The Real Question: Is 3G Worth it?

I’m pretty sure that I can answer the “should I upgrade my iPhone?” question in this page alone, so let’s practice being succinct!

Without a doubt 3G is a lot faster than Edge on the iPhone, but it’s worth setting proper expectations; here are the raw numbers:

iPhone 3G Data Transfer Speed in Kbps (Higher is Better) 

Edge will download at around 110kbps, 1Mbps for 3G and 3Mbps for WiFi. Fast enough for web browsing, right? Wrong.

Let’s look at some real world tests:

iPhone 3G Web Loading Speed - 

I loaded the iPhone optimized Facebook home page, on Edge it took 9.2 seconds, 8.5 seconds on 3G and 3.8 seconds on WiFi. What’s interesting is that the initial connection to the server seems to take much longer on both Edge/3G than on WiFi, indicating that perhaps the DNS server AT&T is using is the reason why we’re so slow here.

Next up was Digg’s iPhone optimized site:

iPhone 3G Web Loading Speed -


Here 3G offers a more significant performance advantage, but it still takes around twice as long to render a page as WiFi. Again, I suspect that the problem here is the initial connection to the server (I’m testing 3G battery life now but once that’s done I’ll do some DNS performance tests).

Finally we have a image heavy site, a little hardware website called AnandTech:

iPhone 3G Web Loading Speed -


With an image heavy website we’re bound more by download speed than by latency, so while Edge took 45 seconds to load, 3G only took 17 seconds, and WiFi barely had an advantage at 13.5 seconds.

If the majority of sites you use on your iPhone are small, text heavy sites, then you honestly won’t notice a huge difference between Edge and 3G, and it won’t feel like WiFi anywhere to you. However, if you use sites with more images and content to download, 3G will feel more like WiFi and Edge just won’t cut it.

Did that help?

Final Words

That’s it for now, I’m running tests on the iPhone 3G as I publish this so expect a much more thorough look at the phone shortly.



View All Comments

  • WelshBloke - Monday, July 14, 2008 - link

    'I can't believe they didn't implement their own widescreen large size keyboard on the Diamond'

    You could just install the one of your choice.
  • araczynski - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    ...make you bend over when you need to replace the battery? Reply
  • daftrok - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    That doesn't matter. So long as you allow the phone to discharge its battery to around 20% and unplug it once its fully charged you can keep using the same battery for years and years. But I have some issues with the iPhone that just will not stand for me:

    1) No Picture messaging. Seriously what the hell
    2) No Video recording.
    3) Forced AT&T activation.
    4) Expensive plans.
    5) No AIM/MSN support
    6) No Google Docs or MS Word support
    7) No landscape keyboard (it only does portrait)
    8) Lamentable audio/video support

    Fix these issues, then I'll get it.
  • Weiser - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    Anand, I know you mentioned some issues activating but I'm not sure it came across exactly how bad this is. I am hearing that it got worse and worse as the stores opened from east to west coast. I am on the west coast and tried to update my current iPhone to the new software this morning about 7am PST and now have an iBrick in my pocket.

    If you are a current gen iPhone owner and haven't updated your phone yet I would wait until at least later tonight. If you are thinking of going to pick up a new one the line might move a lot slower than you would expect unless they fix the issues.
  • crimson117 - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    My pre-wife and I are getting our first iPhones once she finishes her exams later this month, so I'm psyched to hear these initial reviews.

    What I'm not psyched about is the $36 "activation fee" for new AT&T customers, which is really just a 18% AT&T pound-me-in-the-ass tax. And also doing any business with AT&T at all, what with the illegal wiretapping BS.
  • crimson117 - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    Did I really forget to close the bold tag there? Sorry. Reply
  • goku - Friday, July 11, 2008 - link

    For those who've always wanted an iPhone but never got one, getting the 3G iPhone would be the thing to get. For those who already have an iPhone and don't plan on downloading lots of bandwidth intensive data, stick with the iPhone you already have, though you'll have to since you've got at least 1 year left on your AT&T contract. I would never get an iPhone because for one I hate Apple and it has far too many shortcomings, but for those who are deadset on getting one despite all the shortcomings, this would be the one to get if anything at all. Reply

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