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Speed test comparing iPhone 3G, 3GS, and Palm Pre has surprising results

Casey Johnston

Gadget fans can fight endlessly about which device is faster than which, without resolution or relief. Fortunately for the weary, Medialets has found common ground between a few of the most popular smart phones to use as a racetrack.

According to Medialets, there is a common benchmarkable technology -- JavaScript execution in a WebKit-based browser -- that runs across four of the most popular phones: the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS, the T-Mobile G1 with Android, and the Palm Pre. By running a benchmark test called SunSpider it is possible to obtain a rough speed comparison between all four devices.

The test was run on six different configurations: Safari on the 3G with iPhone OS v2.2.1, the 3G with OS v3.0, and the 3G S with OS v3.0; "Browser" on the T-Mobile G1 with Android OS v1.5; and "Web" on the Palm Pre with Web OS v.10.2, with a run of Safari 4.0.1 on a MacBook used as a baseline. Read on for the graph of the results.

After putting the phones through their paces, here's how they measured up:

In rendering this type of script, the 3GS was three times as fast as the 3G (an improvement over Apple's estimate, who quoted the 3GS as being only twice as fast as the 3G). The 3G running OS 3.0 was also nearly three times faster than a 3G running OS 2.2.1. The 3G with OS 3.0 clocked almost exactly the same time as the Palm Pre, and both were about twice as fast as the G1. Not only does this test verify the speed improvements in the 3GS over the 3G, it puts to rest, at least to a certain extent, the idea that most of the 3G S speed bump is because OS 3.0 is designed for the 3GS model's hardware rather than the 3G's.

It is important to note that the test studies the core JavaScript language only, and not the DOM or the other browser APIs. More importantly, this test offers no comparison of how each phone and each OS runs its other native applications; also, Apple might be expected to have an edge in optimizing WebKit, as some of the open-source project's core team members work for Apple on Safari. However, when it comes to browsing the Internet and executing JavaScript among smart phones, there is a clear winner and a few losers.

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