I finally decided that paying upwards of $399 for the new iPhone 3G S was not worth it for me, considering that the only thing in the new phone I’m really interested in is the speed boost. The next day, I found the ipsw file for installing the new 3.0 software update which is released to the public on Wednesday June 17th. Following are my impressions, especially poingnant in light of my recent dabbling with the Palm Pre at the Sprint store the other day.
Let’s start with the most obvious and dramatic change, Spotlight (which is Apple’s marketing-speak for “search”)
It actually works really really well, even if it can lag for a second or two while it searches the database it creates of all your media, contacts, mail (To, From, Subject), and application names. As you can see, searching for “earl” above returned a contact, a song, and two emails from said contact. This is awesome, and makes life much easier when you just want to quickly pull up a contact, search an email, or play a song. It’s also handy when the app you want to run is several screens to the right, because you can generally get the application open quicker by swiping right and typing one or two letters to bring it up in the search results.
The next big change for me that makes life using this phone so much nicer is landscape mode being supported in Mail, Messages, Notes, Stocks and Contacts.
This feature is especially nice in Mail when trying to read an HTML email. usually they are formatted in such a way that viewing them in portrait and being able to read the text means moving the screen back and forth to read each sentence, not exactly optimal. Having landscape support in these apps really adds to the experience of using them, and it is something that was a long time coming.
Previously, if you downloaded any podcast using the iTunes application on the iPhone and that podcast had chapters, there was a bug which wouldn’t let you play the file with the screen locked. This was insanely annoying, even though there was a workaround. Now, that bug has been squashed, but there is still a 10MB file limit on downloads using AT&T’s network instead of wi-fi. Essentially, this means you’re not going to download any podcast of significant size without finding a wi-fi network first. However, there is a really nice feature which allows you to tap the title of the podcast, instead of the download button, and it will simply stream the file to your device over the air. I was very surprised by this.
So once the file is streaming, you don’t even need to download it, the screen above is what you see, which is similar to the way streaming files in the browser looks. Now, if you lock the screen, the stream pauses.
But once you double-tap the home button and the controls for music playback come up, you can just hit the play button and the stream you had been listening to just picks up where you left off without having to unlock the screen. Nice!
I’ve also decided not to jailbreak anymore, as it seems like things always get too wonky and I end up taking a performance hit for it. The only two things I was using jailbreak for anymore anyway was to have a notification icon in the status bar if there were unread messages and the Terminal program. Most of the time I used the Terminal app to ssh into my Linux box at home, or to jump host from that to my Apple TV if I needed to fix something for my family while I wasn’t home. There are apps out there, like TouchTerm and iSSH that let me do this still, even if they are not as nice and smooth as Terminal was. This is iSSH checking on an rtorrent session on my Linux machine:
Works for me!
When I first heard that the Palm Pre was going to support running multiple applications in the background I was pretty jealous. Now that I’m getting to hear some first party reviews about how it actually works, and had a little time to play with it myself, it appears that battery drain is a big concern. Not only that, but on a screen that small applications are optimized already to be running in full screen, there really isn’t a huge need for me to be running multiple applications in order to conduct my daily business. If I want to chat with someone over IM, I go into the IM application I have installed, I can still listen to and control music playback while staying in that IM app. Granted, I can’t check what a new email is without leaving the application, and it would be nice to have a notification drawer like the Android OS does so you can see the subject and sender and then decide if you want to go to the Mail app or just deal with it later. Overall I am pretty happy with the way that Apple has decided to run things with the new 3.0 OS, and it is certainly an improvement over 2.1.1.
Although the iPhone OS only allows limited multitasking (only Mail, iPod, SMS, Phone, applications getting installed/upgraded, or content being downloaded on iTunes can be running in the background) copy and paste works just like it does on a desktop computer, so you can copy some text in the browser or from an email, and then paste it to use somewhere else, like a twitter application or in Notes.
I am eager to see how well (or not) the push notification system Apple has built in for third-party applications to use works. I am worried that it will be painful when you get 5 IMs at once from someone, and have no way to get back to controlling the application you are using without dismissing those 5 pop-up windows first. Maybe I’m wrong about how it works and they have something more elegant planned. I’ll find out June 17th, so I can’t wait!