Reviewing iPhone OS 3.0 on my iPhone 3G

iPhone 3G running OS 3.0
iPhone 3G running OS 3.0

I have already discussed my experience upgrading to the new iPhone 3.0 OS. Now, I’d like to talk about the improvements Apple made in OS 3.0.

Back in January 2009, I wanted to upgrade my 2.5G phone to a 3G phone. As part of my switch, I looked for the best carriers and 3G phones. I eventually concluded that the iPhone 3G was in the best available 3G phone. In my iPhone 3G review, I commented that Apple’s lack of bluetooth functionality, support for voice dialing, and the exclusion of copy/paste were all functions that Apple got wrong with the iPhone 3G. Even with these feature limitations, I still came to the conclusion that the iPhone 3G was the best device on the market at the time.

In March 2009, Apple announced major feature updates to the iPhone OS that would fix the three things that I said Apple got wrong. Additionally, Apple added MMS, tethering, and searching to the list of features added to the iPhone. At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in early June the iPhone 3G-S was announced. As expected, the 3G-s would have better hardware, more memory, improved camera, and push notification. Besides those expected upgrades, additional features like video recording, turn by turn navigation developed by Tom-Tom, and more integration with Apple’s MobileMe service by allowing subscribers to “Find” through iPhone and to remotely delete any data on the device if it is stolen.

Those are some really interesting features to bring to the consumers’ reach because previously if you wanted the ability to remotely delete data you would have to own a blackberry or other enterprise class type device. Even then, you wouldn’t be able to remotely delete data yourself, you would have to call the company help desk for that. Apple also took one step closer to gaining business adoption of their device by supporting full disk encryption in OS.

In my iPhone 3G device review, I listed the things that “Apple Got Wrong” first, then discussed the things they “got right”. So for this article, I’m reversing the order and discussing things they “got right” first and then talking about where Apple missed the mark. My thoughts on what Apple got “right” and “wrong” will be from the perspective of a user running the iPhone 3G and not the newer iPhone 3G-s.

What Apple Got Right with OS 3.0:
1. Finally stereo bluetooth support! This was one of my major gripes. I have tried this feature out already. It rocks. The one thing I quickly realized though is that if you are listening to music over blue tooth, you must use the blue tooth headset’s volume controls to turn up or down the volume. I am lucky that my blue tooth headset has a good range of volume control. Some headsets may only have 3-4 ranges of volume.

Besides stereo bluetooth, according to the iPhone blog, the following other features were added regarding bluetooth support:

– Peer to Peer. This is a big one, folks, but it’s a little strange. You can share files and talk to other apps over Bluetooth. This means you’ll be able to do multiplayer games, for example, or ‘beam’ your contact card from one iPhone to another. Or heck, play a trombone duet. No pairing is required, either. Discovery of other iPhones happens with Apple’s Bonjour ZeroConf autodiscovery protocols
– Control Accessories. In addition to the dock accessory control, you can now control Bluetooth accessories from within an app. The example from the event was a glucose meter, but the possibilities are honestly endless.
-Tops on my Bluetooth list: Bluetooth keyboard support. Technically, you will be able to do with with iPhone 3.0. The weird issue there, however, is that this keyboard support would have to happen on an app-by-app basis instead of happening device-wide. That, friends, is a bit of a bummer.”

I have not been able to verify any of these other features as I don’t use them much. I’m not sure how well bluetooth file and contact transfer between non-iPhone devices will work.

2. Push notification. This seems like a no brainer. Before the 3.0 update, you would actually have to run an application in order for you to receive updates from that particular app. The problem with this was you could only run one app at a time. Therefore if you wanted the latest news you would have open your news app every time you wanted to check for updates. With the 3.0 update, if the application supports push notification, it will notify you if there are any updates.

I see this feature especially useful for email, news, and social networking apps like facebook. I have a feeling that developers are working fast behind the scenes to get their apps updated.

3. Copy / Paste functionality. I personally don’t find myself using copy/paste on my phone that much. Copy/paste was available on my last phone and I didn’t use it much there either. I think what is cool about this feature is that it is available system wide to any application. No additional development is needed within apps to take advantage of thisw feature. While I may not use this feature that much, I can see how it might be useful to other people.

4. Landscape virtual keyboard layout. If you are in the “Messages” or Email, you can turn your phone from portrait to landscape. The keyboard will be repositioned for you to type on a larger keyboard. I think this is one of those nice to have features, but it’s not make or break for most people. I am disappointed that Safari does not appear to have a landscape keyboard available. (Note to Apple: Please add in a landscape keyboard in Safari.)

5. MMS is supported! I admit, I am not the hugest text message user out there. But it would be cool from time to time to be able to take a picture with my phone and send it to someone. I might see something really cool and want to share that right away. I haven’t sent a MMS message yet because the AT&T network doesn’t “support” this yet. More on this in the things Apple got “wrong”.

6. Tethering. Again, I haven’t tried this one out…as you guessed it – it’s not supported by the AT&T network yet, but Apple says you can tether the iPhone to a computer and connect to the 3G network. I don’t actually see myself as using this service, although it would be cool to have on a long road trip. Also, I have read that estimated pricing for unlimited data and tethering will be $70.00 per month. That’s not cheap.

7. Updates to included applications. Apple improved the stock, weather, and safari apps. I am not going to go into too much detail here, but if you’re interested check out the entire walk through of the 3.0 update.

After reading my list of what Apple got right, you might be thinking to yourself, “Everything is perfect!” Unfortunately, now that Apple has gotten most of the basics right, there are still several major huge issues that need to be addressed.

What Apple Got Wrong:

1. Bluetooth support. You might be scratching your head with the inclusion of this on the list saying “but wait?!?! you said it was something they got right”. There are several things that need to be added to the iPhone’s bluetooth support. First, voice activated dialing over bluetooth. I still have not found confirmation that this is support in the 3.0 update. Secondly, I should be able to skip ahead to another track from the bluetooth headset. So far that isn’t possible, so even though I am able to listen to music over bluetooth, I still need to interact with the phone in order to skip ahead to a different track.

2. Voice activated dialing. If I owned the new iPhone 3G-s, I would have definitely called this something that they got right. I was extremely disappointed to find out that Apple did not support voice activated dialing with the iPhone 3G. This is something that would seem to be able to get done via a software update. Shame on Apple for doing this, but this feature alone will not convince me to pay $599 (I am not eligible for upgrade pricing to AT&T) for a 3G-s phone.

3. Failure to have all launch features available. I’m not sure here who’s more to blame if maybe this one should go to AT&T instead of Apple. I am disappointed that if I wanted to tether or send a MMS message I would have to use some hacks in order for these features to be available. I haven’t researched them yet, but this isn’t something I want to spend a bunch of time figuring out. (Note to Apple and AT&T: In the future, please have all launch features available especially in one of your biggest markets – the U.S.)

4. Screwing the iPod Touch users (again). Apple certainly has found a way to generate some revenue with these updates. First, thank you for letting iPhone users have a free download. It is probably mandated by the carrier agreement with AT&T. Now for the shady part. It turns out the second generation iPod Touch does have bluetooth hardware inside it! Now in order for you to take advantage, it appears Apple wants you to pay another $10 for this privilege. That’s pretty down right shady and sneaky way to re-tax your users.

Verdict: The negatives aside Apple has advanced its iPhone platform ahead plus MMS and tethering will eventually be available from AT&T. Apple will need to continually remain vigilant from the threats RIM, Microsoft, and Palm pose. It is my belief that they will do this through major software updates and less on the hardware side. I think what you are going to see in the coming months and years is the idea of software advancing features less about adding new hardware. This 3.0 update is the beginning of that trend.

The 3.0 OS update has given me new features on my iPhone 3G. I don’t have any plan to update to the iPhone 3G-s. If I do upgrade to a new iPhone, it will be at the end of my contract. In the end, this update was worth the wait and addressed some of my original complaints in my review of the iPhone 3G.

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