The newest update to the iPhone operating system brings features that users have longed for as well as some extra goodies that keep the iPhone the most compelling mobile device on the market. The good news is that almost all the updates are available to those who are not springing for the iPhone 3G S, which becomes available June 19.
According to Apple there are over 100 new features in all. And they pretty much work as advertised. This may not sound like anything worth celebrating, but it is a welcome change from when the iPhone 3G launched last summer with the 2.0 update. Many users (including me) complained of keyboard lag and tons of bugs. It wasn't really at least until OS 2.2 that the iPhone stopped feeling like it was running on beta software.
User reactions - Most comments left on several blogs and forum were fairly positive about the download process and the new features. The worldwide update June 17 went off without any widespread glitches. Some users reported the server was unavailable at times, but after trying it again were able to download the update. Given that Apple's servers were probably overworked most of yesterday it is not a major surprise. It was nowhere near the MobileMe debacle or the problems surrounding the iPhone 3G launch. It was all quiet on the Cupertino front.
Still Missing - Courtesy of AT&T, there is still no support for MMS and tethering. They are supposed to be available "this summer," which could mean this gets pushed back (no pun intended) until late August or September. Considering the beating that AT&T took at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, they better get on it soon (if you really can't wait for tethering, you can always give this a try.)
Push Notifications - This is Apple's answer to the criticism that third-party apps can't run in the background. Many developers are already creating new apps or tweaking existing ones that will take advantage of this technology. By the time this technology is put to use by developers you will start getting notifications of sports scores, news, and instant messages.
Spotlight Search - One of the best features in OS 3.0. Given that you can now have up to 11 pages of apps, swiping constantly to find them can be a bit irritating. So the fastest way now to find an app, contact, email, song, video, or other piece of data is to hit the home button, swipe left, and start typing in Spotlight. This app is excellent to use, and even found emails from the trash during a recent search. It really mitigates what was becoming a double-edged sword of the iPhone's apps: there are so many good ones that it can fill up your pages pretty quickly.
Cut, Copy, and Paste - There are some new features in OS 3.0 that users have been complaining about not having since the iPhone's debut. You can't read a forum on mobile phones without a Blackberry fanboy mocking the iPhone for not having copy and paste or MMS. Well it may have taken awhile, but it is here. Cut, copy, and paste work very well and should really be useful for Twitter power users who can now copy over text to their favorite Twitter app.
iTunes, iPod and App Store Improvements - Now with the iPod feature supporting Bluetooth's Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), you can stream stereo audio over Bluetooth to other devices, such as a car stereo or headphones. There are also some really nice touches that makes iTunes even stronger. Now movies, TV shows, and music videos are available for direct purchase and download. Description pages for apps in the App Store have a superior image viewing section. Instead of the previous tiny photos that you had to tap on and would sometimes load, the screen shots seemlessly can be swepts through from one to another.
Business-friendly features - Syncing up your calendar, contacts, and notes with a program like Microsoft Office flows a lot better through iTunes. The Voice App will serve both business and consumer customers well. There are several other additions the OS makes that were requested to make the iPhone more corporate friendly, such as support for more Exchange policies, the ability to create and send Exchange meeting invitations, searching mail on the server (Exchange Server 2007 and supported IMAP servers) and VPN on demand and VPN proxy support. Seeing as how we are not Exchange users here, we will have to take Apple's word for it on some of this. But if you are in the enterprise and using any of these features, give us a shout in the comments section on how these are working out for you.
Hidden gems -OS 3.0 has some smaller updates that make using the iPhone more convenient and usable in a number of ways. SMS messages can now be deleted individually (instead of the entire conversation). They now can also be forwarded. Many new categories were added to the contacts - including labeling someone's phone as an "iPhone" instead of simply "mobile." The Phone app offers more details on calls and locations. There are also 46 security fixes embedded in OS 3.0.
iPhone 3G S Specific features - Some of the new features won't show up unless you upgrade to the iPhone 3G S. Video recording, editing, better photo-taking, a faster processor and a compass are the highlights of the newest iPhone. Of course determining if you are eligible for an upgrade price from AT&T is no easy task. Proceed with caution.
Going Forward - The total package of features in this update meets the demands of many iPhone users. But of course it won't be the end. For many push notification will not be enough; there may still be a demand for third-party applications to run in the background. It took about two years for copy and paste to show up, so it could be a while before something like this appears. Either way, with a $99 price for a new iPhone 3G and some excellent software features, the iPhone will only continue to get stronger in the ultra-competitive mobile market.