Scanning Twitter and the blogosphere at two in the morning for any hints on when Apple would finally drop the 3.0 firmware update is always a preferable activity to say...sleeping. Some time around 3:00 am, The Unofficial Apple Weblog and other sites began to report that it should arrive at 10 am PDT. If you have yet to opt for the update, here is one account of what you may be in for.
10:14 - I connected my iPhone 3G to iTunes and was prompted for the update. Downloading the firmware was actually the fastest part of the process. By 10:22 nearly all of the nearly half-gigabyte worth of download had finished (it sure helps to have 4 GB of RAM and running a 64-bit OS).
10:32 -What seemed like a simple procedure, backing up the iPhone's data, turned into the longest part of the process. It makes sense, especially if you have tons of songs, apps, or photos stored on your iPhone that this may take a bit of time.
11:08 - Now it's go time: the actual software update begins. Waiting, waiting....
11:26 - And it's finished. The first thing you may notice is the Voice Memos app that gets a prominent spot on the front page. I am sure that I joined thousands of iPhone owners this morning who recorded, "testing, testing..." into their Voice Memo app.
11:57 am - After playing with some of the new features that Apple has highlighted, I was looking for the promised ability to sync the Notes app with the desktop; so I reconnected my iPhone to iTunes to try and find it. While doing so, I was hit by a little ADD and decided to also sync some podcasts. During that process iTunes asked if I would send information about my phone to Apple to improve feedback and performance. Since I felt like a team player, I clicked the "OK" button. But that started another backup.
So three hours later (give or take two hours) it was back to copying and pasting away. Here is a brief rundown of the new features and how they work out:
Spotlight search - This probably has the largest impact on how you will interact with the operating system. Say you want to play Fieldrunners, but it's over on page nine of your apps. Instead just swipe once to the left from the home page and start typing. Probably by the time you type in, "fie-" all you will need to do is tap the app's icon and start gunning down soldiers. Mail, Calendar, Notes, and iPod apps also have search embedded. The Mail search gives your e-mail a very Gmail-like feel since it searched through all the folders and trash.
Cut, Copy, and Paste - Arguably the most-requested feature since the iPhone debuted. It works very well, though it does take a bit of getting used to how to tap and slide your finger around the screen if selecting a large amount of text. This can get especially tricky in landscape mode when much of the screen real estate is dedicated to the keyboard. But overall a VERY welcome addition.
Safari - Apple's browser did feel a bit zippier on some sites. But most welcome was the ability to autofill forms - nothing like typing in a long e-mail address and password on the iPhone's screen.
Voice Memos - Time will tell how much use this will get, but it is another app that makes the iPhone stronger in the productivity department. And it is now super easy to secretly record people when they don't know it.
In the end the hiccups were quite minor and not that all surprising given that half the bandwidth on the Internet today was probably being used for this update. Also, expect many of your apps to require an update from the App Store in order to run properly. The OS 3.0 is available for download to anyone with an iPhone or iPhone 3G (it will come preloaded on the iPhone 3GS, which goes on sale June 19.) An iPod touch may also opt for the update, but it will cost $9.95.