Wednesday, June 15, 2011

iPhone 3G, or not to be?

That is the question for those of you still using an iPhone 3G.  And, I have to emphasize still.  It seems that someone at Apple, let's call him "Steve Jobs", decided that two and a half to three years is much too long to use any iPhone model.  Of course, he never actually came out and said that.  I wouldn't want to be accused of putting words in his mouth, but the reality is that Apple has unofficially stopped supporting the iPhone 3G and older models.

If this was a device that doesn't store personal information, and can't be used on a cell or wireless connection this probably wouldn't even be much of a blip on my radar.  But, the problem for me is that the iPhone is a connected device, and as such it should remain a patched system.  Without firmware updates you won't get the latest security or bug fixes, and it could also mean a lack of support for your apps as developers continue to improve their apps for the newer iOS.

There have been two indications that Apple is dropping support for the iPhone 3G.

1. No firmware update for the 3G (looks like iOS 4.2.x is the end of the line) though the 3GS and newer models were updated (as of this writing 4.3.x is available).
2. At Apple's World Wide Developer Conference this month "Steve" made no mention of the iPhone 3G being supported by iOS 5 which makes sense given the first point I made here.

Is this a problem worth worrying about?  Probably not right away.  It is still unclear when the next generation iPhone will be released.  The best guess anyone has is sometime in September or October of this year.   The Japan earthquake has impacted manufacturing for a lot of companies, and Apple is no exception.

Current options for upgrading to another Apple iPhone:

If you want to bail on your 3G now you can get a brand new iPhone 3GS for $50*.  It's a good price, but since it was introduced in June 2009 my guess is that support will end unofficially in 2012.  That is next year.  You have to ask yourself if it is worth it to eek out the extra year in the hopes of something better before the end of 2012.

Or, you can get a brand new iPhone 4 for between $200-$300* (depending on model).  Introduced in June of 2010, my guess is that support will end unofficially in 2013.  Do the math, that is maybe two more years of support for that price.

Roll the dice, and wait for the next generation iPhone and pay the likely $200-$300 price tag (depending on model).  This would also have a three year life span ending support unofficially in 2014, if my theory is correct.  I'd say it is worth the gamble to wait especially if a new iPhone model comes out before the end of the year.  Apple probably won't want to miss the holidays as an opportunity to push sales of something new.  Also, this phone will most likely ship with iOS 5 installed since it was just introduced at WWDC.  Whether or not the hardware differs much from the iPhone 4 is also up for debate, but my feeling is support for the device is more important for an iPhone 3G user than what features a new phone is going to sport.

Just because I am speaking specifically of the iPhone does not mean I am suggesting you would have to continue to use an iPhone.  There are plenty of other vendors offering smart phones that have similar interfaces and features.  The point oh:  There is obsolescence in every computing device.  How fast these devices become obsolete is a matter of debate.  But, sooner or later you will need to move forward.

Maybe you have noticed, despite Apple's claims of improving the speed on the iPhone 3G with the last two firmware updates, that your phone is slow.  Nuking the phone back to factory defaults, and reinstalling everything has marginal gains in performance.  It is particularly noticeable if you benchmark those speeds against an iPhone 4 using the same apps to test.  It is, in part, a hardware issue.  The iPhone 4 uses newer technology to support better performance and its additional software features.  It just might be one more reason to retire your 3G.

* Apple's pricing:

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