iPhone 3G review: Twice the hype, half the novelty

GSMArena team, 11 August 2008.
Pages: 123456

Tags: Apple

Unboxing the iPhone 3G

The iPhone 1G had an awesome retail package that emphasized the exclusivity of the device. The iPhone 3G pretty much follows suit, with the only difference that the white version of the handset comes in a white box, which sadly doesn't look nearly as hip as the black one.

The box contents have seen some changes however. The new charger is much more compact - though we didn't have any issues with the size of the original one in the first place.

The supplied stereo headset is the same as the one of the iPhone 1G - it's white again, typical Apple.

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Unboxing the iPhone 3G 16GB (White)

And finally, the docking station that came with the iPhone 1G has gone missing and if you want one you'll have to shell out around 30 US dollars. Unfortunately, the old docking station is incompatible with the iPhone 3G due to the curved back panel.

iPhone 3G 360-degree spin

Now, if you ask us, the black iPhone 3G looks so much better than the white unit we had for reviewing. We've seen a bunch of all-white handsets on the job and they never really had a mass appeal. But it's a matter of personal taste after all, and if you want to stay away from the typical black or silver designs, here's your chance.

Design and construction

The iPhone 3G has grown about a millimeter in all directions as compared with the iPhone 1G. The difference is hard to notice really, but there are other, more obvious updates. The metallic rim around the front panel is thinner now and there's the all-plastic curved back.

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The iPhone 1G, iPhone 3G and Samsung i900 Omnia mug shot

The front panel has not changed much. A nice improvement that eludes ordinary inspection is that the front glass and the actual display under it are no longer one piece. That should make for a much more affordable replacement of the front glass if you get it scratched or broken.

Screen quality is the usual high standard, with the best sunlight legibility we've seen so far on a mobile device - simply flawless.

Above the display is the earpiece that now has a silver grill as an accent instead of the black one in the iPhone 1G. The Home key at the bottom of the iPhone 3G looks the same as the original, but feels a tad squashy.

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iPhone 3G: no major changes up front

The right-hand side of the iPhone 3G is still bereft of controls, while those on the left side are the same as in the iPhone 1G. The only difference is that they are now made of metal and have that silver finish accent.

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The right side is bare, and the keys on the lefts side are now metallic

At the bottom of the iPhone 3G you still get two apertures - one for the loudspeaker and one for the mouthpiece. They are symmetrical and evenly sized, and have the same silver mesh as the earpiece. Presenting the iPhone 3G, Steve Jobs himself promised dramatically improved audio meaning a more potent loudspeaker. We will see about that too in the relevant part of this review later on.

The most radical change on the bottom however is the addition of two screws. We guess that they would allow easier removal of the back panel. That would make battery or back panel replacement much easier. By the way, this time with the iPhone 3G, the battery is not soldered to wires anymore, to make replacement that much easier. Of course, you know that removing the back panel will most probably void your warranty.

Speaking of the battery, Apple claims it should provide up to 300h of standby time and up to 10h of talk time. In reality, the iPhone 3G pulls off up to 5 hours of talk time in a 3G network. Turning 3G off gives it a certain boost to up to 6 hours, which was pretty much the talk time of the iPhone 1G.

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The bottom of the handset has the same layout but there are screws now, which would hopefully allow easier disassembly than the iPhone 1G

The top part of the iPhone 3G features - as before - a 3.5mm audio jack, the on/off key and the SIM card tray. The biggest change here is that the 3.5mm audio jack in no longer recessed, so now you are free to use whatever headphones you like with no need for an adapter.

The SIM card tray is now plastic instead of the original all-metal design. And there's also a SIM removal tool included in the retail package, so you would hardly need to resort to paperclips anymore. However, the combination of plastic surface and a sharp pointed tool is sure to result in scratches around the pinhole.

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The top side hosts a standard 3.5mm audio jack there's a SIM ejector in the retail package and the SIM tray is all-plastic now

We already mentioned the curved back panel is entirely made of plastic. The plastic surface and the curved shape give it an edge in handling, with anti-slip qualities that result in a better grip. We've seen our share of iPhone 1Gs flying around, so we welcome this change.

There are two drawbacks to this design however: (1) the iPhone 3G is a bit wobbly when put on a hard flat surface, but it's not that bad, and (2) the plastic surface is a real fingerprint magnet. Fingerprints make a mess of the white colored panel, and we dare not think of the black one (which however we still prefer).

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The back panel offers a better grip but is prone to fingerprints the 2 megapixel camera lens doesn't promise much fun

Both iPhone 1G and 3G have wonderful displays. With superb automatic brightness control and the unsurpassed (not even by Nokia) sunlight legibility, they are easily the best on the market (in both touch and non-touch categories). There's not much of a difference between the two units, though it seems the iPhone 3G has better white balance. The iPhone 1G display is cooler (white is bluish), while the iPhone 3G display is warmer (with a more balanced white). There were some early buyers that had their screens too yellowish, but Apple quickly remedied the issue. So, now as it seems, the best mobile display out there has now gotten even better.

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The Apple iPhone 3G and iPhone 1G have slightly different displays - the brightness levels are equal but the 3G screen is slightly warmer and has better white balance

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