iOS 4.2 on iPhone 3G: Is the performance any better? [video]

How does the 2008 iPhone 3G work with the soon-to-debut iOS 4.2? When iOS 4 first came out back in June it was laggy and non-responsive and generally not a good experience for many iPhone 3G users. Apple promised a fix with iOS 4.1 in September but not everyone was thrilled with the results. Now it's November and iOS 4.2 should become available this week. So, we took a look at iPhone 3G running the iOS 4.2 GM seed, which is usually binary-identical to the final release and... the results were pretty good.

iPhone 3G's hardware isn't as fast and it's RAM is literally a quarter of iPhone 4's but it did a decent job typing, scrolling, pinching, and zooming its way around iOS 4.2.

Check out the video above to see it in action and if/when you've tried 4.2 on your iPhone 3G, let us know how it works for you.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • gonna give this a try. thanks for the video
  • Great!
    But Apple still blocks Game Center, AirPlay, AirPrint, HomeScreen background, Multitasking, Universal access, Voice Control, video recording and many more on the iPhone 3G!
  • How dare you sneak in an Android dig like that! J/K I loved it. Anyway, I've been on 3.1.2. Might actually upgrade now. Maybe.
  • My iPod touch 3G seems a lil slower then before but I skipped a few updates last I ran was 3.1.2 I also disabled spotlight
  • I have an old 3G I kept on 3.1.2. I just pulled it out and tried it to compare. Mine is faster and keeps up with my iPhone 4 pretty respectably. I guess it's tolerable on 4.2 but it doesn't have that snappiness that makes an iPhone what it is, particularly in the browser when scrolling, pinching, etc.
  • It looked nice
  • My (not jailbroken) 3G was unusable with iOS 4, and not much better with 4.1. The performance was so bad i could almost believe those who said it was intentional, because the alternative is sheer incompetence. The progress of the pending lawsuit ( ) should be fascinating.
  • Nevermind. I just loaded the same MacBook Air website Rene did and it was just as horrible on my 3G. iPhone 4 is soooooo much faster and better equipped to handle full websites. iPhone 3G is fine for mobile sites like tipb, etc.
  • So just a quick question. Why do you not mention the fragmentation of iOS, yet you harp on the fragmentation of Android any chance possible?
    Because this is clearly an example of it at its worse. Android just has it bad where apps will not work (and Google is nice enough to exclude them from the market to cause no confusion). iOS on the other hand actually allows apps to be found in the Store and will be non downloadable unless you have the current version. Not to mention updates slowing old hardware down...many iPhones using versions that are outdated.
    But yet the iOS site does not speak once on this. Why?
  • @idavey the reason is becuase Apple is not selling the iPhone 3G any more, so if you go "buy" an apple iProduct it all runs the same software. If you go compare currently "selling" android products you never know which version you're going to get and they don't all work the same. Articles like these is for people who are trying to eek out whatever they can from older technology...and it's a good way to showcase how much better software might be at running better on less hardware.
  • nice swing at android at the end of the video there :P
  • It's simple iDavey. Rene is a fruit lover and his bias is so strong he can't help being so transparent. Add to that fear over androids exponential growth in the last year. Here has to take every shot he can.
  • He is a bit of a tool in that respect.
  • @iDavey:
    iPhone 3G is no longer sold, so this isn't fragmentation, it's legacy. Fragmentation is when 2 or more current devices are launched and aren't compatible with each other.
    So, where iPhone 4, iPod touch 4, and iPad have compatibility issues, that's fragmentation. That iPhone 2G from 2007 can't do FaceTime isn't fragmentation.
    With Android, especially with companies like Dell, you get OS 1.x devices still being released. If Apple released iPod touch 4 with iOS 1.x, I'd call it just the same.
    Also, fragmentation is not good or bad. It leads to choice which can be a good thing as well.
    I don't think any of the Android Central crew with disagree with anything I just wrote there either.
  • Hey! I just saw the video. An I the only one that noticed that this is actually an iPhone 3GS? You can see it in the wallpaper(which is not allowed in the 3G) and in the compass icon in the maps app. Even though, the OS looks impressive!!
  • @Jose
    The 3G can has the wallpaper on the lock screen but not on the home screen (behind the icons). It's definitely a 3G because a 3GS flies in comparison.
  • **The 3G CAN HAVE the wallpaper on the lock screen...
  • If apple gave us portrait lock (just shove it as a switch in the general preferences, I'll never ever turn it off) then I'd upgrade. But otherwise they had a chance with 4.0 and they blew it so they wont be seeing any iAd revenue from my phone.
    I'll be sticking with iOS 3 and when I finally do upgrade I will be looking at handsets other than Apples, when before I would have certainly gone for the next iPhone.
  • It's a 3G. Sigh.
  • @iDavey
    Because what matters is what makes Apple looks good. When discussing market share, the only fair comparison is iPhone vs a single Android phone. When discussing profits, the only fair comparison is Apple vs a single Android manufacturer. When discussing fragmentation, the only fair comparison is all iOS phones vs all Android phones from all manufacturers. Makes perfect sense.
  • My #Android GalaxyS KILLS my iphone4 is SO many diff ways.,
    even b4 the froyo release..
    Android ~~~ fTw¡¡¡¡¡¡
  • I think its bull to call it legacy. The iPhone 3G is still in owner's hands. The 3G S has functions cut out that 4 does not. And did everyone just skip the fact if you don't upgrade, you have apps showing in the App Store that will NOT work.
    That seems like "fragmentation" to me. Now don't get me wrong, I think this word is grossly overused and misused. But the fact that people like Rene will attack other OS's with this word, but ignore it for iOS is sad.
    There's actually a chart saying that iOS 4 isn't even the top installed version. IPad is operating on an old version. Non useable apps are being shown for older versions. Yet nobody wants to call this fragmentation. Its bull, simple as that.
    At least Android as an OS (not manufacturers) handles fragmentation far better than this. Hmm. I'd love to hear Rene's rebuttal though.
  • And Rene, I hope you don't take this as an attack. I must say, I do love coming to this site. As an Android and iOS owner, I'm happy with the way both are progressing. I'm just a debate type person, lol. And I like to question lots of things. Because trust me, I have problems with Android also, so I'm not trying to be one sided here.
  • how about having some more app on phone like a real user have in a real life scenario? this isnt a comparable testing environment. fresh phone always a fast one. would be nice to see how it performs like it was used not just for show
  • Obviously, 4.0 was painful for us iPhone 3G users. I didn't upgrade, specifically for that reason.
    But, I did upgrade to 4.1. And, I am very pleased with the results. (I can watch my Netflix movies now, use my MobileMe Find My Phone, and all other iPhone 3G-capable apps that require 4.x.)
    So, here's the question:
    What advantages does 4.2 have over 4.1 for the iPhone 3G????
  • How can one say Android handles fragmentation better? There's multiple, multiple handsets and they all run something different. Some will never get Froyo, and have been on the market less than 9 months! Apple supported the original iPhone with software through a full 2-year contract cycle.
  • I'm on iPhone 3G(bought brand new in April 2009) and I had a terrible experince with 4.0x but with 4.1 it's running as well as it did with 2.2.1-3.1x. So I'm kinda shocked to see so many people having problems with it. I've been jailbroken and stock using 4.1 too.
  • don't know whether to upgrade or not. I'm running a 3G on 4.0.1 jailbroken and it's about the same as the 3G in the video.
    I do all my upgrades as "new phone" restores, and though loading everything back up is a bit of a hassle, it does seem to help performance. (I know this is of no use to people who save their texts and like to keep their game scores, but straight upgrading or restoring from backup has always seemed problematic for me.)
  • Whoa.... 15,000+ views and counting...good job!
  • No way Im upgrading from 4.0.1 on my iPhone 4, Im not losing my jailbreak!
  • Anything will be faster compared to iOS4.0 on iPhone 3G!!!
    The question is, is it as fast as 3.1.3? Is there any improvement over 4.1?
  • @cppounders
    Obviously you missed the part where I said "Android" handles it better. Then I made sure to specify that I was talking about the OS only, not the manufacturers.
    People like Dell being dumb putting out 1.x devices when even the MyTouch3G is getting 2.x upgrades is not Android's fault. It's Dell's.
    Android as an OS handles fragmentation better because they exclude OS specific apps from the Market of non-compatible versions. Core functions of the OS are being stripped out to be upgradeable through Market (and yes those are only 2.x compatible, but looking at the chart...more than the majority will have it, and as long as the majority is on that version, everything is well).
    Where on the other hand, iOS will keep all apps in the App Store no matter what. Various devices are touch and go with what works from the update. And the newest update (read: 4.x) isn't even the most installed version. In contrast to well over 75% of Android handsets being on 2.x.
    As I said towards Rene, it's not a matter of "what" is being sold. But what is already sold. 3G, 3G S, and 4 are active phones. They are still in contract period. Not EVERYONE pays outright just to get the new phone.
  • Saying that this is legacy on a 2-year old phone is disingenious, the 3G was still in stores a little over a year ago so there are still people halfway in their contract cycle.
  • @kistaijk:
    I tried out 4.2 GM on my 3G last week, but only for a short time. I didn't notice any significant improvements over 4.1 on a first glance. If you compare 4.1 and 4.2 side-by-side, 4.2 might be, if anything, barely noticable faster.
    3.1.3 is out of comparison, though. 4.2 is far from being as terrible as 4.0.2, but still not as snappy as 3.1.3. It seems to do pretty well on a first look and maybe even for a few hours, but after a few days I noticed the usual slowdowns and hickups here and there - it just didn't run as smooth as 3.1.3, it didn't feel right.
    (One particular thing that annoyed me most is this Google sync refresh lag when opening the calendar app, which appeared in 4.0.l and is still present in 4.2.)
    I'm back on 3.1.3 now - again. Let's face it, iOS4 was just not made for the iPhone 3G(S). It's great for iPad and iPhone 4, though. So, in terms of speed, for the iPhone 3G, I'd say: 3.1.3 > 4.2 = 4.1 >> 4.0.1
  • Hey!
    I've been using IOS 4.2 GM since last week.
    But, what about the new tones on iPhone 3G? They will come in the official version??
  • Who cares? I ditched my brick of a 3G for a HTC Evo after the update made it unusable. No reason to look back, only to the future. The future of android. The apple is stale!
  • Hey! Good review Rene!
    @Copy of (Jimbo) - take your multiple personality meds.
  • Wow! I have iphone 3G running 4.1, and from the video it seems 4.2 is much faster than 4.1. Especially the maps app -- i mean, on my iphone 3g, the maps app from 4.1 is unusable. I will jump onto 4.2 as soon as I can. Of course I am also thinking of getting an iphone 4 in the coming weekends -- tired of waiting for the white one.
  • I am running 4.1 on my iPhone 3G and it is OK for me. I have upgraded step by step from 3.1 (I think) right up through 4.1. 4.0 was a disaster. I upgraded to 4.0.1 which was no better and then 4.0.2 with maybe a tiny bit of relief in the battery life department. As soon as I read that 4.1 seemed to be much more stable than 4.0.X I jumped on it and was relieved to get some battery life back on my phone. I hope that when 4.2 is released into the wild that it offers the performance that was seen in the video and of course doesn't do another number on battery life.
    Some of us are stuck using older equipment because we are stuck with a #$@#&% 2 year contract and have time left before we can upgrade hardware. So it is nice to see that there may be some life left in my creaky old 3g since I have 11 months, 12 days, 7 hours left until I can get a shiny new phone (Along with another #$@#&% 2 year contract) not that I'm counting or anything.
  • I'll be leaving mine on 3.1.2, thanks. A fresh install looks quick and all, but once a few apps are installed, I bet it moves towards snail pace again, even if it isn't as much as 4.0/4.1.
    On top of that, the entire video was filmed with No Service. An important factor when you consider that my phone stopped ringing half the time, and other times "sliding to answer" was impossible due to lack of memory.
    My 3G runs out of contract in May next year. At this stage, I'll probably wait and see what Apple do with iPhone 5, but if it isn't impressive a level above iPhone 4, then I'll be looking to other manufacturers. A couple of my friends have a Galaxy S, and it is rather impressive when stacked next to a 3G(S).
  • I wonder about the old devices battery life with 4.2. My iTouch 2nd Gen battery drains after just couple of days stand by. It used to last well over a week before the upgrade to iOS 4.
    Will be looking forward to comparisons once the updated iOS is released.
  • Going back to 3.1.3 was 100% wonderful after the 4.Whatever debacle.
    Upgrades with apple only improve things for about six months.
    Can't wait for the refined generation of IPhone4 on VZ
    until then, 3.1.3
  • Once read all your coments i will continue with 3.1.3. Comparing with the video mine is faster specially running Google maps.
  • The new voice memos icon looks GAY
  • The new voice memos icon looks extremely ugly. Its mother was a hamster and its father smelt of elderberries.
  • They are still on the 3G?!! Haven't they been reading their own Forum?! What about the 3GS?! They've been having issues to0 from day one of iOS 4.0, but no note of it from Apple. However the Apple Care tech guys have informed me they know about it now, but there is no ETA on a fix for the 3GS. Why is it still a hush hush, and it's all about attention for the 3G? According to 3G users, 4.1 had fixed most of their issues. But from 3GS users, nothing has helped them. Their phones have been turned into a glorified iTouch. Ridiculous.
  • No chance i'm upgrading to 4.2 on my iPhone 3G
    I'm on 3.1.3.
    One question tho is 3.1.2 any faster than 3.1.3???
  • sorry but i can´t nothin see any difference on the video between my 3g is exactly the same slow hardwar...
  • @Stefan
    Thank you, finally a post worth reading in this topic!
  • I always update, but 3.X was faster than any release of iO.S 4.X. It moved through swiftly, opened Apps easily, there were rarely any glitches. 4.0 killed it, it was so slow, so slow I would support the lawsuit against Apple because the iPhone 3G was unusable (Hope that case works our well for us iPhone 3G users). 4.0.1 and 4.0.2 did nothing, improved speed a little bit, but other wise no difference. 4.1 increased it speed amazingly, still not as good as 3.X, but the fastest 4.X release yet. If iO.S 4.2 is as good as it has been talked about, than it will be better or as good as 3.X (but that seams unlikely).
    Good times,
  • @James: This question bothers me too (3.1.2 > 3.1.3).
    @all 3G owners with 3.1.3: I haven't experienced the 3G before 3.1.3. So I have some hickups also with 3.1.3... is this a normal behavior? For example after pressing the home button, think the iphone searches for wifi or anything like that. Within that time (about 0.5s or a bit less) I'm not able to unlock the phone.
    Can anyone confirm things like that on 3.1.3 so I am able to sleep again?
  • Does iOS 4.2 fix the alarm clock problem that appeared when daylight saving time ended?
  • I found iOS 4.1 to be great on my 3G...for about two days. Now it's a practical brick.
  • Kevin,
    Try backing your 3G up on an iMac and then reinstall 4.1 (or try 4.2) and then reinstall your apps. This worked to speed my 3G up on 4.0/4/1.
  • I am going to update from 4.1 to 4.2. Its your fault!
  • I'm upgrading my paperweight from 4.1 to 4.2, hopefully I'll have to find something else to keep my bungle of papers neatly in place. Fingers crossed.
  • My iphone 3G is slightly faster, yes. BUT it also screwed up my ipod. When I open the ipod app it says I apparently have "no content". So then I check on my computer's itunes but it looks fine and all the music is there as usual. SO I guess it is on my ipod but just not being shown? what should I do?
  • @jasper K. The songs are not gone. I can't remember how I got my back it was basically a resync that fixed it. I saw a post from the forum at that explained how to fix it. This is 3rd hand info. So search around if it doesn't work. The answer is out there:
    Posted by: Acumowchek
    I read this on one of the "other" forums.
    "The way to fix it is apparently to plug your iPhone back into your computer, play a song from the iPhone on your computer, and then sync," Siegler reports. "The process is very quick because it doesn’t actually have to transfer all that music again, it just makes it recognize that it’s already there."
    Hope it helps.
  • @all 3G owners with 3.1.3: I haven’t experienced the 3G before 3.1.3. So I have some hickups also with 3.1.3… is this a normal behavior? For example after pressing the home button, think the iphone searches for wifi or anything like that. Within that time (about 0.5s or a bit less) I’m not able to unlock the phone.
    Can anyone confirm things like that on 3.1.3 so I am able to sleep again?
    Is 4.2.1 faster than 3.1.3? Should I upgrade or not? Performance is everything for me because it's already lagging with 3.1.3.
  • Just went from 3.1.3 to 4.2 and results are outstanding; transition animations are much smoother, and overall speed is noticably improved, I am actually quite astounded at the difference. It took some doing though..had to resync to get apps back and reinstall all ipod tracks so I basically spent the afternoon doing the upgrade but now that I did it I am happy I took the "risk" Make sure you sync a full manual backup before you start so when the "upgrade" fails/and it WILL/ your phone will go into restore mode and you pick that backup to restore from
  • oh and by the way the upgrade will try to "backup" itself, this may take 2-3 hours (no kidding)and then it will move on
  • FINALLY THERE, THANK YOU PAUL! :) I visited the page multiple times a day to watch for an answer. I'll try it tonight too. Thanks for your report.
  • Definitely an improvement.
    Better than 3.1.3 and WAY BETTER than 4.1
  • I upgraded my 3GS to the new software but noticed that it has been killing my battery. I don't use it very often during the day but the battery will dies out in 5 hours of standby. Has anyone else had this problem, and how do i downgrade it to the normal software?
  • I personally prefer iOS 4.2.1 on the iPhone 3G (I'm a 16gb model) My friend is still on 3.1.x and when closing apps I don't see any transitions of the window. Just the apps centering. But in 4.2.1 I see all the transitions. From the current app closing, dock ascending, and the apps centering. It's perfect! Back in 4.0, before I upgraded, I restored first, then updated to 4.0. I saw a little bit difference but not significant. Same as 4.0.1. I jailbroke at that time. Never updated to 4.0.2 I skipped to 4.1 already. I never had too much problems in terms of usability compared to other people. I'm a gamer in iPhone games. You might think I'm just a casual user but I have more than 95/120 apps that are games and 8.7gb free. So I do pay attention to speed. ******4.2.1 IS THE BEST iOS!!*****
  • Cydia
  • I have an iPhone 3GS running 3.1.2, it's fast and running perfectly. My problem is now Mobileme is not allowing calendar sync on 3.1.2 and forcing an upgrade to iOS 4.2.1.
    Does anyone have experience with 3GS upgrade from 3.1.2 to 4.2.1?
    What are your thoughts?
    Much appreciated.
  • I am running the update now.. I pray god this won't get my iphone screwed up.. I have to wait until november to be eligible for an update...
  • To those considering updating from 3.1.3 to 4.? I really suggest using 4.2.1 I have just update my 3g, it hasn't been this fast since the days of iOS 2.0, really. The screen transitions are smooth as butter, the keyboard doesn't lag at all any more, even the app store loads much faster. I was initially forced into this upgrade to use a anew app that I desperately need, but having done it, I regret not trying 4.2 sooner. Heck 3.1.3 sucks compared to this. That was laggy, slow, and in general the reason I bought a new phone (HTC Thunderbolt FTW). If i had updated to 4.1.2, I might have held onto my phone for another year before upgrading. Works great.
  • hi , i've been upgraded my 3g to 4.2.1 and everything was good , but when i installed some sources , suddenly wi-fi stopped and now not works , i tried custom ios's and so i jailbreaked 4.2.1 with snowbreeze 2.2.1 but wi-fi still not working , please help me.
  • download "iphone browser" v1.93 or laters its good for browsing iphone and make a backup copy of ur enitire add book,messages,videos.. every thing...Try
  • i must say that i was one to upgrade the ios on my 3g (not S) to 4.1 and it turned my phone into a slow type was horrible.
    last night I decided to proceed with the upgrade to 4.2 after viewing the above video and other online reviews.
    I must say that 4.2 works great on my 3g, browse, email, text, type, map, etc...all seems to work normal. there are times when you notice a split second delay while opening an app or closing an app....but it's really no bother compared to the original ios and the disaster of 4.1.
    that's my experience.
  • i was a user of iphone 3g 4.1, i was satisfied with my os back then but decided to upgrade it to 4.2 for a change. Now, i am running an OS of 4.2 and i can say is that, i definitely made the righy choice. ;-) Faster than the previous 4.1 :-)
  • my ihpone 3g exploded when i upgrade to 4.2...WTF...hahahahaha
  • He looked like your Chris Brown, Derrick Rose kinda guy that all the girls love.