I wasn't exactly bowled over when the iPhone 3GS was unveiled. Aside from looking exactly the same as the iPhone 3G (did the Macbook Air stylist get laid off, too?), the most obvious tweaks - three-megapixel camera with auto-focus, video recording and MMS - are features we've already seen on lower-end handsets for years, not to mention available as third-party downloads for the original iPhone.
But Apple wants us to believe that under the hood is where it's at - the iPhone 3GS is a much more powerful media and gaming device, with a beefed up 600MHz CPU, double the RAM of its predecessor and faster wireless data via the 7.2mbps HSDPA network. There's a supercharged new graphics card for smoother and substantially better gaming visuals, and web-page rendering, too.
The upgraded software, iPhone OS 3.0, irons out the most glaring of glitches in the iPhone 3G – lack of copy/paste, MMS and landscape keyboard capability – and bundles several features like push notifications and a faster Safari browser that make the iPhone 3GS an even better contender as a gaming and internet device.
But is it enough?
But what if you own an iPhone 3G already? Yes, those software updates are available from iTunes for you, too - after June 17. But you'll likely have at least six months left on your existing contract, and there's no free upgrade this time around - O2 is making customers buy out of their existing contracts to get their hands on an iPhone 3GS. Why is Apple releasing a new device just under one year since the last one, when that was tied to 18-month and two-year contracts? I guess someone has to pay for all of Steve's black turtlenecks.
It's not the best email phone either - the BlackBerry Curve and Bold spring to mind, and the new three-megapixel snapper is no Sony Ericsson C905. We're also lacking a memory card expansion slot that most other smartphones have managed to incorporate.
But let's face it, the iPhone - in any iteration - offers the best user interface and mobile web experience, rocks as a music player, and with an increasing number of genuinely innovative games in the App Store, is one of the best gaming handsets you can buy.
I'll admit it - I'm not converted to iClone-ism yet, but I did consider buying the iPhone 3G at O2's reduced prices and downloading OS 3.0 to make up the difference. Why didn't I? Because buying soon-to-be obsolete tech is short-sighted, and we're going to be seeing some really cool apps and games based around these hardware tweaks that won't be backwards compatible.
If you own a 1st-gen iPhone, it does make sense to upgrade, but if you're sitting pretty with the iPhone 3G - don't bother. Besides, knowing Apple, it has probably got some high-def, half-size honey waiting in the wings for next summer, anyway.