Caveat Emptor: This is for newbies only. If you've been around, you probably don't need this.
When I bought my last Verizon phone, it came with about three quarters of a pound of paper housed in three manuals allowing me to find just about anything through the index. Yeah, it was overkill -- but at least I knew where to go to learn about an option or feature.
When I opened my iPhone 3GS, I quickly searched for the documentation to show me how use this puppy. All I found was an accordion-pleated piece of paper, titled Finger Tips, telling me all the wonderful things my new iPhone could do... but it was awfully skimpy on covering just how to do anything at all.
On the last page of Finger Tips there were some links to get more information. Following the links would give you almost what you need. But I question how using a software-based paradigm of digital manual delivery relates to a hardware-based product like an iPhone 3GS.
Perhaps that's why an industry has sprung up to print instructional books. David Pogue's massive 'Missing Manual' series speaks to my point. If a good manual were to be included in a hardware product, 'Missing Manuals' would be superfluous.
Apple's manuals have been shrinking for many years; they have come a long way from that of the Apple ][+, in which Woz printed the entire ROM code of its 6502 processor.
The Apple way is to compactly package hardware. This seems way more elegant than being handed a big honking box. But adding half an inch to the height of the iPhone box, to accommodate a concise manual, wouldn't damage the minimalist look.
I don't feel quite right about having paid a goodly sum of money for the box and then having to download a 213-page manual using my own resources. My preference would be to have a manual the size of the iPhone 3GS right in the box, for immediate reference. With that, I could get started right away. After all, if you buy a new piece of technology, you don't want to be slowed down by needing to download and possibly print hundreds of pages along with reading a bunch of sites. You just want to push some buttons and play.
For those who have either lost the brochure or want some more information, see below for links where you can get it. Of course, you can always start with the "iPhone Help" section under the Help menu in iTunes.
The 213 page manual for the iPhone 3GS
Quickstart guides for various iPhone 3GS features
A video guided tour of major features of the iPhone 3GS
And here are some other resources to get you started:
Macworld's App Guide: Searchable by category
19 instructional books on how to manage your iPhone
Apptism - catalog and reviews of over 53,000 apps
Macworld's general listing of 3.0 features
TUAW's iPhone 101 series
I'm sure that many more resources are currently being written, but the links above are more than enough to get started.
I wonder how many agree with me that leaving out a decent manual is a poor idea, and how many of you consider this a non-event.