Apple launched the iPhone 3GS way back in June of 2009, and the phone has been discontinued for many years. However, South Korean carriers Sk Telink is resuming sales of this retro phone after finding a cache of unsold units in a warehouse. Customers will be able to pick up a brand new decade-old iPhone for just 44,000 won (about $41), no contract required.
The iPhone 3GS was oddly named because its predecessor carried the “3G” moniker to emphasize that it supported 3G networks — the original iPhone was just 2G. This phone had a slightly faster modem than the 3G as well as an improved ARM system-on-a-chip. Apple showed off features like video recording, tap to focus, and enhanced voice control. These were software features were limited to the iPhone 3GS, even though the 3G was technically capable of the same feats with a little hacking. This practice of limiting features to new devices is one Apple still employs to this day to encourage upgrades.
In the US, the 3GS was the final iPhone with AT&T exclusivity, and it cost upward of $600 without a contract. It took nine years, but there’s finally an iPhone cheap enough to be an impulse purchase. Sk Telink’s cheapest current iPhone is the iPhone SE for 490,000 won (about $452).
Customers who drop $40 on the new old iPhone should not expect a seamless experience. For one, the devices have sat in a warehouse for nearly a decade, and they have non-removable lithium-ion batteries. SK Telink will open each box and ensure the phone powers on before repackaging and sending the device off to the buyer. That’s no guarantee of future functionality, and replacement parts will be difficult to find.
The iPhone 3GS shipped with iPhone OS 3 and was last updated in 2014 to iOS 6.1.6. Apple is currently on iOS 11, with an update to iOS 12 expected this fall. Consequently, most apps in the App Store won’t work on the 3GS. In addition, it uses a miniSIM, which is substantially larger than today’s nanoSIMs. You’d need an adapter, and even then the data will only be 3G. And let’s face it, this phone will be dog-slow in all ways by current standards.
Indeed, buying an uncovered iPhone 3GS isn’t a way to get a cheap iPhone. It’s more a keepsake from a bygone era. I wouldn’t be surprised to find these unused iPhones on eBay for much more than the $41 asking price.
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