How to Tell Difference Between iPhone 3G vs 3GS

by Spanner Spencer

    The iPhone 3GS is an incremental hardware update to Apple's previous 3G model. The two devices are similar in terms of appearance and the basic operation of their cell phone functions. However, significant improvements were made to the internal 3GS hardware, which is identified in different ways to help you determine which model of iPhone you have.

    Model Number

    Look on the back case of your iPhone for small, silver-colored text near the bottom of the device. Information about the iPhone is printed here that can be used to identify the model. Note the number next to "Model," which is in the format of "A1303." The iPhone 3G is marked as "A1241," unless it is the Chinese model, which is marked as "A1324." The iPhone 3GS is identified by the number "A1303," while the Chinese hardware is model number "A1325."


    Both the iPhone 3G and 3GS models have a built-in digital camera and while they appear identical from the outside, the hardware is quite different. Turn the iPhone on and tap the Camera button. If a switch is present to alternate between capturing still photos and video, you have an iPhone 3GS. The iPhone 3G is unable to record video. Tap the screen to auto-focus the camera. If the iPhone is able to perform an auto-focus, it is the 3GS model, as the 3G does not have this capability.

    iOS Version

    Apple regularly releases updates to the iPhone's iOS operating system, which can help to distinguish between the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Launch the Settings app on your iPhone and tap the "General" button. Tap "About" and locate the "Version" section. The number to the right corresponds to the device's current iOS version. The last version of iOS to support the iPhone 3G is 4.2.1. If your device is currently using a version of iOS that is higher than 4.2.1, it is the iPhone 3GS.

    Native Applications and Functions

    Certain native apps are not available to the iPhone 3G, due to its iOS version restrictions or because of hardware limitations. The iMessage app was introduced in version 5.0 of iOS, which is not compatible with the iPhone 3G. The Compass app uses a built-in digital compass, which the iPhone 3G does not have. Pressing and holding the "Home" button on the iPhone 3GS activates the voice command feature, which is not available on the iPhone 3G. If any of these apps or functions are present on your iPhone, it is the 3GS model.

    About the Author

    Spanner Spencer has been writing since 2005 for a variety of print and online publications. Focusing on entertainment, gaming and technology, his work has been published by, "The Escapist," "GamesTM," "Retro Gamer," "Empire," "Total PC Gaming" "The Guardian," among others. Spencer is a qualified medical electronics engineer with a Business and Technology Education Council certificate in technical writing from Huddersfield Technical College.

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