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.

Advertisements

My Experience Upgrading the iPhone 3G to iPhone OS 3.0

At Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, it was announced that iPhone OS 3.0 would be available on June 17.

When June 17 finally came, I was excited to try out the new iPhone OS! I plugged my iPhone into my computer and set off to start the update process. The first thing I realized was that I needed to upgrade to iTunes 8.2. Ugh! I hate upgrading iTunes because it is a pain the ass. After about 20 minutes, iTunes is finally updated! Woohoo…I can finally start downloading the iPhone upgrade! Uh-oh..I keep watching my download…it’s going very slowly and keeps timing out. Hmmm…I’m never going to get this downloaded.

Something I should mention is that after the iTunes upgrade, the application told me to restart my computer. I still can’t figure out why after all these years I still have to restart a PC after I upgrade an application. It’s completely ridiculous. Anyways, I restarted my laptop and re-opened iTunes to start the download again. Ahhhh the download is finally moving! After about 45 minutes to download the 230MB update, I was finally ready to watch the upgrade install. Little did I know…

After the download completed, the upgrade process started. It started by backing up the device. What I didn’t realize is how long it would take. First off, while the backup was being completed there was a screen on the phone that said “Synchronization in Process” and other than that, the progress indicator within iTunes wasn’t very helpful in that it did not list a percent complete which would have been more helpful or at least gave me confidence that the upgrade wasn’t freezing up. The other thing that I didn’t notice was that every time I hit the slider to access the phone, I was actually canceling the backup process. When I finally read the screen a little closer, I came to this realization and said oops!

After I figured out not to leave the “Synchronization in Progress” screen, I began to wonder why the backup was taking so long. So I started google searching to see if any other users were reporting backups taking a long time to complete while upgrading to OS 3.0. Eventually, I found this C-Net article which described backups on the iPhone as taking a long time to complete. Now that I knew backups would take a long time to complete, I left my computer with the upgrade in progress for 30 minutes. I came back and waited an additional 15 minutes. After this 45 minute delay, the OS was finally being installed!

I noticed a series of reboots with the iPhone 3G. This process took about 5 – 7 minutes in total. Finally, a screen came up in iTunes that said the update was complete. Whew! I finally survived the upgrade process and didn’t brick the device. Unfortunately, by the time the upgrade finished it was 11pm at night and I needed to get some sleep. Playing with the new OS would have to wait until another day.

Notes to Apple:
1. If I access my phone during the upgrade, give me the ability to pause the upgrade and pick up where I left off.
2. Please speed up the backup process on the device (Maybe this has improved with the 3G-s)
3. Please let me update iTunes only and not require me to download iTunes and Quicktime through the software update

iPhone 3G Review

I know I told many of my friends that I would never own an iPhone, but opinions change. It just happened that I was looking to upgrade to a 3G phone in conjunction with switching jobs. I went through a vetting process with the Android G1, Blackberry storm, and the iPhone 3G. Basically, I wanted to get away from the blackberry platform. I didn’t want to have access to my corporate email anymore and I wanted to get off RIM’s buggy platform. I’ll save that analysis for another post, but I did try out all of the above mentioned devices. Here’s what it came down to me:

G1:

Great phone, TMobile customer service is excellent, but dammit Tmobile’s 3G band is on a completely different MHz than the rest of the country. Handset manufacturers are slowly releasing devices that support tmobile’s 3G network, however, the handsets are more expensive. The G1 had some cool things like being able scan barcodes and find where you could get that item the cheapest, but the coverage issue and special 3G band was a huge determining factor in not going with the G1.

Blackberry Storm:

This was probably the most hyped release of a blackberry I had read about in a long time…after all it was the first touch screen blackberry. I followed the release of this device both online and tried the device out on launch day. The reviews online were not that stellar citing problems with overall response time both typing and navigating different applications. I must admit I didn’t want to believe the reviews, however, when I tried the device out, the response time was unbareable! Shame on verizon for launching this device without user acceptance testing. Now to verizon’s credit, most of the response time issues have been fixed through software updates. I recently tried the storm again and saw it was mostly responsive. I am still glad that I didn’t go with the storm afterall. The deal breaker for me is that verizon included no wifi functionality on the storm. This is the year 2009. Customers who buy the storm are pushed back to the year 1998 with this device. Shame on verizon for not including wifi functionality.

iPhone 3G:

I am over the fact that I have paid the Apple tax and have another Apple device. I accept the reality that I will probably be “upgrading” (read: throwing away my iPhone 3G) after 3 years because the battery no long will hold a charge. I’ve accepted these facts for the simple fact that the iPhone is probably the best 3G consumer device out right now with a few problems. After using the device for a little under a week here are my initial thoughts –

What Apple got Wrong:

I want to say that not everything is perfect on the iPhone. I want to cover these specific items first because I think its important to get them out in the open and pressuring Apple to fix these items as soon as possible.

1) Apple’s support of bluetooth is horrendous. Apple for some reason has decided to have the bluetooth hardware support bluetooth 2.0+EDR features. What this means is that the hardware supports the latest bluetooth features like bluetooth stereo, file transfer, headset calling, etc. For some reason, Apple decided to not implement the appropriate software called profiles to make use of the hardware. For example, I can not stream my music over bluetooth. Who the heck canned this feature? Apple is supposed to be a digital media company. One would think this feature would not be overlooked. Another bluetooth feature missing is file transfers. I guess Apple doesn’t want anyone “easily” sharing photos or music off their iPhone’s.

2) Apple’s support of voice activated dialing is crap! Coming from using the blackberry voice activated dialing, I have been spolied rotten. The voice dialing on the blackberry is hands down the best I’ve ever seen on any handset. Not only did Apple leave this functionality off the iPhone meaning I can’t even do it from the phone itself, it won’t work over bluetooth either! What’s the point of going hands free and making calls in the car if I have to physically access the phone to start a call. This seems to me to be a safety issue more than anything else. Now there are apps out there that support voice dialing, but you still have start the app and touch a button. Apple has yet to allow access to the functions that would allow non-interactive voice dialing to occur. Apple shame on you for not having this feature and shame on AT&T for trying to charge $5 a month for their “voice dialing” feature which requires dialing a number and then saying the voice of the person you are trying to call.

3) No copy / paste functionality and no multi-person SMS text messaging support out of the box. Are you kidding me? Who does the user acceptance testing for Apple? I’d sure like to know. I can maybe see the copy/paste functionality being missed in UAT, but multi-person SMS texting, that was a big mistake in my opinion. Who doesn’t on occassion want to send a couple of their friends a text message saying “Meet me here at 6pm” etc. Ridiculous that Apple left that out. As for the copy / paste functionality, its a toss up for me, and I might have been willing to give a pass on leaving it out if they had addressed items 1 and 2. Have no fear though, these functions have been added in by unofficial apps….you just have to jailbreak your iPhone to be able to install them (More on jailbreaking further down)

I think these are the main things that Apple got wrong with the iPhone. Hopefully these can be addressed in future software updates to the iPhone platform. I’d definitely like to see Apple add voice dialing at a minimum with the other features coming shortly after.

What Apple got right:

Apple got a lot of things right with the iPhone. In fact the things they got right with iPhone allow me to grudgingly accept the short comings of the device and patiently endure the wait to add those features either by jailbreaking or Apple updating the software.

1) The interface. The interface is amazing. It’s simple, makes sense, and is easy to navigate and use. The touch screen doesn’t require alot of learning or much pressure. Once I tried the device, I knew it would be hard to not get it.

2) Apple included wireless! That for me is huge. Assuming I am connected to a wireless router, wireless can let me make phone calls from overseas using VOIP and browse the internet while avoiding huge voice/data roaming charges. Also wireless is still a bit faster than 3G, so its nice to be able to use wireless at home to download apps.

3) The app store. The app store is a genius idea by Apple. I like the fact there are many awesome free apps. In fact I have not downloaded a paid app yet. I am debating on whether or not to do this as I am probably going to jailbreak my iPhone. I guess it will depend on if I can find the apps that I need through the cool unofficial apps.

Will I Jailbreak the iPhone 3G?

I will probably jailbreak the iPhone 3G. Simply put, there’s too many cool unofficial free apps especially ones that add the copy/paste functionality and the multi-person SMS text messaging capability to ignore. Additionally, there are teams working on getting all of the bluetooth 2.0 capabilities working on the iPhone 3G. I’m interested to see all of the unofficial apps that I will download. For those who are concerned about voiding warranties, you can make a backup of your current iPhone and always restore to that image if you need to have it serviced.

Even with the iPhone 3G’s somewhat significant short comings which I think will be sorted out eventually, I am absolutely impressed with the device. Also I must add that AT&T’s coverage of the area around my house has significantly improved. It used to be I would have to step outside to make and receive voice calls. I have full 3G coverage in all areas of the house now. I would encourage any one looking for a 3G device to give the iPhone 3G a look and see how simple it is to use. I think you’ll fall in love with the phone just like I did.