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What are all the differences between the iPhone 3GS and the iPod touch 3rd Gen (Late 2009)?
Please note that these models have been discontinued. However, this Q&A has been updated with current iOS support details and can be quite helpful for anyone buying or selling either of these devices on the used market.
With even a cursory review of Everyi.com's comparison between the iPod touch 3rd Gen (Late 2009) and the iPod touch 2nd Gen it is clear that the 3rd Gen models are fairly similar to the 2nd Gen models replaced.
Consequently, most of the iPhone 3GS to iPod touch 2nd Gen comparison is applicable when comparing the iPhone 3GS to the iPod touch 3rd Gen as well. However, there still are important differences that are well worth evaluating.
Although Apple made the decision to focus more on the gaming capabilities of the iPod touch 3rd Gen rather than use the "iPhone without the phone" pitch as the company did for previous iPod touch models, the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen, on basic terms, do provide much of the same iPod and handheld computing functionality of the iPhone 3GS but without the "phone" capability, mobile phone networking (3G/EDGE), GPS-A support, integrated 3.0 megapixel still/video camera, and digital compass functionality.
On first glance, the iPod touch 3rd Gen -- which essentially uses the same case as the iPod touch 2nd Gen it replaced -- even looks about the same as the iPhone 3GS.
Left - iPod touch 3rd Gen, Right - iPhone 3GS - Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.
However, turn the iPod touch 3rd Gen and iPhone 3GS around and the materials are quite different. The iPod touch 3rd Gen has a chromed steel rear case with an oval shaped plastic "window" for the Wi-Fi antenna (officially 802.11b/g, but teardowns discovered that the Broadcom BCM4329 chip that provides 802.11b/g in the 32 GB and 64 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen configurations is capable of 802.11n as well, but this is not an advertised capability, nor is it supported in software).
The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS models, on the other hand, use either black or white plastic for the rear case which allows data and voice signals to readily penetrate the housing. The Wi-Fi chip in the iPhone 3GS does not support 802.11n.
Left - iPod touch 3G, Center & Right - iPhone 3G - Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.
Although the size differences are hardly notable, the iPod touch 3rd Gen is slightly shorter (0.2 inches), thinner (0.15 inches), and lighter (0.75 ounces) than the iPhone 3GS.
With a chrome metal back on the iPod touch and a white or black plastic back on the iPhone 3GS, there is little reason to mistake these devices for one another. However, it is easy to mistake either for another iPod touch or iPhone, and consequently, it is helpful to reference the Model Number that is displayed in small type on the back of each device for identification purposes.
The 8 GB iPod touch released alongside the "3rd Gen" models in 2009 -- which essentially is the same as the iPod touch 2nd Gen -- shares its A1288 model number. By contrast, the unique 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen are model number A1318, the iPhone 3GS is model number A1303, and the China-only iPhone 3GS that does not have Wi-Fi is model number A1325.
However, as the model number is particularly hard to read on the iPod touch models, it may be easier to lookup any of these devices by Order Number -- at least if the device will boot -- with Everyi.com's Ultimate iLookup website feature or the EveryMac app for iOS 5 or later and Android. Apple refers to the order number as "Model" in software. To find the "Model" select the "Settings" app and then click General > About > and scroll until the field is visible.
Both the iPod touch 3rd Gen and iPhone 3GS have "multi-touch" sensitive 3.5" displays with 320x480 resolution, an accelerometer that allows the device to "know" whether it is being held in portrait or landscape mode and switch automatically, and an ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness.
Internally, the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen and the iPhone 3GS have quite a bit in common. Both are believed to be powered by a Samsung ARM Cortex A8 processor running at 800 MHz (but the iPhone 3GS is "downclocked" to 600 MHz to conserve battery life) and both have PowerVR SGX graphics processors that support OpenGL ES 2.0 as well as 256 MB of RAM.
The iPod touch 3rd Gen is offered with 8 GB, 32 GB, or 64 GB of internal storage whereas the iPhone 3GS originally only was offered with 16 GB or 32 GB (on June 7, 2010, Apple replaced the 16 GB and 32 GB configurations with a "low end" 8 GB configuration at a lower price point).
Apple formally estimates that both the iPod touch 3rd Gen and iPhone 3GS provide 30 hours of battery life for music playback, but only estimates six hours of video playback for the iPod touch 3rd Gen and ten hours for the iPhone 3GS.
iOS Support Differences
Operating system support is quite different for the iPhone 3GS and the iPod touch 3rd Gen.
The iPhone 3GS is fully compatible with both iOS 4 and iOS 5 and partially compatible with iOS 6 (it does not support the turn-by-turn navigation, Flyover, Siri, FaceTime, Offline Reading List, or Panorama features).
On the other hand, no iPod touch 3rd Gen models support iOS 6 at all. The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen (A1318) all are fully compatible with iOS 4 and iOS 5, though. By contrast, the 8 GB iPod touch (A1288) released alongside the "3rd Gen" models in 2009 is not fully compatible with iOS 4 and it cannot run iOS 5 at all.
Neither the iPhone 3GS nor the iPod touch 3rd Gen models are capable of running iOS 7 or subsequent versions of the iOS.
As first introduced, upfront pricing for the iPod touch 3rd Gen/Late 2009 models was US$199, US$299 and US$399 for 8 GB, 16 GB, and 32 GB of storage, respectively. By comparison, the iPhone 3GS was offered for just US$199 or US$299 for 16 GB of 32 GB of storage.
On June 7, 2010, Apple introduced an 8 GB "low end" configuration of the iPhone 3GS for US$99 and on October 4, 2011, Apple dropped the price of this 8 GB iPhone 3GS to free. On September 12, 2012, Apple discontinued the iPhone 3GS entirely.
Although it would appear that the iPhone 3GS was cheaper, the iPod touch 3rd Gen models were offered with no strings attached. By contrast, the iPhone 3GS was tied to a two-year contract in the US for these prices.
For your convenience, the primary differences between the iPod touch 3rd Gen and the iPhone 3GS are summarized below:
iPod touch 3rd Gen
|Primary Functionality:||Music Playback
Wi-Fi & 3G/EDGE
Still & Video Camera
|Processor Speed:||800 MHz||600 MHz|
|Data Networks:||Wi-Fi*||EDGE (2G), 3G & Wi-Fi|
|Storage Size:||8, 32, 64 GB††||8, 16, 32 GB†|
|Talk Time (3G):||N/A||5 Hours|
|Talk Time (2G):||N/A||12 Hours|
|Battery Life (Music):||30 Hours||30 Hours|
|Battery Life (Video):||6 Hours||10 Hours|
|Shake to Shuffle:||Yes||Yes|
|Nike + iPod Support:||Yes||Yes|
|Back Exterior Finish:||Chrome||Black or White Plastic|
|Original iOS:||iPhone OS 3.1.1||iPhone OS 3.0|
|iOS 4 Support:||Partial/Complete††||Complete|
|iOS 5 Support:||None/Complete††||Complete|
|iOS 6 Support:||None||Partial|
|iOS 7 & Later Support:||None||None|
|Dimensions (Inches):||4.3 x 2.4 x 0.33||4.5 x 2.4 x 0.48|
|Weight (Ounces):||4.05 oz. (115 g)||4.8 oz. (135 g)|
|Intro. Price:||US$199, US$299, US$399§||US$199, US$299†|
* The iPod touch 3rd Gen models were advertised as having 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR support. However, third-party teardowns have discovered that the Broadcom BCM4329 chip that provides 802.11b/g technically is capable of 802.11n as well.
** The iPod touch 3rd Gen does not have an internal microphone, but it supports the external Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic and some third-party products. The Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic shipped standard with the 32 GB and 64 GB configurations.
§ The 8 GB iPod touch 3rd Gen was offered for US$199, the 32 GB for US$299, and the 64 GB for US$399.
† These prices were only offered for new AT&T Wireless customers. For non-qualified customers, the price with a new two-year agreement was US$599 or US$699. On June 7, 2010, Apple introduced a "low end" 8 GB configuration of the iPhone 3GS and this model was offered for US$99 with a two-year agreement until October 4, 2011, when Apple dropped the price of the 8 GB iPhone 3GS to free, but again, with a two-year agreement. Apple discontinued the iPhone 3GS on September 12, 2012.
†† The 32 GB and 64 GB configurations of the iPod touch 3rd Gen (A1318) are fully compatible with iOS 4. The 8 GB iPod touch (A1288) released alongside the "3rd Gen" models in 2009 is not fully compatible with iOS 4 and cannot run iOS 5 at all.
iPhone & iPod touch Purchase & Repair Options
There are any number of places to purchase a used iPod touch or iPhone as well as services. However, purchasing from a quality company with extensive Apple knowledge -- and after sales support -- will provide the best experience and save you money and time, too.
In the UK, site sponsor Mobile Ease provides affordable and guaranteed 24-hour repair for cracked screens, batteries, water damage, and more for the iPod touch and iPhone lines.
Please also see EveryiPhone.com's Ultimate iComparison feature to dynamically compare any iPod touch or iPhone to any other iPod, iPhone, or iPad.