Waiting for activation…

Interesting weekend. When I received shipping notices for the three iPhones 3GS last week and when those three phones arrived on Friday early afternoon, I fully expected to be writing a glowing review this weekend. I had already spent 3 days last week playing with the new iPhone OS 3.0 on my old iPhone 3G, and really liked all the new features (including Copy/Paste, Spotlight search, voice memo).

So I was greatly looking forward to all the new 3GS features and to getting my wife’s phone, my son’s phone, and my phone upgraded. However, where the upgrade to the 3GS phone worked flawlessly for my son and for me, my wife’s iPhone 3GS refused to activate – and we learned that many other users were plagued by the same issue. Despite Apple’s statement that this would be addressed within 48 hours, my wife’s 3GS still shows the same message today:


At least Apple realizes that they’ve got a problem, because I found this e-mail in my mailbox today in the early morning:

From: do_not_reply@apple.com [mailto:do_not_reply@apple.com]
Sent: Sunday, June 21, 2009 7:17 AM
To: Alexander Falk
Subject: Your Apple Store iPhone Order

Dear Apple Customer,
Thank you for your recent Apple Store order. We appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience caused by the delay in your iPhone activation.
We are still resolving the issue that was encountered while activating your iPhone with AT&T. Unfortunately, due to system issues and continued high activation volumes, this could take us up to an additional 48 hours to complete.
On Monday, you'll receive an email from Apple with an iTunes Store credit in the amount of $30. We hope you will enjoy this gift and accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this delay has caused.
Thank you for choosing Apple.
Apple Online Store Team

I’ve also done some testing with my iPhone 3GS this weekend, and must say that I am actually a bit disappointed. The new camera is certainly a great improvement, and the fact that I can now capture short video clips and directly upload them to YouTube is quite nice. But I could not detect any real improved speed in working with the 3GS, nor did I notice any faster data transfers.

And the compass application is an outright failure: not only does it deviate by almost 8-10 degrees from a real compass, it also fails to provide a way for the user to reset or trigger a new calibration run, which is essential for any fluxgate compass.

Last, but not least, I was greatly looking forward to voice control, and found it to be lacking in several areas:

  • Voice control is only available for calling people and using the iPod functions – not for reading e-mail, or any other applications. I rarely use the iPod functionality, but I would have loved to be able to tell my iPhone “read new e-mail” and have it actually go to the e-mail app and then read those messages to me using text-to-speech functionality while I’m driving to the office.
  • Using voice control to call people might actually be working for those who have just a few hundred contacts in their address book. But it is entirely useless if you are a networker and have 1,641 contacts in your database, like I do.

To sum it up, I really like the new iPhone OS 3 upgrade, and can highly recommend that to any previous iPhone owner (plus it is free!). However, when it comes to upgrading from an older iPhone, I would say that it only makes sense to upgrade from a 1st generation iPhone to the 3GS, but if you already own a 3G you probably are better served keeping that – unless the improved camera resolution or the ability to capture video clips alone are must-have features in your book and you consider them to be worth the upgrade price for you.