Just over a year after Apple birthed the first iPhone, the long-awaited, next-generation iPhone 3G has arrived bearing a mildly tweaked design and a load of new features. With access to a faster 3G wireless network, Microsoft Exchange server e-mail, and support for a staggering array of third-party software from the iPhone App Store, the new handset is the iPhone we've been waiting for. It still lacks some basic features but when compared with what the original model was year ago, this device sets a new benchmark for the cell phone world.
With the iPhone 3G, Apple appears to have fixed some call-quality performance issues we had with the previous model--in our initial tests, the volume is louder with less background buzz than before. The 3G reception could be improved, however. Music and video quality were largely unchanged, but we didn't have many complaints in that department to begin with.
Price may well remain our largest concern. New AT&T customers and most current AT&T customers can buy the iPhone 3G for $199 for the 8GB model and $299 for the 16GB model. If you don't qualify for that price--check your AT&T account to find out--you'll pay $399 and $499 respectively. Either way, you'll pay $15 more per month ($74.99 total) for a plan comparable with the original iPhone ($59 per month). So, while you'll pay less outright to buy the handset, you'll make it up over the course of a standard two-year AT&T contract.
So should you buy an iPhone 3G? If you haven't bought an iPhone yet, and have been holding out for a new model, now is the time. If you're a current iPhone owner and you're yearning for a faster cellular network, then you should take the plunge. But if you're an iPhone owner who won't use 3G (or can't; check your coverage at AT&T), then you should stick with your current model. The iPhone 2.0 software update provides Exchange server support, third-party apps support, and many new features without the added cost.