With iOS 4.2 set to drop as soon as this week, hopes are high for stability and performance improvements, especially on older hardware, and some tests of the iOS 4.2 golden master on the iPhone 3G are showing encouraging signs of improvement. TiPB ran through a comparison of iPhone 3.2 versus iOS 4.0 and iOS 4.2 in the video above, and felt it showed better speed and smoothness. My own experience is a little less dramatic, but it's obvious that significant work has been done to make the new "grand unified" firmware work more smoothly on older devices.
TiPB noticed bad scrolling lags and jumpy responsiveness when typing, which are pretty common complaints. My own 3G - bought on the first day of release back in 2008 - performed similarly poorly with 4.02, and I've pretty much ignored the old brick ever since I got my iPhone 4. (Plans to load Android on it for chuckles just never materialized.) I did a few tests for a baseline: The ModMyi app loaded in ten seconds, and Doom II RPG took 13 seconds to get to the splash screen. Though I know it's not ready for 4.2 yet, I baselined Cydia as well: 5 seconds from double-tap to the "Loading Data..." message, and another agonizing 20 before the Home screen comes up. I figured it'll be interesting to compare once the final update is released.
I had to get 4.1 along the way anyway so that I could jailbreak the golden master, so I loaded it on the 3G and did a comparison: speeds and smoothness were pretty much identical, as I'd expected. So I was really looking forward to see some change with 4.2, but unfortunately the difference was... well, underwhelming. There's no doubt that the UI lost the lagginess it had with 4.02 and 4.1, and things like typing are much smoother, but it's still pretty slow. Maybe if I used my 3G on a daily basis, I'd appreciate the improvements more. I guess I'd just call it an evolution rather than a revolution, but that's still good, right?
Anyway, I don't know if this going to be enough to get the lady who's suing Apple to back down, but there's enough here to recommend it to anyone who's still rocking their iPhone 3G. Given that golden masters are almost always binary equivalent to the released code, this bodes pretty well for owners of older devices.