Your next iPhone: iPhone 3.0 update or iPhone 3G S?

Between Apple's free OS upgrade, the new next-generation handset, and the heavily discounted 3G, it's decision-time for both devotees and holdouts

Over the course of two weeks in June, Apple will deliver more new phones than any mobile handset manufacturer in history. On June 8, paid members of Apple's iPhone Developer Program were given access to the GM (gold master) of iPhone 3.0 firmware, along with a matching version of the iPhone SDK. On June 17, owners of all models of iPhone and iPod Touch will be able to download the iPhone 3.0 update through iTunes. And on June 19, Apple will start selling the iPhone 3G S, a faster iPhone 3G with longer battery life, an autofocus camcorder, a compass, and other goodies. Meanwhile, the original 8GB iPhone 3G will continue to be sold for the giveaway price of $99.

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I say that Apple will set a record in new phone shipments because iPhone 3.0 creates an entirely new platform on every existing device updated to use it. The reach of Apple's OS update is unprecedented, and the fact that it overlaps with the release of a new handset creates some confusion. Some people are wondering what iPhone 3.0 is, what the iPhone 3G S has that the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3.0 don't, whether the original iPhone 3G is still worth buying, and whether owners of the existing iPhone 3G should upgrade. I'll do my best to address these questions.

[ Get InfoWorld's 28-page hands-on look at the new iPhone OS from the perspective of business and IT pros, including reviews of iPhone configuration management and application development tools, all from InfoWorld’s editors and contributors. | Take a guided tour of iPhone 3.0. See how the iPhone 3G and BlackBerry Bold fare in a head-to-head comparison. | Stay ahead of advances in mobile technology with InfoWorld's Mobile Edge blog. ]

iPhone 3.0 is a new feature bonanza that requires no new hardware. It will be delivered as an operating system update for owners of all models of iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch. Just use your USB cable to connect your iPhone or iPod Touch to your Mac or PC after June 17. iTunes will detect the update, back up your device, download the iPhone 3.0 OS, copy the OS to your device's flash memory, and restore your data and apps. Your device will reboot with an extraordinary set of new features. If you have an iPhone, any model, iPhone 3.0 is free. If you have an iPod Touch, any model, it's $9.95.

It seems like all the iPhone users I know are in the iPhone Developer Program and already running the iPhone 3.0 beta (now, gold master), so I've been treating the new OS as if it's already shipped. It almost got past me what a huge day June 17 is going to be for that vast majority of iPhone owners who are currently running a 2.x OS.

3.0 is the charm

No matter what kind of mobile device you're carrying, you've never seen a firmware update like iPhone 3.0. It re-creates the device. Heading off the list of changes is global support for cut, copy, paste, and undo. When I say "global," I mean that the functionality has been added at the framework/API level, so all iPhone apps not only inherit the pop-up toolbar that makes drag-selecting text and graphics a cinch, they share a single system-wide pasteboard with other apps. Of course it works with text, but you can send someone an image, or a block of formatted HTML plus an image, from a Web site just by copying it out of Safari and pasting it in an e-mail message. In every built-in and third-party app I've tried, it works. Undo takes advantage of iPhone 3.0's new shake gesture.

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