Apple may have officially discontinued the iPhone 3GS years ago, but that isn’t stopping South Korean carrier SK Telink from resuming sales of the device at the end of this month. Korea’s ETNews reports that the carrier discovered an unsold cache of new-in-box iPhone 3GS devices at a warehouse, and will offer them with original packaging and accessories for 44,000 won (roughly $41), without a contract.
As the iPhone 3GS contains a rechargeable battery that’s been sitting unused for nearly a decade, SK Telink will open each phone’s package, test it to be sure it’s working, then repackage it for shipment to a customer. It’s unclear how well the battery will work after such an extended period in storage; the phones were manufactured to hit stores in June 2009, with South Korean sales beginning five months later.
Unusually named due to its predecessor’s signature support for then-growing 3G networks, the third-generation iPhone was the first to be approved for sale in South Korea due to delays by protectionist national regulators. The iPhone 3GS was the final flagship iPhone model to have a plastic housing, as Apple’s subsequent top-of-line devices moved exclusively to metal and glass, and it ceased to support operating system upgrades after iOS 6. Apple is currently on iOS 11, with a final version of iOS 12 coming in September.
Consequently, the iPhone 3GS cannot run many current iOS applications, including modern messaging apps. It also uses older, larger SIM cards that were subsequently shrunk down for more recent iPhone models. But it will be able to send and receive basic text messages, make phone calls, and play music, all supported by the original packed-in earphone, Dock Connector cable, and power accessories. Repairs and spare parts, however, are expected to be hard to come by, and the phone’s cellular data speeds will be well behind contemporary 4G/LTE performance levels.
The key advantage of buying a 2009-vintage phone in 2018 is pricing. Apple currently sells its lowest-cost iPhone SE for 490,000 won (roughly $452), which is over ten times the SK Telink asking price for the iPhone 3GS. The plastic phone is comparatively disposable, though notably less recyclable, as Apple has made major strides in materials and reuse over the nine years since it introduced the 3GS. It’s unclear what warranty the aged device will enjoy in Korea, so if you’re considering ordering a phone, you may want to consider it a collector’s item rather than something to actually use on a daily basis.