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A Hater’s Guide to the New iPhone

Maybe you just bought a Palm Pre, or you’re a BlackBerry diehard. Now you see the new iPhone 3G S, and you’re listening, incredulous, as all your iPhone 3G-owning friends are counting down the days until they can pay $200 or $300 to upgrade. Go ahead: admit it, you’re a hater. Embrace it, even. And when the iPhone zombies come teething, here are the talking points that will save you.

Maybe you just bought a Palm Pre, or you’re a BlackBerry diehard. Now
you see the new iPhone 3G S, and you’re listening, incredulous, as all your iPhone 3G-owning friends are counting down the days until they can pay $200 or $300 to upgrade. Go ahead: admit it, you’re a hater. Embrace it, even. And when the iPhone zombies come teething, here are the talking points that will save you.

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iPhone 3G S

The Apple Tax, Refined

Lots of Windows fanboys like to talk about the antiquated notion of the Apple
Tax
, the premium that Apple charges for its computers; Microsoft has even built a sprawling and largely ineffectual ad campaign based upon it. But when you look at Cupertino’s computers these days, notebook and desktop alike, it’s hard to see much of a tax
anymore; as of
today
, the cheapest MacBook Pro starts at a reasonable $1200,
as does a well-equipped iMac. These are very solid machines, cheap.

But the Apple Tax lives on in the iPhone. Each successive model seems
to gouge the Apple faithful for yet more money and yet fewer marginal
improvements. A year ago, owners of the 2G iPhone lined up to buy the
iPhone 3G, which boasted slightly quicker Internet speeds and assisted GPS. Cool, but it cost them $200-$300 cash, an additional 2-year contract with AT&T, and another $20-$50 extra
in service charges each month. Just so Digg’s mobile site loads in
three seconds instead of five, and a little more space for media? That was steep.

Tethering. Thanks?

Now we have the iPhone 3G S, and the expensive growing pains continue. After everyone upgrades to iPhone operating system 3.0, the only real improvements the 3G S will make on the old model will be a compass, a better camera that takes video, and the ability to take voice commands. Just like last time, current iPhone faithful will line up on June 19, when the new iPhone goes on sale, to ditch their 3G and blow up to $800 on a new phone after only 11 months (upgrades for non-eligible AT&T customers run $500, $600 and $700 for the respective iPhone models, plus the two-year contract.)

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The 3G S will also be faster, by up to a factor of three, and will be
capable of handling data down-link speeds of 7.2 Mbps. To really take
advantage of the speed bump, plenty of buyers will opt to make use of
the iPhone’s new tethering capability, which will let them share their iPhone’s data service with their laptop when they’re on the go. Like all things useful, tethering will surely come at an extra cost to their AT&T plan; all of the sudden, the $110 plan they had with the iPhone 3G has suddenly gone up to $130 or $150 (AT&T hasn’t yet released rates for tethering.) That, and they’re on the hook for another two years with AT&T, because they’ve resigned their contract to get the phone for the subsidized rate. Ouch. (Tethering with many Blackberrys is free.)

Not for Resale

Not only has Apple given iPhone lovers a new money trap to
step in, they’ve also cannibalized any hopes of redeeming that old
iPhone for cash on eBay by cutting the price of the original iPhone 3G to $99. Granted, the $99 3G still requires a contract, so the true
price isn’t that low–but given the choice between a used 3G without
contract and a shiny new one with contract, plenty of buyers will opt
for the latter and skip the perceived hassles of second-hand sales altogether.

What Battery Life?

Apple says it’s greatly improved the battery life on the iPhone 3G S, but if you look at their battery life matrix, you’ll see that the largest gains are in areas of 2G coverage. Standby time is the same, as is talk time on 3G networks. Internet browsing on the 3G connection also hasn’t improved. Sure, video and audio playtime are slightly longer, as is WiFi browsing time. Snore.

iphone 3 vs iphone 3gs battery matrix

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Video, Plus…

The iPhone 3G S is finally blessed with a 3-megapixel camera,
an incremental improvement over the 2-megapixel camera embedded in the 3G. The real beauty of the new camera is the video capability, which lets you export directly to YouTube. But what if you don’t want the whole world to have access to your videos? You’re free to add viewers person-by-person with YouTube’s privacy features, but that’s an annoyance that gets old fast. Better to be able to upload it to your private site, right? Get MobileMe, and you can do just that, as well as take advantage of iPhone 3.0’s phone locator and mobile wipe features. That’s another $100 a year.

The Cost

All that adds up. In just three years, the fanboy that has faithfully done all the above has paid about $900-$1400 or more in iPhone
hardware, and the price of his AT&T plan has gone from around
$850 a year to at least $1200 a year–and once you add tethering, it
could go north of $1500 a year, if AT&T’s current wireless
broadband rates
are any indication. Then add $100 for
MobileMe, if you’re really doing things Apple’s way. Compare that to
your car payment or your health insurance premium. Or better yet, to
T-Mobile’s plans with the G1 and the upcoming HTC Magic.

The Easy Out

Of course, there are now 40 million iPhones and iPod Touches out in the wild, as Apple boasted yesterday, so hating on the iPhone 3G S might earn you a fair share of antipathy. So show a little humility, and take palliative measures: there are plenty of downright amazing things about iPhone OS 3.0 that you can fawn over, like iDisk access and file sharing (for any MobileMe user, a heaven-sent), brilliant new Nike+ integration, tap-to-focus camera software, and the ability to rent or buy movies or TV shows and download them straight to your phone. It should be easy to appease the iPhone owners, anyway; they know their device is better than yours, and you know it too–that’s what makes you a hater, after all.

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About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.

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