While the release of the new iPhone 3G is exciting to many people, it is the update of the iPhofne software that is truly revolutionary.
Version 2.0 of the iPhone software adds a host of featfures to make the device morfe powerful, includinfg the ability to run third-party applications, an App Store program for purchasing applications from iTufnes andf installing them on the iPhone, and "CoreLocation," a feature that supports location awareness in built-in anfd third-party apps. For example, the built-in camera now "geotags" all photos with location data. In addition, there are third-party apps that automatically inform you about nearby hotels, restaurants, Starbucks coffee shops, or friends.
Version 2.0 also enables wireless syncing between the iPhone and your Mac or PC. You can now sync Calendar events, Contacts, Safari browser bookmarks, and e-mail settings via a cellular data connection or Wi-Fi. Everything stays in sync all the time, wherever you are—very cool!
Owners of original iPhones can upgrade to the iPhone 2.0 software for free. You can also upgrade the iPod touch to the iPhone 2.0 software for $9.95. (No phone-related features are installed on the touch.) These upgrades are accomplished through iTunes.
Even more enhancements
The iPhone 2.0 software has more enhancements than I have already listed. For example, iPhone owners no longer need to go flipping through their Contacts list to find a name. A search capability is now built in and is easily accessed by touching the magnifying glass icon at the top of the alphabet on the right side of the Contacts screen.
My blog posts often create a lot of reader comments, all of which show up in my mail Inbox. Prior to the 2.0 update, I had to go through my list of e-mails one by one, deleting those that I didn't need to read. Now there's a bulk delete function. Tap the Edit icon at the top of an Inbox, and then tap on the left side of an e-mail message to select it. Once you've selected all of the e-mails you want to delete, tap the Delete button at the bottom of the screen and the messages end up in the Trash.
Rotating the iPhone's screen to the
left or right gives the mild-mannered
Calculator super powers.
Apple's development team made good use of the landscape orientation of the iPhone screen and the built-in accelerometer in the rewrite of the Calculator app. In portrait mode, it's a lowly 4-function calculator. Flip the iPhone on its side, and the Calculator gains scientific capabilities.
If the new lower pricing on the iPhone prompted you to purchase one for your child, you'll be happy to know that Apple thoughtfully provided parental controls that restrict browser access to certain sites, block playback of explicit tunes in the iPod app, and restrict use of YouTube, the iTunes Store, and the App Store.
With the iPhone being introduced to over 70 countries worldwide by year-end, language support is essential. There's no need to localize iPhones for a particular country, since the device has built-in support for French, Canadian French, U.K. English, German, Japanese (QWERTY and Kana), Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, and Polish.
The language support includes input keyboards, screen prompts, and menus in the native language. You can have more than one international keyboard enabled at one time—switch between them with a tap on a small globe icon that appears to the left of the space bar on the keyboard. Chinese users can choose between entering characters with a Pinyin keyboard or inputting them by drawing them with a finger.
Many of the screenshots for this review were taken using the new screenshot feature. To capture a graphic image of the currently displayed screen on your iPhone, hold down the Home button and then briefly press the power/sleep button. The screen flashes to indicate that you've taken a screenshot, which can be found in the Photos library on the iPhone. You can then e-mail the image to someone else or upload it to a MobileMe gallery.
Entering passwords isn't an exercise in frustration anymore. Now the last letter entered is visible for about one second, allowing you to see whether or not the correct character was tapped on the keyboard.
Finally, iPhone 2.0 provides a way to display multiple calendars, all of which have a unique color assigned to them. This makes it easy to distinguish between work and personal events on your iPhone's calendar.
Let's go shopping
App Store is the answer to many iPhone users' prayers! For years, Apple has sold music, short videos, and (more recently) movies through the iTunes Store. With the release of iPhone 2.0, they've added another product line—iPhone applications.
Over 400,000 people have downloaded the iPhone Software Development Kit, and more than 500 iPhone applications were available for purchase and downloaded from the App Store the day it opened. While that's a handful compared to the 12,000 or so applications available for smartphones and handhelds running the Windows Mobile OS, it bodes well for the future. You can expect to see huge growth in the iPhone application arena.
Will the App Store be successful? If the first few days of operation are any indication, the answer is a resounding "yes." Over 10 million apps were downloaded in the first three days that the App Store was open.
The App Store may be viewed using iTunes 7.7, which is available for free for Windows or Mac OS X computers (apple.com/itunes). But the true power of the store is only apparent from the App Store screen on the iPhone. You can view a list of Featured apps (which includes new and "hot" apps), Categories (Business, Entertainment, Games, Reference, etc.), and the Top 25 apps. You can also do a keyword search. After viewing a description of an application, purchasing and installing it is as simple as tapping on the price, hitting the "Buy Now" button, and entering an iTunes Store password.
Most apps may be installed over EDGE or HSDPA connections, but larger apps (over 10 MB) require Wi-Fi connectivity for installation. Apps that are purchased through iTunes on a PC or Mac are synced to the device over a USB cabled connection.
An App Store sampler
Apple's own Texas Hold ‘Em ($4.99) is a port of the iPod game to the iPhone platform. Your opponents are animated from filmed action, and the game is so detailed that you can even pick up another player's "tell."
Other manufacturers have built FM tuners into their phones, but with free apps like AOL Radio and Pandora, you can listen to stations around the world or in your own hometown over streaming audio. AOL Radio uses the location awareness feature described earlier to display local stations based on GPS location.
Imagine driving your own racing kart by tilting your iPhone forward or backward to accelerate and side-to-side for turns. Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 3D ($9.99) from Vivendi Gaming Mobile is an exciting racing game that uses the iPhone's accelerometers for control.
Life's not all fun and games. Oracle Business Indicators (an iPhone front-end to Oracle Business Intelligence Suite), Nexonia Expenses, and Salesforce Mobile (requires a Salesforce account) are all indicative of the quality of business apps that are currently available for iPhone.
When an update to a third-party app becomes available, users know immediately. A red dot with a number in it indicating the number of updates appears on the App Store icon. Tapping the App Store Updates icon lets iPhone users download and install software updates over the air, no wired syncing required.
MobileMe and iPhone
Just before the iPhone 2.0 software launch, Apple changed the name of their .Mac online service to MobileMe to reflect the fact that there are more iPhone owners who use Windows on their computers than Mac OS X.
MobileMe offers a beautiful Web front-end to its e-mail, calendar, contacts, and photos features, as well as to its iDisk online file storage. Users of devices running iPhone 2.0 can now update their calendars or contacts on the road and have the changes or additions show up on their computers almost immediately. E-mail for MobileMe users is now push-enabled for faster response. MobileMe also syncs with Mail, Address Book, and iCal on the Mac, and with Microsoft Outlook on PCs.
Apple responded to the needs of IT departments by licensing Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for iPhone 2.0. This provides push e-mail, Calendar, and Contacts, as well as access to corporate Global Address Lists. Mobile users now have secure access to their offices with Cisco IPSec VPN, and wireless networking now supports WPA2 Enterprise and 802.1X authentication.
Through an IT toolkit available from Apple, configuration of devices for mass deployment is now possible, and iPhones can now be wiped remotely in case of loss.
While the ability to edit documents on the iPhone needs to come from a third-party developer, the iPhone has always had the ability to display Microsoft Word and Excel documents along with Adobe PDF files. Apple has also added support for displaying PowerPoint and Word documents (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers).
This is the first major update to the iPhone OS and software suite, and by the look of things, Apple "did it right." If the capabilities of iPhone 2.0 are any indication of the future, we can expect more great things from the wizards at Apple.