With the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C now in focus, many consumers are likely opting to wait for those next-generation models to land. However, a small minority of shoppers is likely looking at older iPhone models including the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. In particular, buyers are going to want to avoid buying the iPhone 3GS even with its cheap price tag.
Back in 2009, the iPhone 3GS was the talk of the town as it replaced the iPhone 3G with a number of big time upgrades. The device offered a better processor, better camera, but kept the same design and screen size as the iPhone 3G.
While this may come as a surprise to many, the iPhone 3GS remains relevant to this day thanks to the fantastic software support that Apple offered up over the years.
Last year, the arrival of the iPhone 5 ushered in the iOS 6 era of software. And despite being several years old, the iPhone 3GS, like Apple’s more recent iPhones, received the iOS 6 update. The software was not the full version of iOS 6 but it brought along some of its big features including Do Not Disturb, the new Mailbox, the new Phone App and yes, much talked about Apple Maps. The software update breathed new life into the iPhone 3GS, a device that Apple offered for free up until the arrival of the iPhone 4.
While the iPhone 3GS is no longer available through Apple, it’s still very much a smartphone option and one that is likely beckoning many of those who are looking for a new phone or a quick replacement.
We don’t recommend buying the iPhone 3GS right now or at any point in the future. Here’s why.
One of the main reasons why you’re probably looking at buying an iPhone 3GS is because it’s cheap or because you don’t care about specifications, but mainly because it’s cheap.
Newsflash, there are plenty of other cheap smartphones out there including cheap iPhones. For one, the iPhone 4 is currently being sold for free through Apple. The iPhone 4S is $99. And when the iPhone 5S arrives, we could see the iPhone 5 drop to $99 on-contract.
There are also rumors that suggest that Apple is coming out with a new cheap plastic iPhone called the iPhone 5C that may be available for as little as $400 unlocked. That’s not quite Nexus 4 territory but it’s low. It could also wind up being Apple’s cheap free on-contract device.
Unlike the iPhone 3GS, this is a device that is expected to have a 4-inch Retina Display, 8MP camera, slim design, efficient processor, Siri, and Apple’s iOS 7 update. Like the iPhone 3GS, it’s supposed to be made out of plastic, with several color options to boot.
The iPhone 5C is expected to arrive on September 10th alongside the iPhone 5S and it’s a device that prospective iPhone 3GS buyers should be waiting for thanks to its features and thanks to the fact that we should see price drops on Apple’s more recent iPhones.
OK, so you need more convincing. Fine. First off, the iPhone 3GS does not have 4G LTE support. This means that it can’t pull down the data speeds that the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S can. We’re talking data speeds that can be as fast as home Wi-Fi speeds, but on-the-go.
The iPhone 3GS supports 7.2 Mbit/s HSDPA but that pales in comparison to the speeds that can be obtained when connected to a 4G LTE network. Before dismissing LTE, try it first, you won’t want to go back to anything else.
No Retina Display
Next, the iPhone 3GS doesn’t have a Retina Display. The iPhone 4 was the first iPhone to sport a high-resolution Retina Display and that means that movies, the web, photos are going to look worse on the iPhone 3GS.
The iPhone 4 has a Retina Display. The iPhone 4S does as well. The iPhone 5C is going to have a larger 4-inch Retina Display. This may not seem like much to those that aren’t keen on smartphone specs but trust us, the Retina Display makes all the difference in the world. It’s night and day.
No Widescreen Format
The iPhone 5 introduced iPhone users to a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, something that the previous iPhone models did not have on board. What this means is that users can enjoy videos on sites like YouTube without those pesky black bars.
Having access to widescreen content, especially in a world that is heavily focused around media, is often taken for granted. But once you have it, you won’t want to go back to anything else.
Camera is Bad
Camera technology continues to evolve and the camera on the iPhone 5 puts the camera on the iPhone 3GS to shame. Photos taken with the iPhone 3GS look dated and photos taken in low-light environments look downright awful. Want to bring the iPhone 3GS camera to a concert and take some quality video of your favorite bands? Expect the sound to be distorted and crackly.
The iPhone 5S is expected to have a phenomenal camera and one that may even put the camera on the iPhone 5 to shame. That should push the iPhone 3GS camera down the totem pole even further.
Stuck on iOS 6
iOS 7 won’t be coming to the iPhone 3GS. Neither will iOS 8, iOS 9, iOS 10 and so on. The device is stuck on iOS 6, Apple’s software from 2012 and that means that users will never get the opportunity to use the company’s evolved UI, its new Camera app, its Notifications, or its new multitasking. Instead, iPhone 3GS owners will be stuck, forever, on Apple’s aging user interface and it’s most basic camera app.
iOS 6 Was Sluggish
To make matters worse, our experience with iOS 6 on the iPhone 3GS began to deteriorate in the weeks after installing the software. At first, things seemed good, improved over iOS 5. However, after using it for several weeks, the UI began to lag, applications began to crash without reason, apps took forever to open, and playing a game felt like digging a knife slowly into your thigh.
Experiences with iOS 6 vary from person to person but our experience with iOS 6 for iPhone 3GS wasn’t a good one, something to consider before jumping in with Apple’s aging iPhone.
Love Siri or hate her, she is useful from time-to-time. Whether it’s looking up movie times, finding out a score of a sports game, or dictating something, Siri is equipped some with very useful tools.
Problem is, the iPhone 3GS has never had access to Siri and never will. And with the improvements that Apple is making to Siri in iOS 7, including returning calls and playing voicemail, this is a big feature to be missing out on.
Limited Accessories Going Forward
The iPhone 3GS uses Apple’s older 30-pin dock standard which means that it will have limited accessories moving forward. Sure, there are still accessories out there that support the older dock standard but accessory makers are likely going to be inclined to produce new accessories that take advantage of Apple’s Lightning standard found on the iPhone 5, iPad mini and more.
Lose Access to Apps
Finally, as we’ve pointed out, developers appear to be keen on releasing apps that support iOS 7 and not iOS 6 which means that the iPhone 3GS will likely lose access to the features in some apps down the road.
There is no telling what apps might be affected but given the high percentage of developers looking to support iOS 7, it could be quite a few.