iPhone 3G S: Separating Truth From Fiction

It's here: The iPhone 3G S (the S is for Speeeeed). As Phil Schiller revealed the new device and its feature set at Apple's WWDC conference he drew to a close several months of rumors and speculation. How accurate was it all? We've summarized the myths for you, starting with the key facts about the new phone.

iPhone 3G S The Name: iPhone 3G S 

In our last rumor round-up, we said that iPhone 3G Video would be a pretty sensible name for the new device—video is, after all, one of the key features in the new iPhone. But over the weekend John Gruber leaked out that it would be the 3G "S" though he didn't know if it was a code word or the real product name, or precisely what it stood for.

Gruber was correct, of course. We kind of wish he hadn't been. "3G S" just sounds clumsy—not a very Appley title. And the iPhone 3G S logo, with the boxed S that is just a little bit smaller than the font for the 3G part is equally odd. No matter...everyone will just call it the iPhone anyway.

The Circuitry: Faster 

Some rumors pointed to the iPhone getting a significantly beefier processor in the new version. And it did—Schiller noted that the iPhone 3G S is up to three times faster than the plain old 3G version.  

The Design: Unchanged

Many rumors, bad renderings and photoshop jobs surfaced in the run-up to WWDC, in parallel to a rumor thread insisting the new iPhone would be nearly the same as the old. And in terms of industrial design...the photoshop jobs were wrong. It's absolutely identical. That's a clever move for iPhone accessories, and it's understandable when you think of the hardware tweaks inside the device. The headphone socket, alas for sensible pocket use, is still on the top, and there's no camera shutter button.

Storage Capacity: Bigger

The rumors said multiple iPhones, and capacity would be bumped to 16GB and 32GB: That came true. The secondary rumor that an 8GB, and even a 4GB version would surface were also partly right: the 8GB iPhone 3G is remaining on sale. There was no mention of the 4GB version, but it's possible it exists as the Chinese version, and isn't ready for announcement yet.  

The Price: Lower

The 'net got the pricing rumors bang on: The iPhone stays at $199 and $299 for the two main versions. But those hot-to-trot suggestions of a $99 price point were accurate too, since the iPhone 3G is staying on sale at that new low cost. 

The Screen: The Same

We tagged the OLED screen rumor as a scurrilous—but highly desirable—nonsense one. And so it turned out to be. The 3G S's screen seems to be identical, technologically speaking, to the 3G's. We're not surprised—adding OLED would've pushed pricing up a lot. Expect it for the iPhone 2010, though, given that Zune HD is heading down the OLED route. 

The Camera: 3-Megapixel

Bingo. All of the rumors that pinned the new iPhone with improved optics got it right. Apple's labeling it a "3-megapixel" unit, while the rumors said "3.2"—we'll have to wait and see if Apple's just rounding the number down. 

It's also autofocus, as rumored, and the autofocus uses the blue square tap-to-focus technique as shown in some leaked images, which we now accept as being a real leak.

iPhone 3G S Video Recording: 30 fps VGA

The 3G S does VGA video at 30 frames per second...a feature long expected, for which Apple's been ridiculed. That's why the rumors pointing to video recording were so strident. And they proved correct. It also allows for video geotagging, which is a nice trick, and the features can be accessed by third-party apps. As yet, there's no indication of how complex the video exploits can be—we don't know if you can expect games that require you to rush around videoing stuff, for example. But we do know that, as rumored, you can do basic video editing right on the handset, and that's cool.

Front-facing Camera: Nope

This was a recent rumor, based on a few sketchy leaks and lots of speculation. And it proved false—there's no front-facing cam for video iChatting, Skyping or 3G videocalling. You'll have to wait for the next iPhone.

Digital Compass: Spot On

Rumors said a 3-axis digital compass, and showed it in action in a leaked photo of the compass app. And it turned up, exactly as expected. It interacts with the Google maps app in iPhone 3.0 firmware, which is a nice touch—and a boon to navigation. 

Battery Life: Much Longer

This is a surprise—there was a lot of rumor about the technology improvements inside the phone, but no one tackled the battery life. Given that the device is externally identical, but delivers up to 50% more battery life, it looks like Apple's circuit-design wizards have done an excellent miniaturization job.

iPhone 3G S Voice Control: Even Better Than Imagined

Some rumors hinted the iPhone could get voice control for dialling, bringing it in line with many top-end dumbphones, as well as smartphones. Apple delivered that, but went far beyond it: The voice recognition even feeds into the iPod controls, to the extent that you can say "play me some U2" and the iPod app will do so.  

FM Radio: Nope

These rumors centered on the particular chip that the iPhone 3G S uses for Bluetooth—it's also capable of FM transmission and reception. It looks like Apple has completely ignored this option, though it could still chose to turn it on at a later date, assuming the circuitry supports that.

MMS: Finally

Unsurprisingly, multimedia messaging showed up in the new device, finally. But a more significant feature went unmentioned: Where are push notifications? Where are the long-dreamed of background apps? Though this is strictly an iPhone 3.0 firmware issue, we heard that the 3G S has a faster processor, faster overall electronics—so push notifications should be a blast, and background apps maybe even possible. The old Apple foil that such functionality eats battery life is even less relevant with the new battery.

But there was no news about push at all. Watch this space for developments.

Steve Jobs Appearances: None

He wasn't the "one more thing," not even on video.

So there you have it—the rumors were fairly accurate, and we called out fakes pretty well too. The iPhone 3G S is an evolution on the iPhone, rather than an a revolution. But it's packed with good stuff. Will it crush the Palm Pre? Come back tomorrow for an updated feature-vs-feature comparison.

[Apple] Pics from Gizmodo liveblog.

Related:
With Two Months to Go, iPhone 3 Rumors Get Hotter
Seven Days to New iPhone: Rumor Round-Up
Five Days to New iPhone: Rumor Round-Up
iPhone HD Video: What Does it Mean for Apps?

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4 Comments

  • Kit Eaton

    @David. Indeed. Apple's sales seem to be doing well, despite the downturn. I suspect the real revenue-earner is the $99 iPhone option, though.

  • David Osedach

    It will be interesting to see ho well this upgraded iPone takes off in the depths of the recession.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Chris. I agree--and even the logo has a bit of fail about it. I remember playing Lunar Lander on one of those old Apple's, I believe, and being blown away by the sophistication. Ah...simpler times.

  • Chris LoPresto

    "3G S" just sounds clumsy--not a very Appley title...

    Isn't it just a nod to the Apple IIGS? I believe that was my family's first Apple product.