Hands on with the Apple iPhone 3G

Well, despite the crowds and my jetlag, I've managed to blag my way backstage at WWDC to get my sweaty mitts on the new iPhone. Sadly we weren't allow

Back when I first touched the original iPhone, I described it as 'the best thing ever' - to the disdain of my more sober colleagues. Well, I stand by what I said. No gadget has brought me more joy than my iPhone, and its 3G incarnation makes the best even better.

But rather than gushing about the brilliance of this new device, I thought I'd look at how the new iPhone 3G addresses the flaws its predecessor.

Browsing speed. The old iPhone as great in hotspots, but distressingly slow using EDGE. But now you can get broadband speeds everywhere (network permitting) thanks to the new iPhone's support for HSDPA (aka 3.5G). Download speeds are more than doubled and - if Apple's figures are to be believed - 3G browsing is quicker on the iPhone than on Nokia's flagship smartphone, the N95. And let's not forget that web browsing is one of the iPhone's key strengths - Safari is an absolute joy to use. But I must stop, I'm gushing... Old iPhone rating: 2/5 iPhone 3G rating: 5/5

Size. I don't have a problem with the iPhone's size, but some do. Bad news for those people: the 3G iPhone is no smaller than the original. In fact, it's fractionally wider, and while the tapered rear makes it feel thinner than the EDGE iPhone, it's actually the same thickness when you lay the two face down on a table. As I did, much to the amusement of the Apple people. The rear of the phone is now shiny black or white plastic, which I don't like quite as much as the metal rear of the orginal, but the phone still feels solidly made. Old iPhone: 3/5 iPhone 3G: 2/5

Camera. My biggest problem with the iPhone 3G is it still packs an antiquated 2MP camera. Apple's iPhone supremo Greg Joswiak told me that the camera software had been tweaked to produce better quality pictures, but the fact is that the imaging is the iPhone's weakness: no flash, no video recording, no autofocus, no videocalling. On the plus side, the GPS-toting iPhone 3G will now geotag photos with the position they were taken. Old iPhone: 1/5 iPhone 3G: 2/5

Typing troubles. It's been said that the iPhone is tricky to type on - but that's simply not true, and never was. Sure, the iPhone is never going to match the BlackBerry for sheer speed, but once you've used the virtual keyboard for an hour or so you get used to using it - and relying on the astonishingly good autocorrection software. And new language support means that no foreign characters are out of reach - some Asian languages even feature Palm-style character recognition, allowing users to draw ideograms with their fingers. Old iPhone: 3/5 iPhone 3G: 3/5

3rd Party software The AppStore will launch with the new iPhone 3G on July 11th. It'll feature free downloads - like eBay's auction tracker - and paid-for applications. Apps that weigh in under 10MB can be downloaded via 3G while heavier ones require Wi-Fi or a computer with iTunes. I've played with a few of these and they are astonishing - much better than most of the software written for unofficially jailbroken iPhones. Super Monkey Ball, for example, is controlled by the iPhone's accelerometer and has amazingly smooth graphics (see video below). It's actually more fun than the Wii version. Cro-Mag Rally also has a motion-control system, and is gloriously simple to play. And Enigmo is an addictive puzzler. My only hands-on disappointment was 3D adventure Kroll, which was too complicated to pick up in the few seconds I dedicated to it. All in all, the games look like truly glorious life-wasters. And development has only just begun... Old iPhone: 1/5 iPhone 3G 5/5

Push email Apple made a big deal about Yahoo! push email on the original iPhone, but it never really rang true. Fortunately the new iPhone software allows corporate users to get push email using Microsoft's Exchange server, while consumers can buy an Apple Mobile Me account for £59 a year and receive push email that way (as well as calendar and address book sync, plus photo galleries). In order to preserve battery life you can throttle back the frequency that the iPhone looks for new stuff - every 10, 15, 30 or 60 minutes. Old iPhone: 1/5 iPhone 3G: 4/5

Sat-nav Although the iPhone 3G features a GPS receiver, it doesn't come with full turn-by-turn navigation software, instead relying on Google Maps (which is brilliant on foot but not quite so useful in the car). I expect third-party developers will quickly fill this gap. Old iPhone: 1/5 iPhone 3G: 3/5

Battery life The original iPhone's battery life was decent - it'll easily make it through a couple of days of moderate use and 5 hours of Wi-Fi browsing. The iPhone 3G allegedly has longer talktime on 2G but most people will leave 3G turned on, which reduces talktime from 8 hours on the old iPhone to 5 hours according to Apple's figures. Wi-Fi browsing is up to 6 hours, though, and video is 7. No doubt turning on the GPS will severely reduce these figures, but they nonetheless look healthy compared to the battery-hungry N95. Old iPhone: 4/5 iPhone 3G: 3/5* (*the jury's out on this until we've carried out proper tests)

Price I bought a 4GB iPhone less than a year ago for $499. Yes, I'm a fool, but that's the lot of an early adopter. Come July 11th, an 8GB Apple iPhone 3G will set you back $199. We're yet to establish exact UK pricing but according to Steve Jobs it won't be more than $199, which equals £99. That's the best phone on the planet, for under £100. In my breifing, Apple's Greg Joswiak backtracked on Jobs's price committment a bit and muttered about VAT and the fact that Apple didn't set prices, the networks did. But nonetheless I'd be surprised if O2 didn't offer a sub-£100 iPhone in the UK - and if rumours are to be believed, it might even offer a high-contract iPhone for free. Again the jury is out on this until we have full details, but I'm going to give the iPhone 3G a provisional rating... Old iPhone: 1/5 iPhone 3G: 4/5

So there you go - by my almost-objective methods I can prove that the iPhone 3G is 31% better than the original. That's 31% better than the Best Thing Ever.

The iPhone 3G still isn't perfect. But hey, we've got to have something to look forward to at the next Steve Jobs keynote...

Apple iPhone 3G - first impressions from WWDC 08