Our first Apple iPhone 3GS review looks at the handset's new features, including faster performance, video camera, voice control, tweaked design and the 3D compass.

iPhone 3GS Voice Control

With the iPhone 3GS, Apple has added voice-command functionality, but the new Voice Control feature adds not just voice dialling, but voice control of the iPod features as well.

To initiate Voice Control, you hold down the home button or the centre button on the iPhone’s new three-button headphones for about two seconds. You’ll hear a quick double-chime indicating that it’s your turn to speak, and you’d better speak quickly.

When I remained silent, Voice Control somehow managed to tease commands out of the empty air around me, including attempting to dial random people in my phone book. (Press the button again if you want to abort your Voice Control session without saying anything.)

After the chime, you can choose from a small selection of commands. To dial a contact, just say “dial” or “call” followed by the name of the person you want to contact.

If you just say the first name, Voice Control will try to figure out who you meant. When I said, “Dial Dan,” it offered me - via a pleasant yet robotic female voice - all three Dans in my phone book, along with a “Pam,” as options.

If you say the person’s full name, accuracy increases. If your contact has more than one phone number, Voice Control will prompt you to choose from a list of options, such as “mobile” or “home.”

If you want to speed things along, say a person’s name followed by the number you which to call (“Call Sally Sparrow work.”) You can even tell Voice Control to dial a bare number, such as “Dial 867-5309.”

To control the iPhone’s iPod functions, you can choose from a slightly broader palette of commands. “Play artist Peter Gabriel” will automatically play all songs by Peter Gabriel, but by default they won’t be shuffled. If you re-engage Voice Control you can then say “shuffle,” and it’ll turn shuffling on.

You can also command that Voice Control play a particular playlist (“play playlist ‘Best of 2009’”) or album (“play album ‘Life and Times’”), trigger a Genius playlist based on the current song (“Play more songs like this,” or the less verbose command “Genius!”), and find out the name of the song (“What song is this?”).

However, you can’t choose to play a particular song, nor does Voice Control appear to have any access to audiobooks or podcasts.

In general, we found Voice Control’s accuracy to be decent, and it does pause briefly after declaring its interpretation of your command, allowing you to belay a misunderstood order.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Voice Control, the Phone and iPod applications are the beginning and the end of the story. No other built-in applications are supported, and it doesn’t appear that third-party applications are able to interact with Voice Control either.