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iPhone 3G reviews: It's fast, hungry, and still pretty

Three notable gadget reviewers have had a chance to play with the iPhone 3G for a few weeks, and for the most part, they're pleased with the new version of the iPhone.

The iPhone 3G, which goes on sale to the public Friday, gets generally positive marks from three prominent gadget reviewers.

The first iPhone 3G reviews have been released, and if you've been paying attention to the news for the past month, you won't be surprised.

Walt Mossberg of All Things Digital, David Pogue of The New York Times, and Edward Baig of USA Today were the chosen few selected to review the iPhone 3G ahead of its launch on Friday. There wasn't nearly as much suspense about the reviews this year, since we already knew the iPhone 3G was--with the exception of the faster networks, GPS, and third-party applications--essentially the same phone.

Still, some interesting details were revealed. Mossberg didn't seem very happy about the battery life. "In my tests, the iPhone 3G's battery was drained much more quickly in a typical day of use than the battery on the original iPhone, due to the higher power demands of 3G networks," he wrote. "In daily use, I found the battery indicator on the new 3G model slipping below 20% by early afternoon or midafternoon on some days, and it entirely ran out of juice on one day."

Pogue didn't address battery life, but Baig thought the iPhone 3G consumed roughly the same amount of juice as its predecessor. "I started receiving low battery warnings toward the end of a busy work day; I found myself charging the device overnight, the same as with the older iPhone."

One big addition to the iPhone 3G was GPS, but according to Pogue, Apple has said the antenna is too small to permit useful things like turn-by-turn navigation. Baig, however, didn't think it was that bad: "I was pretty impressed by the accuracy on the new device as I drove along in my car, searched for nearby pizza places, and requested directions," he wrote.

As far as nits go, that was about it. The outstanding issues remain: the touchscreen keyboard doesn't work for everybody, the cost of operating an iPhone has risen despite the drop in the starting price, and it doesn't have things like voice-dialing or MMS.

On the plus side, all three reviewers thought Apple dramatically improved the audio quality of the iPhone 3G, both in terms of the built-in iPod and the phone. All were enthused about the new applications that would be coming to the phone; Pogue wrote, "Above all, the iPhone is about to become a dazzling hand-held game machine." And, of course, downloading Web pages over a 3G network is much faster than over an EDGE network, which you probably already knew.

So, what was the final verdict?

Pogue: "So the iPhone 3G is a nice upgrade. It more than keeps pace with advancing technology, and new buyers will generally be delighted. But it's not so much better that it turns all those original iPhones into has-beens. Indeed, the really big deal is the iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store, neither of which requires buying a new iPhone. That twist may come as a refreshing surprise to planned-obsolescence conspiracy theorists -- and everyone who stood in line last year."

Baig: "While not everything on my wish list made it onto the new device, Apple has raised the bar with iPhone 3G. To which I offer an enthusiastic thumbs up."

Mossberg: "If you've been waiting to buy an iPhone until it dropped in price, or ran on faster cell networks, you might want to take the plunge, if you can live with the higher service costs and the weaker battery life. The same goes for those with existing iPhones who love the device but crave faster cellular data speeds. But if you already own an iPhone, and can usually use Wi-Fi for data, you probably should hold off and get the free software upgrade before deciding whether it's worth getting the new hardware."

CNET's Kent German will have his own review up this Friday, when the iPhone 3G is formally released.