iOS 6 on iPhone 3GS: First Impressions and Performance

This morning, like I always do before installing a major iOS update on my iPhone 3GS, I felt a bit of apprehension. Not as much as I normally do considering I will only have my iPhone 3GS for a few more days (or weeks), but still I was apprehensive nonetheless. After debating for maybe a minute, I decided to install iOS 6. After using it for most of the day, here are my first impressions of iOS 6 on the iPhone 3GS.

As many of you know, my experience with iOS 5 is up and down. I assume that that’s the case for many of you as well. What started out as a fantastic experience soon turned to a rather mediocre one. iOS 5 on the iPhone 3GS wasn’t amazing but it wasn’t bad enough to make me regret installing it.

Over the last few months, it started to show its age. Apps took forever to open or delete, the UI was sluggish, sending out messages was often a chore. Still, it was hard to complain given that the phone is and was three years old. Its lack of performance though made me wonder whether Apple would update the iPhone 3GS to iOS 6.

Read: How to Update to iOS 6.


Installing the iOS 6 update on the iPhone 3GS took awhile.

As we now know, Apple announced iOS 6 for the iPhone 3GS at WWDC 2012 and subsequently released it to the masses earlier today.

Like I said, this morning, I was a little apprehensive given my experiences with iOS 5 but given that I have a new phone on the way and because someone needs to be the guinea pig, I decided to take the plunge.

At first, I regretted my decision.

I have a 16GB iPhone 3GS, and lo and behold, iOS 6 needs 2.5GB of free storage space to install. I have been operating with less than 500MB of space for as long as I can remember and I use most if not all the apps and files on my phone. Needless to say, cutting down the space wasn’t easy and it didn’t help that trying to delete apps on the iPhone 3GS with iOS 5 took often took several minutes.

Read: 5 Overlooked iOS 6 Features You’ll Love.

Finally, I trimmed my storage down and I was ready to go. Well, ready to go make a sandwich because the entire process from download to install took me well over an hour. I don’t know if that’s typical, but it took my aging smartphone an eternity to get iOS 6 up and running.

My iPhone 3GS restarted and gone was iOS 5 and in its place iOS 6. After I entered the necessary information for iCloud and what not it was time to dig in.

And what a discovery.

I don’t know how Apple managed to do it but after spending several hours with iOS 6, I find it to be a better experience than iOS 5 both from a feature standpoint and in terms of performance.

Overall Performance

First, let’s start with the performance. As I said, iOS 5 was at times extremely sluggish. Moving about the OS was often slow, apps took a long time to open and often crashed, and even simple things like opening up Messages became frustrating.

With iOS 6, I have encountered none of this so far. The UI is snappy, opening and closing apps and windows is as fast as it ever has been, deleting apps doesn’t take an eternity and I can even open Messages and my email at will without noticeable slow down.

It’s refreshing and thus far, a noticeable improvement over iOS 5.

Battery Life

While the performance may have improved, I haven’t noticed any significant changes with battery life just yet. It’s tough to make an extremely accurate assessment when I’ve had the software for less than a day.

What I will say is that I haven’t noticed  any significant decrease in battery life and I’ve been using my phone like I always do. When I post my final impressions, I’ll have a better gauge on how iOS 6 affects the 3GS’ battery.

Now, for some thoughts on some of the features and how they perform.


One of the features that I’ve been looking forward to most is Apple’s new Maps app. Not because I hated Google Maps but because I was interested to see if Apple’s app could match up.

Other than the cosmetic changes and what not, it’s kind of sort of the same thing, especially for me since I don’t get the turn-by-turn directions or 3D maps. Those aren’t coming to the iPhone 3GS.


What I am saying is that navigating from point A to point B is the same as before. There are some nice little additions like large signs for freeways and updates about accidents but it’s not going to blow you away. It’s a good map app that works as advertised. One thing I really wished it had: built-in Transit directions.

I know I am going to miss those but I have a feeling Apple is going to gradually improve this app as time goes on and it’s my hope that that’s included.

As for performance, so far so good. It doesn’t slow down, even when I have traffic going and it found my location within less than a block.


Another feature I have looked forward to is Passbook, an app that allows you to use your phone like a mobile wallet, storing things like gift certificates and tickets.


Passbook still doesn’t work for my phone.

Unfortunately, thus far, I have been unable to use it because when I try, I am given a Cannot Connect error when trying to reach iTunes.

Hopefully, this little kink is worked out soon because I’d love to get my hands on it.

Phone App

One feature that many might overlook, and that I absolutely love, is the new Phone app which features a number of new options when you receive a phone call.

Earlier, one of my younger brothers called me and because I didn’t want to talk to him, I made a swipe up on a little phone icon and very quickly give him an automated reply that asked him what was up.


Sorry Ned!

That way, he didn’t feel ignored and knew that he could just shoot me a text or that I would call him back.

I have a feeling that I am going to be using this feature quite a bit.

Other Features

Other features of note, at least for me, include VIP Mail which I will be using extensively in an effort to sort through the piles of email I get. The Do Not Disturb feature will come in handy when I need to shut down for the night as it shuts off those pesky Notifications that often wake me from my slumber.


And I absolutely love the new sharing interface for photos and videos. It makes it extremely easy to choose between emailing, posting and a lot more.


For me, that’s what’s stood out so far but with over 200+ features, I’ll be discovering more as time goes on.

Should You Upgrade to iOS 6?

By now, you’ve probably scrolled through the previous a thousand words and found yourself here, wondering whether it’s smart to upgrade your iPhone 3GS to iOS 6.

For me, it’s a clear yes.

The new features, especially some of those smaller ones, are extremely handy. And one the biggest changes from iOS 5 to iOS 6 isn’t that big of a change at all because Apple’s new Maps app is a solid replacement for Google’s version. (I couldn’t care less about having 3D maps. Seems a bit gimmicky to me.)


iOS 6 doesn’t look much different but it packs some extremely useful features.

iOS 6 also seems to be a lot faster than the version of iOS 5 that was running on my iPhone 3GS. That could be because it’s day one or it could be because Apple worked out some kinks, I won’t know until more time passes but I’m not complaining at this point.

So, if you asked me right now, I’d say that Apple has made the iPhone 3GS, a phone that is now more than three years old, even better and that for many of you upgrading to iOS 6 is going to be worth your while.

For those that have joined me on the new OS, how has your experience with iOS 6 on the iPhone 3GS been so far?