iPhone 3GS Hardware and Software Features

iPhone 3GS
The iPhone 3GS in white. image credit: Apple Inc.

Last Updated: Oct. 2015

Announced: June 8, 2009
Released: June 19, 2009
Discontinued: June 2010

The iPhone 3GS was the third iPhone model released by Apple. It used the iPhone 3G as its base and fine tuned some features while adding a few others. Perhaps most importantly, though, it was with the 3GS that Apple established its naming and release pattern that it's used for the iPhone ever since.

At its release, it was said that the "S" in the phone's name stood for "speed." That's because the 3GS has a faster processor than the 3G, leading to double the performance according to Apple, as well as a faster 3G cellular network connection.

In the media arena, the iPhone 3GS sported a new camera that boasted 3-megapixel resolution and the ability to record video, which was new to the iPhone at that time. The phone also included onboard video-editing software. The iPhone 3GS improved in battery life when compared to the 3G and doubled the storage capacity of its predecessor, offering models with 16GB and 32GB storage.

The 3GS and the iPhone Naming/Release Pattern

Apple's pattern of releasing new iPhone models is now firmly established: the first model of a new generation has a new shape and major new features, while the second model of that generation, released the next year, adds an "S" to its name and sports more modest enhancements.

This pattern was most recently demonstrated with the iPhone 6S series, but it began with the 3GS. The 3GS used essentially the same physical design as its predecessor, but made under-the-hood improvements and was the first iPhone to use the "S" designation.

Ever since, Apple has followed this pattern of iPhone development, naming, and release.

iPhone 3GS Hardware Features

  • Overall faster performance—up to twice as fast
  • 7.2 Mbps 3G network connection; faster than the iPhone 3G's connection
  • Increased storage capacity
  • 3-megapixel camera, with video recording at 30 frames/second
  • Hardware encryption
  • Improved battery life
  • Standard iPhone features like built-in support for Nike+, Bluetooth, built-in GPS, digital compass, etc.

iPhone 3GS Software Features

  • Onboard video-editing software, with the ability to share video via text, email, and YouTube
  • App Store support
  • Voice Control interface that lets users make calls and control iTunes by voice; the phone can also speak what songs are playing
  • Improved accessibility based on the phone speaking content
  • iOS 3.0 support (compatible up to iOS 6, but with limited features)

Capacity

16GB
32GB

Colors

White
Black

Battery Life

Voice Calls

  • 5 hours 3G
  • 12 hours 2G

Internet

  • 9 hours Wi-Fi Internet use

Entertainment

  • 10 hours video playback
  • 30 hours audio playback

Misc.

  • 300 hours standby

Size 

4.5 tall x 2.4 wide x 0.48 deep, in inches

Weight 

4.8, in ounces

Critical Reception of the iPhone 3GS

As with its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS was generally well received by critics:

  • I gave the 3GS 4.5 stars and said "the iPhone 3GS is the best iPhone ever ... If you’re not an iPhone user, it’s the most compelling reason yet to switch."
  • CNET awarded the phone 4 stars, but was a bit more restrained in its praise: "It's enough to get our attention, but not enough to get us completely excited."

iPhone 3GS Sales

During the period that the 3GS was Apple's top-of-the-line iPhone, sales exploded. Apple's self-reported sales of all iPhones up to January 2009 was 17.3 million phones. By the time the 3GS was replaced by the iPhone 4 in June 2010, Apple had sold over 50 million iPhones. That's a jump of 33 million phones in less than 18 months.

While it's important to understand that not all the sales in that period came from the 3GS—some 3G and original models were still being sold—it's fair to assume that the majority of the iPhones bought during that period were the 3GS.