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Apple iPhone 3GS Review

 

Apple iPhone 3GS Review

 
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For a company which prides itself on advanced battery tech, you'd think instead of shying away from the challenge, Apple would be looking for ways to innovate in this space.

Spotlight

We've got to hand it to Apple -- the company has really answered the call when it comes to search functionality on the iPhone. The addition of Spotlight to the iPhone OS is quite notable for two reasons: first, it gives you homescreen access to a full search of all your content on the device, including notes, email, contacts, calendar events, and applications. Secondly, it provides new search functionality within mail that not only lets your get at downloaded messages, but extends the hooks into server-side content. That's a bit of a stunner, as we can't count the number of times we've needed to fish some info from an email that had long moved outside of our 200 message limit (and what's up with that anyway Apple?). Spotlight searching works flawlessly in email, but we have a few gripes about the phone-facing implementation.

To start with, in order to navigate to your Spotlight screen, you have to either assign the home button double-tap shortcut to take you to the search window, swipe back when you're in homescreen view, or single tap once to get to your first page, then again to get into Spotlight. It all seems a bit complicated to us -- what would have made more sense was some kind of universal gesture... like maybe that long home button press reserved for Voice Control (more on that in a bit). Another problem is that you still have to jump through multiple hoops to get to the content you're looking for, particularly with contacts. Once you bring up a name, you have to actually jump into the contact card to call or send a text message -- why isn't this info accessible from the search window? As with a lot of processes on the phone, you still feel like you're clicking through way, way too many screens to get where you need to be.

Video recording / editing

Okay -- you got us. Video recording on the iPhone 3G S is really quite impressive, and there are two reasons why. For starters, the phone handles pretty fantastic looking VGA video at 30 FPS, which makes for not just passable mobile video, but usable mobile video. The size, clarity, and smoothness of the sequences we shot looked tremendous to our eyes -- certainly on par if not outclassing many of the contenders in this space. In our opinion, the 3GS video quality is high enough that we'd consider this a viable stand-in for lower end camcorders or flip cams -- if you want to capture your kids at the park but don't want to come packing a ton of gear, this produces totally reasonable results.

The second reason we're a fan of the 3GS video functionality is simple: editing. After you snap some video, you can easily pull out just the section you want to use in a kind of dumbed down iMovie edit window, which gives you a timeline of your clip, replete with a preview of the action. You can long-press on the section you're editing to see a more detailed view, and you can pull either the start or end points to snag just the section you want. We love the fact that you can grab and cut video in-phone without having to offload anywhere else, but we'd love it even more if OS 3.0 allowed for non-destructive editing of the clips. As it is now, once you cut something down, you're done -- there's no way to retrieve the full length version of the video. We're hoping in future version Apple gives users either the option to retain the deleted sections, or at least the option to copy the clip over to a new file. We wouldn't scoff at an option to splice or merge multiple clips together either, but we don't want to break the bank with our lofty requests.

One other nice feature that's been tacked on the video tool is the ability to auto-compress and upload to YouTube, MobileMe (a 45 second video took about three minutes to up over WiFi), or send a .MOV in an email. If we had a device that could actually utilize MMS, there's an option for that as well.

Voice Control

Voice Control is a bit like an answer to a question that no one asked.

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