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Review

iPhone (OS 3.0)

Issue: 7.5 (July/August 2009)
Author: Dave Mancuso
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 9,152
Starting Page Number: 10
RBD Number: 7502
Resource File(s): None
Related Web Link(s):

http://www.apple.com/iphone

Known Limitations: None

Full text of article...

 
Product
iPhone (OS 3.0)
 
Manufacturer
Apple, Inc.
 
Price
free upgrade to iPhone owners
 
Contact Info
http://www.apple.com/iphone
 
Pros
Many features both obvious and hidden are enhanced
 
Cons
Carrier features still unknown: tethering, MMS, etc.
 
Rating (1.0-5.0):
4.3

I've restrained myself from replacing my original iPhone with the 3G model, so the promise of a free OS upgrade to iPhone 3.0 was enticing. I've heard all the upgrade features and reviews, but I wanted to know about the little things. The iPhone OS 3.0 brings a lot of enhancement to device operation, and I wanted to see how well things operated up close. This review looks at the OS upgrade from a user interface and usability perspective.

Installation

The update was reportedly due on June 17th at 1:00pm EST. At 1:03pm iTunes on my PC saw the update and let me download it. At over 225 MB, it took 13 minutes to download. My iPhone (first generation) went through its reboot and upgrade process, and was ready for me to use in about 5 minutes. I didn't get the iPhone Activation message--I was ready to make calls right away.

First Impressions

The splash (lock) screen looked different to me right away, although I couldn't put my finger on it. Later comparison with an OS 2.2 iPhone indicates that the bars at the top and bottom of the lock screen are now more translucent. I wouldn't be surprised if a host of interface elements have been revised, and later exploration showed a number of refinements. One notable change is the SMS Messages application icon, which is now named Messages with an empty word balloon on its icon.

The home screen sported a new Voice Memo application. Interesting, except that one of my home screen apps was then pushed to a second screen where it sat by itself. I wasn't thrilled with the update altering my home screen. The Voice Memo program worked nicely, and I suppose I'll use it. People who use Evernote's voice memo or other third party apps are unlikely to be impressed.

The next thing I tested was landscape orientation. Virtually every application will turn sideways for you, which is nice to have. The landscape keyboard is available in most applications as well, and more importantly, will turn even after you activate it. I've often found the need to rotate the keyboard after I've started entering text, so it's nice to be able to change orientation more flexibly.

The biggest advantage of landscape orientation for me was Mail. It's nice to have the option to read mail sideways with slightly enlarged text (the younger your eyes are the less this may matter to you).

The keyboard seemed different to me, and I suspected that they'd changed the layout for better typing. Not so, however. The difference is that the keys are flatter and less 3D now. The overall impression is of easier typing though, and the keyboard really seems to respond to my stubby fingers more accurately than before.

Speaking of flatter, I found a number of interface elements that were flatter and less 3D than before. It reminded me of Mac OS X Panther's flatter interface design--subtle, but a more realistic look.

Also, iPhone actions seemed a bit more responsive, although I was still able to temporarily hang the keyboard at times before it caught up to me.

Search

The system-wide Spotlight search feature was next up. Swiping to the left of the first Home screen felt natural almost immediately, like a "so that's what they were hiding there" kind of feeling. Results were impressive. I spent a while looking for the preferences to customize my search results (I want my Mail results first). I finally found them under Settings, General, Home, Search Results. This was pretty non-intuitive, so I hope Apple moves them somewhere better in the future.

My other gripe about the Search is that the entry field is at the top of the screen. When you want to edit your entry and hold your finger down on your text, the magnifying glass can't go above your finger and won't appear below it on the screen, so it appears under your finger. You can't see the text you're editing. This interface problem needs to be addressed.

Cut, Copy, and Paste

Cut, Copy, and Paste really works as well as the demonstration videos have shown. It feels natural, it's easy to do, and you pick up the skill very quickly. Moving the blue pins around to refine your selection works fluidly. It's obvious that a huge amount of thought and design went into this feature.

Not everything is selectable character by character. For instance, you can only copy entire word balloons in the Messages app. In Safari, you can select entire blocks of a web page using pins on all four sides of the selection. When you paste that selection into say, a Mail message, it will retain the formatting from the web page, a convenient feature.

The Applications

With Safari, my main concern was speed. I have an Edge iPhone, not 3G, but even on wifi my Safari pages take a long time to load. I launched Safari and immediately gave it the icanhascheezburger test, a website that has always brought Safari to its knees. I saw significant improvements in speed. More importantly, I was able to more smoothly drag the page around while it loaded. The older Safari refused to let me move any part of the page until more of it downloaded. I did manage to munge up Safari when I tried to zoom into and out of the page. The page shrank smaller than the window, showing an odd gray background behind it.

The other main new feature of Safari is autofill. It's turned off by default, which is probably a good thing on a mobile device that could fall into a stranger's hands.

The new Notes application has finally provided syncing with your PC, something that should have been there from the beginning. Notes will sync with Outlook on Windows and Mail on OS X. My notes showed up in Reminders on my Mac. It was a bit surreal to see them on my desktop machine after dealing with them for two years on my iPhone.

I thought that if one app might be spared any upgrades, it was Calculator. However, I found that you can copy Calculator's readout screen, so it seems that nothing was untouched in OS 3.0. Other applications received enhancements, but you may only find them as you use the iPhone with your own work style.

The Phone

Of course, the phone is important too. In the Recent screen I found a second line of detail that hadn't been there before. For each listed recent call, I saw the type of phone number used for people in my address book ("home," "work," "mobile," etc.). For callers who weren't in my address book, the iPhone displayed the origin of the call instead (e.g., "Miami, FL" or "FL, USA"). If you select a recent caller, you now get more details about calling that person (date and time listing of the last few calls, how long the calls were, both outgoing and incoming calls, etc.).

I also noticed that people in Contacts have a new button added, "Share Contact." The contact is conveniently sent as a vcf card. Apple has made it easier to edit contacts in various places. Before, you often had to exit from what you were doing and go to Contacts to edit a contact.

Restrictions

One big sleeper feature of the iPhone is Restrictions. This version of parental controls will be used in conjunction with ratings on the iPhone App store among other things. It'll hopefully avoid the problem with App Store submission controversies if something is deemed not for kids. Ratings include "Don't Allow Apps," "4+," "9+," 12+," "17+," and "Allow All Apps." Restrictions also allow you to control music, movies, and TV shows with their common rating systems. Finally, Restrictions can control which applications are allowed (i.e., turning off Messages or Safari). Restriction settings are found under General Settings.

Things only for the iPhone 3G S

Some things I didn't test, since they're only available on the iPhone 3G S. Video recording is only on the new 3G S. The Compass application is only on the 3G S. Voice Control and Voice Dialing is only on the 3G S. And the reported vast speed improvements are only on the 3G S. However, my phone contract is up for renewal, so I suspect that the 3G S is in my imminent future.

Conclusion

When Microsoft came out with XP, it seemed like the first fully mature version of Windows NT/2000. When Apple came out with OS X 10.3, it seemed like the first fully mature version of OS X. iPhone OS 3.0 has provided the iPhone with a mature operating system. This upgrade is highly recommended.

End of article.

Article copyrighted by REALbasic Developer magazine. All rights reserved.


 


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