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Tech Report – iPhone 3G S

Less than two weeks after Palm’s new flagship smartphone, the Pre, went on sale, Apple responds this Friday with the release of its latest iPhone, the 3G S. Unfortunately for Palm, early reviews indicate that Apple has once again taken the lead in the smartphone race, although the Pre will continue to provide some healthy competition.

Packed with new features and improved functionality, the 3G S is about as smart as a smartphone can be! It’s noticeably faster than the existing iPhone 3G, with applications and web pages launching at impressive speeds. The 3G S also has video capability – a first for a smartphone – which can be edited and shared directly from the phone.

The 3G S also comes with what Apple is calling Voice Control, voice recognition software that recognizes both people in your contact list and artists in your music library. If you want to place a call or play a song, just say a name! The 3G S also shows off its GPS capability by featuring a built-in compass that recognizes which direction you are facing to reorient maps and make them even easier to follow!

One Pre feature that Apple hasn’t tried to emulate is the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The iPhone’s on-screen keyboard takes some getting used to but it’s very responsive, particularly with its feature of enlarging letters as they are selected to make sure you are hitting the right ones. As before, the 3G S uses finger swipes, pinching, and other light touches to navigate around the various screens and programs.

Another major factor in the iPhone’s favor is the much-hyped App Store. The Pre launched with a dozen or so basic third-party programs, ranging from Accuweather to Sudoku. The App Store has more than 50,000 apps and counting, all easily accessible direct from the Store or through iTunes. Although Palm’s developer community is hard at work, it’s unlikely they will ever catch-up!

One important area where Apple appears to have been directly influenced by Palm is price. The 16-gigabyte iPhone 3G S is $199, plus a 2-year AT&T services contract, which is the same price as the 8 GB Pre, available exclusively through Sprint. The 32 GB iPhone 3G S is $299.

Wisely, Palm has publicly stated that it’s not necessarily looking to grab some of the iPhone’s existing market share, but instead is trying to appeal to the new smartphone user market, which is growing at an estimated 25 percent a year. Clearly, as smartphones continue to evolve into a cross between netbooks and portable entertainment systems, the market will remain big enough to accommodate Apple, Palm – and BlackBerry – for years to come.

Although the iPhone 3G S is clearly a superior product, Apple now has some legitimate competition (unlike the iPod!). As usual, when products fairly compete, the consumer ends up as the real winner!

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