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iPhone 3GS offers a decent entry level smart phone, iPhone 4 still packs mid-range punch

Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPhone 4S is a bit tardy, missing its typical June release and pushing back to October.  But for Apple fans the refresh is almost here.  On October 14, Apple is launching its fifth generation handset, which includes a new faster downlink modem, a higher resolution camera, and a more powerful CPU/GPU system-on-a-chip.

Alongside that launch Apple will be shuffling the prices on its existing lineup.  

The iPhone 3GS will now be offered for free with a two year contract.  This marks the latest in a series of price drops for the best-selling smart phone.  In May 2010, just before the iPhone 4 launch, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) slashed the iPhone 3GS 16 GB model price to $97 USD -- a $100 discount.  Other retailers soon followed, as Apple cut the official price to $100 (but for a lesser 8 GB model) with the launch of the iPhone 4.  By July 2011 refurbished iPhone 3GS were selling for a mere $9 USD with contract on AT&T, Inc.'s (T) network.

For those who need a refresher on the hardware (which is understandable -- the phone is nearly two and a half years old), the phone packs Apple's older 3.5-inch 480x320 pixel smart phone display, a 600 MHz ARM Cortex-A8 CPU, 256 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of NAND flash storage.  The best-selling phone looks somewhat dated by today's standards, passing as a modest entry level smart phone.  But it still packs solid battery life and a broad app catalog -- key strengths for Apple.

The iPhone 4 is also dropping in price, hitting $99 USD with new 2-year contract.  Apple didn't explicitly mention what the capacity of the $99 USD fourth generation model (U.S. pricing only) is, but it will reportedly be a new 8GB model, available on Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), AT&T, and the Verizon Communications, Inc. (VZ) networks.

Compared to the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 was a major evolutionary leap.  It packs a 960x640 3.5-inch display (the "Retina Display"), which still is higher than virtually any Android smart phone on the market.  It bumps the memory to a more palatable 512 MB and the processor speed up to a respectble 1 GHz.  And it comes with a 5 MP camera.

Ultimately the phone's biggest strengths are its display, its app catalog, and its surprisingly pleasing camera (given the resolution).  The phone's biggest weakness is arguably its slow wireless modem, which confines it to standard 3G speeds -- though it does of course support Wi-Fi networks where they're available.

Source: Apple





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