There is, however, one obvious loser from the inclusion of 3G: battery life. Yet, the end product isn't anything near as bad as some might have feared. For starters, although on 3G battery life is obviously worse than on the original, at just over five hours 3G talk time it's still better than the majority of other 3G based smart phones. A further plus is the ability to turn off 3G whenever you like and with close to ten hours of 2G talk time, it makes a massive difference - it's a shame this can't be done automatically. Other quoted figures include seven hours video playback, 24 hours audio playback and 300 hours stand-by, all of which sound fine and given the talk time figures have proved more or less accurate are believable.
What's more revealing, however, is the real world experience. In medium to heavy mixed usage, including phone calls, 3G and EDGE data, Wi-Fi, GPS and music playback, you can expect one day of usage with around 20% of headroom to spare. If you restrict yourself to lighter usage, using only 2G and listening to music, two days of usage is easily attained.
Ultimately, given the sheer versatility and ease of use, everyone's mileage will vary depending on usage. From our experience only very demanding users who are on their feet all day, accessing websites constantly and using all the features of the phone at once should encounter any real problems. If you are one of these people, a portable USB battery charger might be a good investment since the battery is still non-removable - something that seems unlikely to change any time soon.
There are still plenty of other changes, however. One of the simplest, but most important, is the headphone port that's no longer recessed and as such is compatible with all 3.5mm headphone plugs. It seems somewhat incongruous to praise something that should have never been a problem in the first place, but if this put you off before then it's another reason to buy this iPhone.
This has been made possible by the new plastic casing of the iPhone 3G that replaces the metal one of the original. There's been much discussion about this particular change and whether it was a good thing, but on balance it definitely is. Despite the 3G being thicker than the original, the plastic casing allows for more aggressively tapered edges that make it look and feel thinner. This helps it sit more comfortably in the hand and whereas the metal original was notoriously slippery, the glossy finish allows for a more secure hold.
On the flip side the plastic finish, particularly in its black guide, attracts and shows off fingerprints with abandon. Common sense would also suggest it won't be as strong but, for the record, the plastic casing feels very strong and the build quality is just as good on this model as it was on the original. If anyone wants to volunteer their iPhone for some ruggedness testing, we can find out exactly how strong that plastic really is…anyone? At very least we know that it does blend…