Turns out, smartphone buyers still clamor for the iPhone 3GS.
The proof is in the latest earnings statements of AT&T and Verizon, which showed that the former activated 1.3 million more iPhones than the latter.
Although AT&T didn’t break down its iPhone sales figures by model, one explanation for the discrepancy is that AT&T still sells the iPhone 3GS for $49 with a two-year contract, while Verizon only sells the iPhone 4.
It may be tempting to dismiss iPhone 3GS buyers as clueless late adopters, but there are actually a few reasons why the two year-old phone may still be worth buying today. Let’s count ’em:
The iPhone 3GS doesn’t have the latest processor or the most RAM, but you’re not likely to notice while scrolling through the home screen or browsing the web. In terms of smoothness, the iPhone 3GS can even hold its own against some of the latest Android smartphones. Raw specs aren’t everything.
Apple’s iPhone 4 might be prettier to look at, but the gently-curved design of the iPhone 3GS fits more neatly into the palm of your hand. And hey, there are no antenna death grip issues to worry about.
The latest software
Software is the most important element of any smartphone, and the iPhone 3GS supports not only the current iOS 4, but the upcoming iOS 5 that arrives this fall — the one that includes iMessages, improved notifications, Twitter integration, wireless sync and PC-free updating.
There are some iPhone apps that won’t work on the iPhone 3GS, such as games that require a gyroscope and photo or video apps that use the iPhone 4’s front-facing camera. But with a few rare exceptions, the iPhone 3GS provides full access to the iOS App Store, which is arguably the iPhone’s greatest asset.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want an iPhone 3GS instead of the iPhone 4 or whatever comes next. Its paltry 8 GB of storage will preclude you from loading it with too much music and video. Its lack of front-facing camera means you can’t enjoy video chat (but ask yourself how often you use video chat services on a PC before deciding how necessary this is). Its lack of flash on the rear-facing camera means your photos will stink in low-light (the biggest weakness, in my opinion).
If you’re after the latest technology, the iPhone 3GS isn’t worth buying—but earlier adopters know this already. When compared, however, to other phones in the sub-$50 price range, the iPhone 3GS still holds its own.