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BARE FEATS - real world Mac speed tests

Apple iPhone 3G

Originally posted July 10th, 2008, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

The iPhone 3G is properly named since the 3G broadband data support is the key difference from the first generation iPhone. In our initial analysis of the iPhone a year ago, we cited the lack of 3G support as its biggest weakness and saw the excuses given as weak. After all, the leading smart phones by other companies had 3G support and those phones revert to 2G when 3G is unavailable.

"Be careful what you ask for," because 3G comes one downside: shorter battery life. If you are using 3G, your talk time drops from 10 hours to 5 hours. Wi-Fi gobbles up the battery in 6 hours while 3G does it in 5.

We've prepared an abbreviated feature table to highlight the key differences between the old and new iPhone.

iPhone 3G
data network support
EDGE (2G), Wi-Fi
max download speed
up to 135Kbps
up to 1.5Mbps
typical download speed
2G: 48 sec
3G: 20 sec
(or 2.4X faster)
position location
Cell Tower and Wi-Fi Triangulation
talk time in 2G mode
8 hr
10 hr
talk time in 3G mode
5 hr
standby time
250 hr
300 hr
internet time
6 hr on Wi-Fi
6 hr using Wi-Fi
5 hr using 3G
camera geotagging
61 mm
62.1 mm
11.6 mm
12.3 mm
115 mm
115.5 mm
135 grams
133 grams
black or white
backside material

For complete feature comparison, download THIS PDF.

Though I'm a big proponent of 3G data networks and though I'm usually one of the early adopters of anything Apple, I was surprised and dismayed to find out that, although I have AT&T's digital voice service at the Bare Feats lab, I have to drive 45 miles West to get 3G data coverage. (Verizon Wireless provides 3G support right up to my doorstep.)

AT&T's 3G coverage is "surprisingly sparse," as one site pointed out. States where you don't even get any 3G coverage include Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, according to Silicon Alley Insider. In other words, many of you out there are worse off than me. (Be sure to check out AT&T's 3G coverage in your area.)

So let me summarize. I have to pay at least $199 and sign a 2-year contract to get 3G service I can't use but maybe once a week when I drive those 45 miles to the West. Let's just say I won't be standing line to get one at 8AM, July 11th. Hopefully AT&T will keep its promise to expand the 3G network significantly by the end of the year.

You can check to see if your local Apple Retail Store has the iPhone 3G of your choice in stock before you waste your gas and time to go there.

I successfully resisted the temptation to be one of the early morning line-er-uppers. But after having lunch with a scientist friend, I decided to drop by the nearest Apple Retail Store to see what was shaking. At 1:30PM, the line stretched the full length of the mall. I asked a young man leaving the store if his iPhone 3G was functioning. He said, "Yes, but I've been here since 7AM."

My good friend, Mark, was standing in line at one of the three San Diego County Apple Retail Stores at 6:00AM on Friday, July 11th. There were already 61 people ahead of him. He finally made it in the door at 9:00AM. When he left the store, not only was his old iPhone disabled, but the store personnel had failed to activate his new iPhone 3G. It took 12 tries to get his iPhone 3G fully functional two hours later.

Between the activation problems and the slow expansion of 3G coverage, I wonder if Apple is regretting their exclusive agreement with AT&T. And I wonder if they will renegotiate the agreement based on "non-performance."

On July 25th, we posted our iPhone 3G vs EDGE speed tests

Alternatives to the iPhone from Samsung, LG, and others.

Under the hood of the iPhone 3G including diagrams of the system architecture.

A purchasing checklist for the iPhone 3G. One thing we would add: have your login and password for the AT&T Wireless site handy.

The official AT&T Wireless page for the iPhone 3G with pricing and plan rates.

Apple's tech specs page for the iPhone 3G.

Apple Online Store

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