Using the Apple iPhone 3G in 2017: Mission Impossible?

While everyone else is talking about the new Apple iPhone 8, I’ve been stepping back in time with the iPhone 3G. But is it still up to the job in 2017?

While everyone else is talking about the new Apple iPhone 8, I've been stepping back in time with the iPhone 3G. But is it still up to the job in 2017? #spons

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When Three offered to send me an iPhone to trial, I was naturally very excited. I was really looking forward to getting my hands on a shiny new Apple iPhone 8.

But it seems that I had got a bit ahead of myself. When I read the email again, I realised that they were actually going to be sending me an iPhone 3G. Three were setting me a challenge to try and use it instead of my current phone for three days. I was pretty confident that I’d be up to the job, so I happily accepted the challenge.

When it turned up, it was soon obvious that I’d been a bit over-confident.

Apple iPhone 3G Tech Specs

This phone sent me straight back to the summer of 2008. Back then, Gordon Brown was still the UK Prime Minister, and Team GB were at the Beijing Olympics. And Mint Royale’s version of ‘Singin in the Rain’ was at Number One in the UK charts.

I was sent the higher-spec model which has a huge 16GB of storage, and 128MB of RAM. When you compare that to the 256GB storage and 2GB RAM on the iPhone 8, I can’t help but wonder how we all managed back in 2008!

It has a 3.5″ screen, at 480×320 resolution, and a 2MB camera with geotagging. One million of these phones sold on the first weekend, and it was hailed as ‘twice as fast, for half the price’ of the original iPhone.

Pretty exciting stuff, eh?

The Challenge

So I was asked to use the iPhone 3G in place of my regular phone, the Huawei P9. And while I knew that there’d be limitations to the 3G, I was pretty sure that I could work around them. But I kept my Huawei handy, just in case.

For me, a phone needs to fulfill certain criteria, which I mentioned in my previous review of the Samsung Galaxy 8+. I want to know:

  • Is it easy to set up?
  • Can I use my usual apps on it easily?
  • How good is the camera?
  • Does the battery last a reasonable time?

I decided that it was unfair to judge the iPhone 3G on its battery life, because it’s nearly 10 years old by now. So let’s see how the iPhone coped with the other three test.

Setting up the iPhone 3G

When I took the iPhone out of the packaging, the first thing I noticed was how small it is. It measures 115x62mm, which felt absolutely tiny compared to my usual phone. The 3G has a black plastic back, and looks quite old fashioned compared to the sleek glass front and back of the new iPhone 8.

Of course back in 2008, phones used the full-sized SIM cards so my own SIM wouldn’t fit. Luckily Three had sent me a PAYG SIM to use, so I was ready to set up my phone.

Setting up my mail account was the first task, and that was quite easy. It took me a while to get used to the small screen and the Apple interface, but it went quite smoothly. This was looking good so far!

2017 Apps on a 2008 iPhone 3G

As a blogger, my phone really is one of my most vital tools. I use a whole array of apps on a daily basis, from social media and browsing the web, to booking train tickets and finding out driving instructions.

So my next step was to fire up the Apple Store and start downloading apps. First step, Twitter… except Twitter wouldn’t load because I was running such an old version of iOS. My iPhone 3G was running iOS 4.2.1, and couldn’t be updated to the current version.

Next I tried Instagram, and found that it was the same situation there. Suddenly, this challenge wasn’t looking so easy!

I also found the iPhone 3G very frustrating to use, because it was much slower than my current phone. When I tried to load up the BBC News website, it seemed to take forever to load a single page. I’m so used to flicking around from page to page when I’ve got a few spare minutes, but this was a nightmare.

But if running apps and browsing the web was a painful experience, surely using the camera couldn’t be so bad?

While everyone else is talking about the new Apple iPhone 8, I've been stepping back in time with the iPhone 3G. But is it still up to the job in 2017? #spons

Taking Photos on the iPhone 3G

I thought I had pretty realistic expectations of the picture quality I would get from the iPhone 3G. With a 2MP camera, I knew that I wasn’t going to get great photos. By comparison you get 12MP and 4K video on the new iPhone 8!

But I really didn’t realise how bad the photos would be. I set up an espresso cup under my usual photographic lights, and took a photo first with the iPhone 3G. Then I took the same shot with my Huawei 9P which has a dual Leica lens.

As you can see, the iPhone 3G photo is really dark, and the quality of the photo is much worse. There are details on the bottom photo that you just can’t see on the top photo.

Normally I can post photos straight to social media from my phone, after running them through Snapseed first to brighten and improve them. But of course, I couldn’t even install Snapseed on to the 3G. So if I’d genuinely been using the 3G, the quality of photos on social media would have been dreadful!

I had originally intended to show you a selfie with the 3G, but of course we didn’t have front-facing cameras in 2008. After a few attempts of taking a blurry, dark selfie with the 3G’s camera, I gave up on that idea.

Using the iPhone 3G in 2017 – the Verdict

After less than half a day with the iPhone, I was ready to throw in the towel. Either that or throw the phone through the window (just kidding!). Everything was so slow and so frustrating, I knew that I was never going to last even one day with it.

It’s amazing to think how technology has moved on in less than 10 years. And every new release brings with it more features, quicker load times, and a better user interface. After spending just a little time back in 2008, I’m more than ready to get my hands on the new iPhone 8 and see what that can do!

If you want to get your hands on the Apple iPhone 8, visit the Three website or head to your local Three store.

While everyone else is talking about the new Apple iPhone 8, I've been stepping back in time with the iPhone 3G. It was cutting edge technology back in 2008, but is it still up to the job in 2017? #spons


  1. Oh this is a challenge I don’t think I’d be able to do – I can only imagine how frustrating it was! Just goes to show how quickly we are making technological advancements in this day and age!


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