stylish, now speedy

New hardware -- and the iPhone OS 3.0 -- make for a powerful combo

June 19, 2009 12:13 PM ET

Computerworld - When Apple Inc.'s new iPhone 3G S -- the "S" stands for speed -- officially went on sale this morning, I made sure I was one of those standing in line at an AT&T store so I could snap one up as soon as the doors opened.

This time, the number of people waiting at stores around the U.S. to get the new iPhone was smaller than those of past years, perhaps because the latest model is evolutionary -- not revolutionary -- compared to the original iPhone or the 3G model that debuted last summer. (More likely, it's because buyers could pre-order it and either pick it up at the store or have it delivered directly to their home.)

AT&T divided the 20 or so people in line into walk-in buyers and those who pre-ordered. I was a walk-in, so I had to wait while those who pre-ordered the phone by last Friday got their phones first. Time to wait for the 32GB model I wanted: about 55 minutes after the store opened. Price out the door: $299. (I've been using the first-generation EDGE-based model, so I qualified for AT&T's upgrade pricing.)

AT&T activated my phone at the store, then I dashed home to sync up my personal data and apps using iTunes. The sync took about an hour, which is not surprising, given that the restore copied over 16GB of apps, music, movies and TV shows.

Physically, the iPhone 3G S looks and feels no different than the last-generation model. The only tell-tale sign is the small text that reads "32GB" on the back of the phone, storage capacity that wasn't available in previous phones. In one fell swoop, I've doubled the space I have for apps and data.

The new 3G S comes in a choice of colors, as long as your choice is white or black. I stayed with black. And I quickly noticed that the new coating on the screen actually works. The iPhone is still a fingerprint magnet, but the screen wipes clean very easily.

Given that the form factor hasn't changed, anyone with an older 3G model shouldn't have any problems using previously-bought accessories like external cases. What new 3G S owners will notice are the under-the-hood changes Apple has made. Though the company isn't talking about the hardware details, other sites have reported that the 3G S has a new Arm processor and more RAM, so it should run faster and more smoothly -- just like a newer, faster computer.

It does. Navigating around my apps, I found the 3G S to be more responsive when launching programs and surfing the Web.

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