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Should you buy an iPhone 3G S?

Turn on, tune in, upgrade

Should you buy an iPhone 3G S?
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With the iPhone 3.0 software imminent, and all the wondrous possibilities it brings with it, we have to ask ourselves whether it needs new hardware to reside in. That hardware being iPhone 3G S, due for release on Friday, June 19th.

We've spoken about the iPhone 3G S since it was officially announced by Apple at the World Wide Developers Conference, and about the excessive costs attached to upgrading - especially if you're already embroiled in an iPhone contract.

So what are the benefits, if any, for the pocket gamer? Well, one of the areas of mobile gaming that has yet to be fully explored is the handset’s GPS capability, which is about to be expanded upon with the addition of a digital compass.

Going outside

Outdoor, location-based gaming crops up every now and then, but to be quite honest that vital killer app has yet to appear. It's a niche market, but if you fit into that niche then the digital compass could look quite appealing.

So far the iPhone has failed to meet its secondary potential as a satellite navigation device, and perhaps that digital compass, along with the 3.0 software, will help it realise that potential.

Fancy graphics

Truth be told, developers seem to have been more excited about iPhone 3G S than pocket gamers, mostly because of the extra silicon shoehorned into its sexy metallic casing. Processor power is being boosted from 412MHz to 600MHz, and with the addition of an extra 128MB of RAM (doubling the current capacity to 256MB) and a PowerVR SGX graphics chip throwing virtual light and shadows about the place, it's easy to see why.

It's been suggested that the iPhone 3G is just as capable of supporting OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics as the 3G S, but the system resources are ultimately too sparse to make it practical in gaming.

This isn't something the hardware upgrade will suffer from, so looking toward the horizon it's not unreasonable to envisage games that surpass the abilities of the current model.

However, we're asking whether or not you need to upgrade your iPhone on Friday, and it's hard to imagine we'll be seeing any games that alienate the millions of iPhone 3G users for the sake of a few dynamic reflections any time soon.

Surfing the net

But that doesn't mean the iPhone 3G S’s hot new graphical capabilities are going to just sit there unused. You might recall that Apple found itself in trouble with the advertising standards agency after an 'unrealistic' representation of its web surfing speeds in a TV commercial. It's here that we suspect they hardware upgrade will show its teeth.

Even with a super strong wi-fi signal, the current iPhone model is something of a lumbering beast when it comes to rendering webpages and other online content - especially the complicated web 2.0 pages that most websites are built from these days.

It's not the data connection that's slowing things down, but the speed at which the iPhone can put all those images and code together, zoom in and out of them, flip them around and scroll about the place freely. So if web surfing is a sport you and your iPhone particularly enjoy, then you're likely to notice a big difference even on a half-decent 3G data connection.

And as much as we're looking forward to the 3.0 software, this next level of usability was undoubtedly designed for the speedier hardware. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out for sure, but there's a sneaking suspicion that 3.0 might feel a bit heavy in our reliable old 3G warhorse.

Battery life

So far, none of this it is likely to be blowing up the skirts of the seasoned pocket gamer. The heavy business user, perhaps, but certainly there’s no urgency to upgrade if you spend most of your time playing Flight Control; unless you spend hours upon hours playing Flight Control, that is.

If there's just one feature of the iPhone 3G S that we’re all pining for, it's the extended battery life. Regardless of how you choose to use your iPhone, it can never have too much juice, and we wouldn't blame anyone for succumbing to the upgrade temptation for want of a few extra hours at the touchscreen.

In the end, we’re looking forward to the day when developers are relying on the graphical superiority, extra processing power and fatter memory of the 3G S to provide the kind of games we demand, but that day is a long way off. Right now it seems as though the hardware upgrade will be of more use to web surfers, application users and drivers with no sense of direction, rather than pocket gamers.

We yearn for the extra battery life, but won't be standing in line at midnight with two fistfuls of crumpled £10 notes to get it. Will you?