Gadget Guide: The iPhone 3GS Put to the Test

I’m the type of person who always used to say, “The only thing I need my cell phone to do is make calls.” But then I spent a week road-testing the iPhone 3GS, the brand-new model of Apple’s insanely popular iPhone, and now I’m ready to change my statement to “The only thing I’ll need—ever—is my cell phone.”

I felt intimidated by the sheer scope of functions on the device, which is part smartphone, part iPod, part anything-else-you-can-think-of, but Apple has done a great job of making the controls intuitive and simple. Within minutes, I had called my wife, added some friends to my contact list and sent out a few text messages. The touchscreen interface and keyboard were easy to get used to, and after half a day I was typing faster than I ever did on older phones.

Taking video and pictures with the 3-megapixel camera is simple: Tap a spot on the screen and the 3GS automatically focuses, adjusts brightness and sets everything perfectly for your shot. And video, which is new to the iPhone 3GS, couldn’t be easier to manage: Film your friends goofing around, use your fingertips to trim off the beginning and end, then upload it straight to YouTube or send it as an e-mail attachment. Pics and clips are no longer stuck on your phone—you can share them with the world!

The 3GS also has a built-in compass, which works with the phone’s map system. The map instantly finds your position and displays the surrounding area; you can also use the compass to adjust which way the map faces to avoid confusion.

By far the coolest thing I didn’t know I needed, and now can’t live without, is voice control of my phone and iTunes library, another feature new to the iPhone 3GS. Not only can I call my friends hands-free, but I can also rifle through my music without lifting a finger. Say, “Play songs by Maroon 5,” and the iPhone brings up all of your M5 songs. If you’ve found one great song and want to keep that same vibe, just say, “Play more like this,” and the iPhone automatically picks songs from your library that match the mood and feel of the first song and assembles a playlist for you to groove on.

And this isn’t even scratching the surface of the tens of thousands of programs, tools, widgets and wonders on the now legendary iTunes App Store. Everything you could ever want has an app: Social networking, work documents, education, news, games and far, far beyond. Apps are available for all models of iPhone, but the 3GS boasts better tech specs, meaning everything runs more smoothly and loads faster than ever. Less time waiting and more time doing!

If you’ve been jonesing the iPhone since it was announced, then the 3GS is the perfect chance to jump in with AT&T Wireless and get the latest model. And if you already have an iPhone and are curious if you should upgrade or not, the improved load times, extra video functions, compass and other features are well worth the investment in the device that you already know you love.

iPhone 3GS is $199 for 16GB model and $299 for 32GB model; new two-year AT&T Wireless contract required with purchase. Get more details at apple.com/iphone.

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