Firmware 3.0 Impressions and Overview

June 17, 2009, Apple birthed a new iPhone firmware which caused possibly one of the biggest server hiccups to date. If you own an iPhone, then you probably encountered the dreaded message,  “iPhone activation servers are temporarily unavailable”. I nearly popped a blood vessel in my eye when I read that error message. Being the impatient iPod fanboy that I am, I stood in front of my Mac for the next 2 hours clicking the update button to no avail. After what seemed like years (2 hours and 18 minutes to be exact), I was finally prompted by the wondrous message “preparing iPhone for update”. My pleas had been answered.

However, that was only the beginning of my long journey to 3.0. For the next 4 hours, I waited in utter despair for my iPhone to “back up”. Aeons later, my iPhone rebooted with the new OS and a few nice surprises!

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Spotlight
Spotlight was the first notable new feature I ventured forth to discover. Similar to the “master search bar” aka Spotlight on the Mac, this new feature helps you find any user-accessible file contained within your iDevice – even files that exist beyond the page limit. From your home screen, you Spotlight by a simple swipe to the the right. You can access music, videos, e-mails, etc., and launch them from within a search. This became one of my favorite features within only seconds of using OS 3.0 because it saves so much time (especially when looking for those apps I carelessly deleted).

More App Pages
Another great enhancement that 3.0 has brought is installation of two extra applications pages. Apple should allow at least 500 application pages to satisfy our needs, but 11 pages will have to suffice for now.

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Safari
Along with the usual bug fixes and stability improvements, finally, there is an AutoFill feature in Safari. This is rather helpful for remembering your many website logins so you don’t have to (hence the name AutoFill). Also, Safari seems “snappier” ;)

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My luck has hit a new stratosphere!

Copy and Paste
Yet another useful feature to finally make the iPhone OS is copy and paste which allows you to – you guessed it – copy and paste any text (including redeem codes) and even photographs! It isn’t perfect; I found it annoying that the “copy” button would constantly appear and highlight text as I was just trying to scroll down a page. Other than that, this is just another tool that helps iDevice users get up-to-date.

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Shake Functionality
You are now able to shake your iDevice to undo and redo typing. You can also shake to shuffle songs in your music library. If you are an excited jogger like me, your music will constantly and annoyingly shuffle, but luckily, this feature can be toggled on and off in the Settings menu under iPod.

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Random
Apple even went the extra mile to add things that probably nobody will even notice. These include the word “lol”, which now remains in lowercase format rather than automatically being changed to “LOL”. Under the Settings->General->About, you can now see your total number of applications, to prove that you are da’ man! in those arguments that start out with “who has the most apps”? By the way, I always win considering I have over 1,000 applications total in my iTunes library..).

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YouTube
YouTube even got a facelift; you can now log into your YouTube account and view subscriptions and favorites from within the YouTube app, post comments on any video and flag the inappropriate ones. Strangely, the search tab was moved into the middle of the categories section where Bookmarks used to be.

MMS
The new MMS functionality is only open to iPhone 3G and 3GS users which leaves dyed-in the wool iPhone users like myself, out in the cold. MMS allows users to send photos and voice memos to whomever they are talking to. But, AT&T has yet to support MMS so its time again to wait and see.

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Peer-To-Peer Connectivity Via Bluetooth
Yet another feature I was keenly anticipating was Bluetooth P2P. Unfortunately, this feature too, is only open to 3G and 3GS users. The rest of us will just have to make do with WiFi multiplayer and moan on forums about Apple’s stinginess!

Internet Tethering
Not that I was hoping to be able to share internet with my non-existent laptop via USB or Bluetooth… but even if I wanted to, it can’t be done for two reasons. 1) it is only open to 3G and 3GS customers, and 2) AT&T currently don’t support tethering (but I am told to keep an eye out in July). There is also some chatter about it costing a lot (though that may be moot as AT&T dive to pick up their fallen PR image).

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Voice Memos
This new Apple app lets you record, send and edit voice memos, has excellent design and layout and simply rocks. In fact, I find myself using it more than my other 16 recording apps.

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Home Button
Even the home button gets some love. Under Settings->General->Home, you can now assign a specific task when double clicking the home button (such as automatically opening the Camera application). Sweet!

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Buying Via iTunes
Anything on iTunes is now downloadable directly on your iDevice via WiFi (and if not finished in one sitting, via 3G)! This includes movies, television shows, audiobooks, music and of course: apps. However, be warned, downloading a movie can take a couple hours depending on its length and your connection speed. As for myself, the only thing I’ve downloaded thus far is some random podcast that had the entire In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida song by Iron Butterfly (I just couldn’t resist).

In-App Purchasing
Though I have yet to see any apps that utilize this new feature, I’m sure it’s just around the corner (if I recall correctly, Enigmo recently started selling level packs). Developers are now able to sell premium content for their apps, from within the app itself. Expect this content to be anything from extra level packs, to extra characters, bonuses, and updates (if the developer decides to start charging for them).

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Push Notifications
Applications that make use of this new feature, will be able to update users with alerts, even when they’re not using the app. One of the first apps I noticed that used push notifications is Leaf Trombone. Hopefully, IM applications such as AIM and Beejive IM will soon use this feature to show when you receive a new message.

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In Loving Memory Of QuadCamera: 2009-2009

Negatives
It was bound to happen. Where there’s good, there’s always bad. The new 3.0 update brought us many new features but it also has its downsides. After upgrading to 3.0, I noticed a few of my applications started experiencing problems. My beloved, Beejive IM, has now become a warehouse for “bugs” (no pun intended). It seems that half the time, the keyboard doesn’t show up when it’s supposed to. The rest of the time, it stays opened, even when I don’t want it to. However, I can live with these downsides.

What I can’t live with is when an applications become inaccessible. I consider myself an iPhoneographer. I take and edit pictures practically everywhere and all time. To my horror, one of my favorite applications, QuadCamera, has become a useless black screen after 3.0. Unfortunately, QuadCamera is not the only victim. Several applications that serve the same purpose as QuadCamera have also been rendered useless. Evidently, Quadcam sent and update to Apple which is supposed to fix the issue, but Apple has yet to approve it. I can only hope that it will arrive in the next generation or so.

Final Thoughts
I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of all the 3.0 features (e.g. landscape mode in  Stocks and Mail app, stronger parental controls, calender subscriptions, previous picture thumbnail in Camera app, and the ability for developers to tap into the iDevice’s hardware and access music and more from within the application) because there’s seemingly an endless amount. The iTunes AppStore in the iDevice seems to be undergoing random changes: the updates tab has been rolled back to the ancient one found in 2.0. I want it back because it lets me categorize tabs and redeem promo codes from within the app.

Overall, I’m more than pleased with the new additions in 3.0, but am still disappointed that 1G customers like me will miss out on great new features such as tethering and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, for iPod Touch users, there isn’t that much added with the update. Some may be hesitant to pay the ten dollars to update, but with new apps requiring the big bad 3.0, you may be forced to update.

If you are interested in iPhone OS 3.0, check below:
Does 3.0 improve the sound of the iDevice – OS 3.0 100 Plus Hidden Features — Why We should not have to pay for iPhone Software Updates — What do you think of OS 3.0? — WWDC Keynote and OS 3.0 ‘Rundown’

  • Jad

    There is also an addition that you haven’t noticed, which is what I really like about the 3.0. When you’re playing a song or a video on youtube, try pressing and holding the track duration where you can forward/rewind the track or movie and move your finger up or down; away from the track bar, and you can set the scrubbing speed. It helps me go to a specific time in the duration where i bring my finger all the way down and fine tune the duration I want it to be, or just fast forward if its an hour long song. It’ll be useful to all music lovers out there :)

  • Matthew

    Thanks Jad, I completely forgot about that feature! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I also noticed (but never brushed up on) that the keyboard now has new symbols and letters such as: §, », «. Haha, I wonder what we’ll uncover next with 3.0.

  • Gerald

    Nice article. I installed 3.0 several days ago and haven’t really had time to figure out all the new features yet. So having an overview of sorts is good for people like me who either don’t have time or patience to learn all the new goodies. Good job!

  • Jeremy

    I have another thing that is interesting. On AppAdvice, they say that if you install more than the maximum amount of apps that fill up nine pages, you won’t see it but you will be able to go into Spotlight and search for it and then use it!

    This is the link: http://appadvice.com/appnn/2009/06/no-iphone-app-limit-with-a-nifty-os-30-trick/

  • Abster

    Great Review. I tried updating to 3.0 a few days ago and almost had a heart attack! My phone was all locked up and stuck on the “connect to itune” screen. Thankfully finally got it to work and I look forward to trying out the features you listed here. :)

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