My thoughts on the iPhone 3GS

I’ve now had an iPhone 3GS for a couple of weeks, and it seemed only right to write something about it. This is not a review – there are many, many other reviews of the iPhone out there. This article is just a collection of my own thoughts, and a few comparisons to my other current smartphone (an HTC Magic) and my old smartphone (a Sony Ericsson P1i).

It might sound like a daft thing to complain about, but the iPhone doesn’t have an “alert LED” to warn you when there’s a text message or voicemail waiting. The P1i and the Magic both have this – and it’s great because you can see from across the room whether you’ve missed a message. I didn’t realise how much I used it until I realised that the iPhone doesn’t have such a feature. It’s annoying to have to walk over, pick it up and unlock it to check.

The iPhone suffers from poor battery life. Admittedly I tend to keep wifi and GPS turned on all of the time, but with an average day’s use (0 phonecalls, a handful of texts and maybe 30-60 minutes of app usage and web browsing) the battery gets down to 25% and I have to recharge every night. It’s OK provided I’m able to charge it every night. If I was going camping, I’d make the effort to turn wifi and GPS off, and maybe even get 2 days of use out of it! My P1i lasted for days before it needed fresh coal, and the Magic lasts for a few days between recharges with wifi enabled.

Some people have also complained that the iPhone’s battery can’t be changed by a mere mortal and have cited this for a reason for not buying it. I agree to a certain extent, but the battery isn’t likely to wear out for a couple of years, and by then I’ll be wanting a new phone anyway.

This next item might be seen as a pro or a con – the iPhone doesn’t really have many options. This is probably OK for most people, but it is not as configurable as the Magic. If an app or an aspect of the OS works the way you like it, then good. If not, it’s a bit tough. The Magic is inherently more geeky and everything has options. Having said that, the options aren’t in your face and are not intimidating for novice users.

The browser, as many have noted, is excellent. I won’t go into detail about it. The browser on the Magic is also good at rendering pages properly, but unfortunately lacks a multi-touch interface. This means you can’t do the pinch-zoom gesture, among other things. Other HTC handsets have multi-touch interfaces, though.

A minor annoyance with the iPhone is that it has to be registered with iTunes, and must be connected to iTunes when you want to update the firmware. It might not affect most people (especially if they already use iTunes for listening to music), but it could be annoyance for those who don’t want to install an unnecessary music player, and especially for me, as I had to build a Windows virtual machine to install iTunes. In contrast, the Magic simply receives its updates over the air, using 3G or wifi.

I prefer the feel of the Magic in my hand over the iPhone. The Magic is a bit smaller, a bit lighter and a nicer shape, I think. Doesn’t make a huge difference though. By this point, I’m just nitpicking.

Both devices have good screen, good onsreen keyboards and generally similar. The iPhone is a bit slicker, but I think my favourite phone out of the two is the Magic. I’d like it even more if it had multi-touch, too 🙂

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