Thanks Apple, my iPhone 3G sucks now

Xavier Verhoeven
25 June, 2010
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I’m not talking about the fact that there is a new iPhone 4 being unleashed on parts of the world right now that will render all previous iPhones infinitely less cool than they were mere weeks ago. At least there are still a few weeks until people all around Australia feel that pang of sudden obsolescence.

    I’m actually referring to iOS 4, and what it’s done to my beloved iPhone 3G.

    Being the early adopter that I am, I installed iOS 4 in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. While I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be getting the multitasking bells and wallpaper whistles, the promise of organising my apps a little better was reason enough to upgrade. (Astute readers may note that as an early adopter, I should have a 3GS. Alas, a combination of no money and existing mobile contract forced me to stay a generation behind the pack.)

    So up I got from my warm bed to brave the cold of my study and download the new iPhone OS. iOS, as its now affectionately known. Or unaffectionately, as the case may soon be for some iPhone users.

    Once downloaded, I blearily went through the motions of setting up the restore and left it to do its thing. After all, a watched kettle never boils. Turns out an unwatched iPhone never boils either. And two hours later it had done the main job, but was still restoring my music and movies. I was running late for work so cancelled that part of the restore, which admittedly wasn’t a brilliant move: the iPhone froze, and for a few tense minutes I thought I had bricked it. It turns out there are a few other 3G users that have had similar experiences. Thankfully, it booted up again, and I decided to restore the media after all.

    Crisis over. Or so I thought.

    Later on in the day, I began to notice the iPhone was a bit sluggish. Sure, I had all my apps neatly divided into folders (except for my 13 Lonely Planet apps that wouldn’t quite fit in one folder), but OS animations that were normally smooth became jerky, and text input lagged to the point where I could type almost an entire message before the first letter popped up onto the screen. Uh-oh.

    But a slow phone isn’t the end of the world. Afte rall, I’ve managed without updating to a 3GS for a year, so I’m used to my phone being a bit slower than others.

    But then other weird stuff started happening. Some phone calls wouldn’t go through. Then phone calls that did go through would freeze on hanging up. Pressing the home button would result in the green band at the top of my screen reminding me to return to the call. Doing so would call the person again, and the issue went on in an infinite loop (pun intended) until I reset the phone. (Which took long enough to make me think I’d be without a phone for some time, but in the end fixed the immediate issue.)

    In the meantime, the battery began to eat itself. It went from fully charged to completely dead in around ten hours of light use, which is a long way below the time I was getting just days ago. I’m going to put that part down to the fact that Wi-Fi no longer turns off when the iPhone is in sleep mode. If that’s the culprit, Apple really needs to add an option to turn off this ‘feature’. If an iPhone can’t even last a day, I’ll have to go looking elsewhere. Apparently there’s something called Android that’s doing pretty well.

    But back to the point. Not only is the phone so slow it’s unusable at times, but iOS 4 seems to be the buggiest iPhone OS Apple has released – for the iPhone 3G at least. (It doesn’t help that 3GS users are reporting an overall more pleasant experience.) It’s at the point where I’m going to have to give up my new folders – and the ability to put all my unused Apple apps into a junk folder – and try to downgrade to iOS 3.1 over the weekend. I feel like a Windows XP user regretting an upgrade to Vista. If you’ve not experienced the feeling before, let me tell you, it’s not a nice feeling.

    Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t make the downgrade process easy. In fact, it doesn’t support it at all. So when I go through the hacking process over the weekend, I’m inevitably going to feel just how I did when I (necessarily) jailbroke my first generation iPhone. And that wasn’t a particularly nice feeling either.

    At least there’s an iPhone 4 at the end of the tunnel. If only the tunnel wasn’t a month (or more) long, I’d be okay. I could upgrade now, and sell my iPhone 3G on eBay or put it in a drawer and promptly forget about it as I marvel at a new Retina display. Life would be perfect; as Apple might say, it would change everything.

    Which has me thinking… Is this a ploy from the Jobsian empire to make old technology feel even more obsolete than it really is? The first-gen iPhone can’t support iOS because it apparently can’t handle it. And the 3G seems to only barely support a crippled version. It’s only the 3GS that truly benefits from the upgrade. But is there really that big a difference between the 3G and 3GS in processing power? Or has Apple purposely held back with the 3G? Left bugs unsquashed to wreak havoc on unsuspecting users, making the jump to the shiny-glass-and-stainless-steel fourth generation iPhone that little bit easier?

    The new software had to support the 3GS – if it hadn’t, it would have been a PR disaster for Apple. Its user base has had the phone for a year or less. But the 3G has been around for two years – most 3G users have seen out their contracts, or will do within the next couple of months. (Of course, the 8GB iPhone 3G was on sale up until only a few weeks ago too, but that’s aimed at the lowest end of the market, and perhaps not the types who are likely to bother updating their operating system.)

    Maybe it’s a case of Apple optimising the new software for the 3GS because it needed to, and leaving the job of getting it ready for the 3G up to the juniors. Its just added enough to show off what we 3Gers are missing by not keeping up-to-date. Or maybe I’m getting a little too far into UFO and tinfoil hat territory. It’s probably just that the 3G hasn’t got the innards to cope with the newest bits and bobs.

    Either way, iOS 4 makes iPhone 4 seem like a necessary upgrade for some of us. No wonder Apple has sold so many of the damn things. I just hope “by the end of July” doesn’t soon become “by the end of August” or “by first quarter 2013”. Because my iPhone 3G ain’t gonna make it, and once I’ve downgraded, I’m going to miss Home screen folders having briefly glimpsed what lies ahead.

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