Article: Why Should We Care About the iPhone 3G?

by on March 7, 2011

With last week’s announcement of Friday, March 11 being iOS 4.3 day (along with iPad 2 and it’s associated apps being available), there was a glaring omission from the compatibility list—the iPhone 3G.  Although the first iPhone 3G was sold almost 3 years ago, the final ones were only sold this summer, shortly before the iPhone 4 announcement.  Should we be concerned about Apple abandoning a product that hasn’t even been off the market for a year?

Yes.  While technology must march onward and abandon old hardware, and the majority of iPhone 3G owners have abandoned these devices in favor of something newer, it does set a scary precedent.  While Apple has been leaps and bounds ahead of the competition for consistent mobile device software updates, there is a concern that this could accelerate.

Could the 3GS, while being heavily promoted by AT&T even months after the 4 took the flagship spot be left off the iOS 5 update?  Could the original iPad be ignored because it’s not the latest and greatest?

While I will argue that mobile devices have a shorter lifespan than their full-blown computer counterparts, both due to technological advances and what we’ll call “wear and tear,” dropping support for the 3G seems a bit premature.  Apple has already left a sour taste in users’ mouths with the poor performance of iOS 4 on these devices, and although 4.2.1 is much better, couldn’t 4.3 have included a few more tweaks?  The other problem is that the average user will feel that their still-under-warranty gadget isn’t being taken care of as best it should be.  Although Apple is under no obligation to even add features from an initial release, it is a goodwill gesture that the software side of things is also improving over time.

It’s easy for someone to say something along the lines of, “Those people should just get a new iPhone!” and, while, arguably the way to go, just begins a slippery slope.  They might still be under contract for a year or so.  They might get a new phone…from someone else.  They might abandon Apple  altogether, even though the Mac OS X updates have always been more forgiving.  While this is worst-case-scenario, it still is something concerning.

There’s also the argument about the hardware not being able to handle certain tasks, this may be true, but why isn’t Apple letting iMovie run on the first-generation iPad, a 256MB RAM, A4-equipped device, while it can run on the similarly-specced iPod touch?  I doubt anyone would really enjoy shooting video with an iPad-sized device, but it would be nice to offload from an iPod or iPhone for editing on a bigger, albeit similar resolution screen.

Speaking of the mobile device lifecycle, smartphone subsidies help convince folks that it’s time for something new on the iPhone front, and the iPod touch is arguably inexpensive compared to its functions, but the iPad is going to be a tough sell for the “buy new every two” argument with a price range of $500-$830.

That being said, this article wasn’t intended to be a sour-grapes-from-an-iPhone-3G-user (I actually have a 4), but just drawing attention to the problem of selling last-year’s technology discounted (3G as the cheap model and then the 3GS taking that spot) and how it can come back to hurt the perception of Apple.

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