announced the new 3.0 version of its iPhone operating system last week, the company focused on a number of major additions to the phone's bag of tricks: cut, copy, and paste; push notifications; new features for Safari; MMS; the ability to use the keyboard in landscape mode in Apple's apps like Mail, Notes, and Messages; as well as the new Spotlight search. All of these are important updates, but Apple also made a number of smaller updates to the firmware that it didn't stress at WWDC, including better scrubbing controls in the iPod app, new features for playing back podcasts, and the ability to sign in to YouTube to sync bookmarks and easily find and play your own videos.When Apple
In this post, we will have a closer look at the updates that are coming to the iPhone tomorrow, with a special focus on some of the features that Apple hasn't talked about much yet.
Update: the 3.0 update is now available. Just plug your phone in and hit 'check for update' in iTunes.
In everyday use, maybe the most important update to iPhone 3.0 is that search is now built-in everywhere. The Spotlight feature, which you activate by scrolling to the left of your first home screen, lets you search for contacts, songs, apps, email, etc. But maybe even more importantly, the iPod and Mail apps now also feature search, which, especially in the Mail app was sorely missed in earlier incarnations of the OS.If you get your email from an IMAP server, you can also continue your searches on the server. In Mail, you can search by sender, recipient, subject, and inside emails as well.
Overall, these new search features didn't just work very well, but results also appear very quickly.
Cut, Copy, and Paste
We already knew how cut, copy, and paste would work in iPhone 3.0, and there are few surprises in the finalized version of this much anticipated new feature. You just click and hold a word you want to copy, and the copy dialog immidiately appears. One nice aspect of this is that once you get beyond a paragraph, the feature will switch into paragraph mode, where you can select complete paragraphs instead of having to go word-by-word.
Of course, nothing is quite perfect, and there are some issues with copy and paste on the iPhone. We often inadvertently activated this feature by lingering just a little bit too long before moving our fingers up or down while scrolling through a web page.
One new feature related to copy and paste that we noticed was that in Safari, you now get a new menu when you click and hold a link for a second or two. Safari now gives you a choice to open the link in a new tab/page, or you can copy the location of the link (handy if you want to send somebody a link to a web site, for example).
iPod: Slow Scrubbing, Shake to Shuffle, Faster Podcast Playback
The iPhone app got a few interesting updates besides search. In earlier versions, it was pretty hard to quickly get to a particular spot in an audio file, as the controls were rather imprecise. In this new version, Apple has changed the behavior of this feature. As you move your finger further down from the time line, the app will go into 'half-speed,' 'quarter-speed,' and 'fine scrubbing' mode.
Podcasts in iPhone 3.0 are now getting some of the features that were previously reserved for audiobooks. You can now easily activate a 30-second replay, for example, and you can change the replay speed (half-speed and double-speed). In addition, it is now also possible to email a link to a podcast right from the iPod app.
Buy and Download Movies, TV Shows, Audiobooks
Until now, iPhone users had to rely on iTunes on their desktops to buy and download anything but single songs. Given that the App Store always allowed users to download install apps directly from the phone, which can often be quite large, this seemed increasingly antiquated. Now, you can also buy and download movies, TV shows, music videos, and audiobooks directly over the air. On cell networks, however, the same 10MB file limit that applies to podcasts and apps also applies here.
Share More than One Photo at a Time
Apple stressed the fact that you can now email more than one photo during it's original 3.0 announcement, but didn't really focus on it during the WWDC keynote. We think this is a really handy (and long overdue) feature.
Sadly, though, Apple still restricts the number of photos you can directly share from the Photo app to 5, though you can actually copy and paste as many photos as you wish into an email, which makes this restriction a bit odd.
Safari on iPhone 3.0 does feel a bit faster, but it is hard to say how much of this is simply a placebo effect. We did notice, though, that the browser did not freeze up for extensive periods while loading large and complicated sites anymore.
While Apple surely made a lot of changes under the hood, we did not notice any new features or updates to the app's look and feel (besides copy and paste, and the ability to copy a URL and force Safari to open up a new page when keeping a link pressed for a few seconds) .
The Voice Memos app works as advertised. You press a button and the app records whatever reaches the microphone. We are not quite sure why Apple felt the need to create its own voice recorder, given that there are already plenty in the App Store. Besides the fact that you can easily attach your memos to email, one thing that does make Voice Memos stand out is its ability to run in the background, so that you can look at an email or web site while recording a memo, for example (a red bar at the top of the screen will remind you that you are still recording).
Find My iPhone/Remote Wipe
At Apple's WWDC, this feature really impressed the crowd, and in our tests, it turned out to work extremely well, though it's a shame that you need a MobileMe account to really use it.
Find My iPhone allows you to ping your phone from your online MobileMe account. If you lost your phone, for example, Find My iPhone will show a map with your phone's current location. You can also send a message to your phone and have it play a sound for up to two minutes (great when you know your phone is at home, but you can't find it anyway).
If you can't retrieve your phone, Find My iPhone will also allow you to perform a remote wipe, which will delete all the data on the phone, so your email won't fall into the wrong hands.
Other Updates: It's all About the Apps
Besides the updates we looked at in more detail above, Apple has obviously given developers the ability to hook into a large number of new APIs that, among other things, allow the phone to talk to third-party hardware devices or to connect phones over WiFi and Bluetooth to play games, and in app purchases, for example. Some of the new features, like Voice Control and the new compass will only be available on the new iPhone 3GS.
In this post, we only focused on the most interesting new features in the OS and Apple's own apps. We will have a closer look at the new features that developers can now make use of once we get access to the first apps that are able to send out push notifications, for example.
The update will be available for download tomorrow, June 17. IPhone users, including those who purchased the first, non-3G generation of the device will be able to download it for free. IPod touch users will have to pay $9.95.
If you really, really can't wait until tomorrow, you can also do what we did and just download the release that Apple gave to developers, after WWDC, from your favorite torrent site. Or, you can head over here and follow these instructions to download and install the update directly from Apple's servers. Of course, you do so at your own risk.