All Things Digital Personal Technology
New iPhone Is Better Model-Or Just Get OS 3.0
Published on June 17, 2009 by Walter S. Mossberg
Apple Inc.'s iPhone has been a smashing success, redefining the smart-phone market and creating a new hand-held computing platform that has attracted over 50,000 third-party apps, or software programs, in less than a year. With its nearly identical sibling, the iPod Touch, it has sold a combined 40 million units since June 2007, when the computer maker plunged into the phone business.
But the iPhone is drawing increasing competition from entrenched smart-phone makers anxious to emulate the upstart. The most significant of these is Palm's (PALM) impressive new Pre, which is off to a good start with an estimated 100,000 or so units sold since it launched on June 6.
So, like a shark, Apple (AAPL) must keep moving. This week, it is introducing two new products designed to consolidate and increase its position as the leader in this new generation of hand-held computers. I've been testing both and I like them a lot, with some minor caveats.
One of the new products is a refreshed model of the iPhone itself, called the iPhone 3G S. It looks the same, but offers more speed, more memory, more battery life, and a few new features, including video recording and a better camera for still photos.
The second is OS 3.0, the third version of the iPhone's operating system, which comes on the 3G S and also can be installed on all prior iPhones and Touches. It includes a much longer list of added features, some innovative and some long overdue catch-ups to other phones. These include such widely requested capabilities as cut, copy and paste; systemwide searching; a wider virtual keyboard; and a feature called MMS that allows users to send photos and videos directly to other phones without using email.
Apple last week also made a bold business move to complement these new products. It decided to keep making the current model, the iPhone3G, and to slash its price by 50%, to $99. That's an unheard-of price tag for a pocket computer of this power and versatility, and gives millions of additional consumers a reason to choose the iPhone instead of a competitor.
In my tests, both the new phone and the new operating system performed well, with a few small exceptions. I believe the two strengthen the iPhone platform, make it likely the iPhone will continue to attract scads of apps, and are good for consumers.
But I also regard these changes as more evolutionary than revolutionary, and I don't think this latest iPhone is as compelling an upgrade for the average user as the 3G model was last year for owners of the original 2007 iPhone.