The most prominent new hardware addition is fairly obvious from the title: 3g. And, for the most part, it works very nicely. Web browsing is fast, as is email downloading, photo uploading, Facebooking, My Spacing, Twittering, and other common activities. Sometimes you get a slightly crappier signal than others and your browsing experience suffers as a result. Sometimes you don’t get 3g coverage at all, and so you’re plunged back to Edge or below. It’s just like any other 3g phone I’ve ever used.
Being able to pull down apps while roaming around is a nice touch, and is sure to make many a train journey more interesting. Google Maps is also much happier on a 3g connection – although using it while driving at high speeds on a GPRS connection is a complete non-starter.
All this shiny new 3g-ness has a detrimental effect on the battery life though, and using that glorious screen, on a 3g connection, while downloading and playing games destroys battery life. During heavy use I’ve had to top up the battery half way through the day, and again once I got home to get the phone to last until after midnight. But I can’t get too annoyed by that: if you’re going to hammer all the features on the phone, expect the battery not to last.
Having turned off 3g, push email, and other features I don’t need, battery life is pretty good. By “pretty good” I mean “pretty good for an iPhone” of course and you’ll still need to charge your device up every night but I’ve found that the battery in the 3g performs better than the first iPhone if used comparatively.
If you’re a heavy user, expect to embrace the flood of battery top-up accessories which are soon to arrive on the market.
Other hardware changes include the addition of GPS functionality, but right now it seems a little like a fifth wheel on Apple’s lovely new car. Google Maps uses it to pinpoint your location with impressive accuracy but vehicular navigation using it is a waste of time. There are a few neat App Store programs (including one that takes a note of where you’ve parked), but right now everyone wants the same thing: navigation. TomTom and others are being coy, but Apple’s App Store requirements suggest navigation software won’t appear on there any time soon. Which is a shame. Do Apple want to sell their own product? Or will a deal be done at some point in the future? We shall see.