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For the iPhone 3G S

While all the new features listed earlier in this guide are available for all iPhone and iPod Touch models, Apple’s new iPhone 3G S sports some additional features related to its improved hardware (which includes a better camera, faster processor, and additional RAM). The following are the big features available only on the iPhone 3G S.

Video Recording

One of the big advances is in the iPhone 3G S camera, which sports 3 megapixels (up from the 2 megapixel camera in the previous models) and performs better in low-light situations. This camera comes with some choice new features—not the least of which is the ability to record video. Video is captured at VGA (640x480) resolution at 30 frames per second. This isn’t stellar nor is it high definition, but it is decent for quickly capturing moments and posting them to YouTube.

Videos are shot using the same Camera app as still photos (a switch at the bottom of the screen lets you change between shooting video or still images) and are stored right alongside still photos in the iPhone’s photo library and synced along with photos to your computer (much like Apple’s iPhoto will sync video shot on a digital camera). One-click sharing of videos via email, YouTube, Apple’s MobileMe, and (where available) MMS messaging is included, pretty much just like photos. Third-party apps should also be able to use the camera to capture video.

Autofocus/Tap to Focus Camera

One great feature-for still photos is that the camera now supports auto-focus. Even cooler is that you can choose the focus of any shot simply by tapping on a person’s face or an object onscreen before taking the image. The iPhone 3G S will then focus on that area of the shot and will adjust white balance contrast around it. The result: generally better photos that should need less (or no) editing to look their best.

Voice Control

Beyond the camera, the iPhone 3G S offers Voice Control. More than just voice-activated dialing, Voice Control lets you control a variety of iPhone features simply by holding down the Home button until prompted and then speaking commands (and available commands are displayed in the background while Voice Control is active). This can be used to dial a contact or a phone number, play music (playlist, artist, album, song), ask for information about what’s currently playing, and even activate the iTunes Genius feature. Voice dialing has been something that the iPhone has needed for a while, but this definitely takes things to a new level and it will be interesting to see how far Apple goes with it (and/or lets other developers take it).

Voiceover

In addition to Voice Control, the iPhone 3G S supports Voiceover, a feature that allows you to have the iPhone read/speak the text onscreen as you position your finger over it. Text-to-speech isn’t new for Apple (Macs have had it for decades now), but having it built into a mobile device is helpful, particularly if you are visually impaired or even if your just tired of reading text.

Compass

The iPhone 3G S comes with a digital compass (essentially a magnetometer). You can use this via a built-in Compass app that acts pretty much like a traditional compass, but the real power comes when it’s paired with other apps. So far, the only app to make real use of the Compass feature is Maps, which can automatically orient the map display to match the direction you’re facing. For map-challenged individuals (or anyone who’s trying to find directions and gets turned around—like I tend to do when exiting almost any subway station in New York City), this is a hugely helpful feature. It may not be a sole reason to run out and buy a new iPhone 3G S if you already have an iPhone 3G, but it’s a nice addition.

Encryption

For businesses, this final feature worth noting about the iPhone 3G S is the biggest: full device encryption. One of the overall concerns about the iPhone for many businesses has been data security on a lost or stolen device. Remote wipe and passcodes mitigate that threat slightly, but not significantly. A stolen phone could be accessed before the owner realizes it’s gone and the wipe initiated. And even locked, a clever thief could access data using data forensic tools on a computer.

Device encryption will go a long to ensuring that even if a device is lost or stolen, the data will not be compromised because it is securely stored in encrypted form. This should make the iPhone 3G S more palatable to IT departments of organizations that deal with confidential data (such as the medical, legal, and financial industries).

Summary

All in all, Apple has packed a lot into the iPhone OS 3 update and has done a big service to its user base by making almost all of those features (except the ones that needed additional hardware support) available to all existing users at no cost—or at a small (but definitely worth it) cost for iPod Touch owners. This guide includes the biggest new features, but check back soon for details on some of the smaller updates and changes that not everyone is talking about yet and how they can have a big impact on your iPhone use.

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