For only $99, the regular iPhone 4 will be a really good phone for you. If your budget doesn't allow for it, an iPhone 3GS will still work fine for you but without all the bells and whistles. Just a decision if you really care for advanced phone features and if your willing and able to pay for it.
The only thing great about the 3GS is the form factor-best so far IMHO. Which is why I keep my jail broken 3G in service-still does the job using ios3. But if I were you, I'd get the current one....or wait 6 months for the LTE version
Why not wait 3-4 months & get the iPhone4 for FREE (or nearly - $1.), when the iPhone5 is released. After WWDC, you may see a price drop on the 4 / 4S ... There will be all sorts of dumping / discounting of the iPhone4 upon new iPhone release. Besides the fact, your employment situation could clear up by then & you may be able to afford more. Remember, in 2 years, you'll still be stuck with an iPhone 3GS, possibly 5 generations old.
Wife uses a 3GS, currently - the only issue she finds is the reception is compromised @ times.
Weren't there some signal issues with the older (3GS & before) iPhones ? dropped calls, which may have been AT&T, or may have been the phone ?
The newer (not latest model) iPhones (4 & 4S) are now (will be) made widely available as a pre-paid phone - though purchase prices of the phone, are the question?
I didn't like iPhones until the 4 came out. I was debating on if I wanted an iPhone 4 for 240 or a Droid for 200. I got the Droid first but if I had gotten the iPhone before I would have been happy with it as well. I liked both phones, I also have a 2G, 3G, 3GS, Samsung Epic, Evo, Evo Shift and I did not like any of those phones.
Why would you want something much slower and has a much worst screen resolution instead of a nice phone with flash and front facing camera? Get the iPhone 4, or get the Exhibit like you wanted.