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On Call: Apples and Androids

What's the difference between the iPhone 3G and 3GS? And should I switch from the iPhone to the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G?

The iPhone 3GS: What will it get you? Corinne Schulze/CNET

Q: What are the main differences between the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS? With the iPhone 3G being just $99, I'd rather not spend the extra $100 for the 3GS if I don't have to.
- James

A: The extra $100 for the iPhone 3GS gets you a few things. They aren't mind-blowing, but they are worth an extra $100, depending on your point of view.

  • Voice control: This is a welcome and nifty feature that performs well. Not only can you make calls using only your voice, but also you can use the iPod player. It's particularly useful if you'll be using the iPhone while driving.
  • Video recording: Another feature that was long overdue. The video quality is quite good and the editing tool is unique and very easy to use.
  • Accessibility options: The 3GS is the first iPhone to offer a broad range of accessibility feature, like Voice Over, which will read a description of the onscreen controls. Other options will further assist visually impaired users.
  • Compass: The compass and its integration with the Google Maps feature are neat, but I don't see myself using them that much, though you might feel differently.
  • Better battery life: The iPhone 3GS promises double the battery life of the iPhone 3G. We're still testing our iPhone 3GS, but it did seem to last longer than its predecessor did during preliminary use. I'm hoping that it lives up to expectations, as short battery life is one of the drawbacks of both the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G.
  • Faster performance: We have found the the 3GS is faster than the iPhone 3G. It opens applications more quickly and turns on in half the time.
If price is your main issue, then I think you'll get a great iPhone experience with the $99 iPhone 3G. But, if money is third our fourth on your criteria list, I'd say that you'll enjoy the added features from the iPhone 3GS.

MyTouch 3G: Is it worth switching? T-Mobile

Q: Though I love my iPhone, I'm not a fan of its call quality or AT&T and I'm thinking about bailing and going back to T-Mobile. I like the new HTC MyTouch 3G, but I'm really interested in the Google Android-powered Samsung i7500. Do you think that either handset will offer an iPhone-like experience?
- Rob

A: Android phones like the MyTouch 3G and the i7500 successfully rival the iPhone on many fronts. They won't offer exactly the same experience, but you'll find touch displays, full HTML browsers, multimedia features, and access to third-party applications. The hardware, of course, will be different, but that might be a good thing, depending on your personal preferences.

I also ran your question by our smartphone guru Bonnie Cha. Like me, she hasn't had any hands-on time with the Samsung i7500, but she says that if you're looking purely at specs, the i7500 offers more higher-end features--such as a 5-megapixel camera, more memory, and a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack--than the MyTouch 3G. Yet, unlike the MyTouch 3G, we don't know if the i7500 will ever come to T-Mobile, so you run the risk of waiting for a phone that may never appear. We haven't heard anything about an availability date.

If you really want to switch carriers, I suggest that you seriously consider an Android phone. It will offer much of the same benefits as the iPhone, but you'll get to return to T-Mobile. When the MyTouch is available, be sure to evaluate it for your needs. And in the meantime, our Google Ion review will give you a taste of what's to come.

Q: I'll be traveling to Japan and Hong Kong for business, so I'll need a phone that will operate in both countries. While I know that my T-Mobile quad-band GSM phone works in Hong Kong, I'm not sure if it will work in Japan.
- Allen

A: As you note, your T-Mobile phone will work in Hong Kong without any issues. Hopefully, you can get it unlocked, which will enable you to use a local prepaid SIM card. Check out CNET's quick guide to world phones for more information on using your T-Mobile phone abroad.

Japan, however, is another story. Your T-Mobile GSM phone will not be compatible with the country's domestic cellular networks, so you'll need a handset that support's the country's 3G (WCDMA) technology. Such phones are not widely available in the United States, though you can rent one from T-Mobile. Alternatively, there are several U.S. companies that can make arrangements (try a Google search--I can't recommend any in particular) or you can rent a phone after you arrive in Japan.