Opinion: You already have an iPhone, should you buy a new one?

If you want faster speeds and GPS and you talk a lot, the answer is probably yes

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The need for speed

The biggest change between the iPhone of '07 and the one due out in a month is right in the new model's name -- 3G - -and it's not a difference to be taken lightly. One of the biggest criticisms of the iPhone since its announcement in January 2007 was that it relied on the slower but more prevalent EDGE network. AT&T's EDGE is significantly slower than 3G wireless data services. By adding Wi-Fi to the iPhone, Apple was able to mitigate the impact of the slower data speeds, but only somewhat. In fact, one of the things I noticed after a few weeks of switching from a 3G Windows Mobile phone to an iPhone was how it affcted the way I check my e-mail while on the go.

The iPhone 3G will offer full support for the HSDPA and UMTS standards and AT&T's recent 3G upgrades will allow many iPhone owners to take advantage of significantly faster mobile browsing. While this may not be a must-have feature for everyone, it is for anyone who needs or wants to be able to check e-mail, surf the Web, check YouTube videos or use any data-intensive iPhone application outside the range of a Wi-Fi hot spot. Remember the previewed MLB.com app that offers up live updates of games, complete with video of individual plays immediately after they happen? You're going to want 3G for that.

Getting the most out of Location services requires GPS

The second major update is the addition of true GPS. Although not as critical for everyone as 3G performance, this is also a potential big deal. One of the most innovative features of the iPhone SDK that developers can use when writing applications is the Core Location services. It allows applications to detect where a user is and to integrate that with other features, such as the ability to display contacts in a given vicinity or to integrate with social networking sites. Even with no other applications involved, the power of GPS with Google Maps alone makes it a great feature and really gives the iPhone some of the functions of a full-fledged GPS device. I wouldn't be surprised to see a third-party application offer a much broader feature set for navigation using GPS. No doubt, the powers that be responsible for the popular Tom-Tom and Garmin GPS devices are paying close attention.

Clearly GPS has a lot of potential on the iPhone. That said, many apps will likely be able to work with the existing iPhone's ability to triangulate its location. So, why is GPS a serious reason to upgrade?

The answer is pretty clear if you've ever used this function in any place other than a densely populated urban area. While in the business district of a major city, it may pinpoint you to within half a block or less. But when there are few cell towers and known Wi-Fi hot spots, the iPhone's ability to determine your location goes downhill quickly. Out in the suburbs, you might find your location indicated within a mile-wide radius or even larger.


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