Hands-on with the iPhone 3G S at Apple HQ

Today is launch day for the new iPhone 3G S. You can read all about it here, but we thought we'd visit the Apple store in London and check things out before heading to have a quick chat with Apple themselves.

Arriving at the Regent Street Apple store at 9.30, there was a sizeable queue but not one that threatened to get out of hand, despite two hefty security guards looking rather nervous.

Directly opposite is the Nokia store, launching the N97 today. There wasn't a queue (or security) but they did have a giant model of the N97 which passers by looked at, before they saw the Apple store.

We'll have reviews of the iPhone 3G S (and Nokia N97) very soon once we've finished playing with them, but in the meantime, here's a quick hands-on with help from global iPhone product manager Eric Jue.

For those that want to know, the Apple UK offices are decorated in iPhone colours and as sparse as it gets. There's no device anywhere which isn't Apple branded and to sign in, you use a custom Mac login screen which prints a neat sticker badge.

We would have shown you a picture of Jue, but strict guidelines prevent promotion of the 'person not the product'. Anyway, we're sure you're more interested in the iPhone 3G S itself...

The first thing you'll notice about the 16GB or 32GB iPhone 3G S is the surface. It's smoother and designed to leave less finger prints for those that like to eat and type at the same time...there's a landscape keyboard which works well too.

In terms of music, there's now voice recognition for searching for tracks or contacts. You can also activate Genius via voice and there's volume control and mic on the included headphones.

The upgraded processor makes web browsing much faster and the much talked about cut and pasting is simplicity itself. Asked why this function wasn't introduced earlier, Jue admitted it was part technology and part development of how it would work.

Asked whether he expected the public to be quite so vocal about the function, he said it took him by surprise but thinks it was worth the wait: "we wanted to make it perfect".

Developers are now free to develop solely for the iPhone 3G S if they wish, developing Apps taking advantage of the upgraded processor, camera (now 3MP inc tap to zoom function) and compass. You can read about our top iPhone Apps to help you with your home cinema and hi-fi here.

Expect a review very soon and a head-to-head with the Nokia N97 in our September issue, on sale 29th July.