iPhone OS 3.0: Top 10 user-centric features

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Chicago (IL) - When
Apple previewed their newest iPhone OS 3.0 the other day, we were given a glimpse of what's to come. All existing iPhone devices will be capable of receiving a free 3.0 firmware update when it's released early summer but iPod touch owners will have to fork $9.95, like before with the 2.0 firmware. Apple's iPhone software chief, Scot Forstall, was able to demo some
of the hundred-plus new features of the iPhone OS 3.0 -- many of which address ongoing complaints from
both iPhone fans (and haters alike). In this article we look at our favorite top ten.

For additional information, see our previous articles: The complete record of our live coverage of Apple's announcement, iPhone OS 3.0: A thousand new APIs for developers, and my opinion piece on Apple showing us just how big the iPhone is.

10. Lack of Adobe Flash

Safari's non-existent support for Adobe Flash is painful. While it's the subject of many public debates between Apple and Adobe executives, who both have their reasons for blaming each other, we are totally with Apple on this one. While Flash would enable users to see the whole web (and not just parts of it), most iPhone
users are better off without it. Simply put, Flash is still
too resource-hungry to be enabled on the iPhone where there are already tons of
things compete its CPU time and battery juice.

While the lack of
Flash is an inconvenience, when faced with the choice of
Flash support that greatly reduces battery life, or no Flash with
somewhat acceptable battery life, TG Daily would always opt for the latter.
Hence, we list the lack of Flash as a feature (rather than drawback). As such, it finds its place at slot #10.

9. Stocks:  Detailed view of a depressed economy


Apple tweaked its Stocks widget with landscape support and news headlines
in addition to more comprehensive information about each company's market
capitalization, P/E and other bits of data that any spreadsheet-lover would like.

8. Pleasant surprises:  Stereo Bluetooth, YouTube, shake shuffle, anti-phishing, etc.

The new OS packs more refinements and under-the-hood tweaks
than apparent at first sight. While we await the new software's arrival to test it all out, Apple has claimed over hundred
new end-user features in 3.0.

We were
pleasantly surprised by several minor, yet important enhancements
that got little air time in Apple's presentation. These include, Bluetooth stereo support (A2DP profile) -- meaning you will
finally be able to connect stereo Bluetooth headsets from third-party
manufacturers and not just Apple's own mono, pricey Bluetooth headset (this feature won't work on first-gen iPhones).

In addition, the localization features are greatly enhanced with more language support
and improved localized keyboards for special characters.

The YouTube app now
supports YouTube accounts so you can share favorites with others.

Your iPhone will be finally able to re-login to a
password-protected Wi-Fi networks. Currently, the device doesn't automatically sign out of the Wi-Fi network when it looses the signal and instead just waits to get the signal again -- a huge inconvenience if you're often moving between protected Wi-Fi networks.

Extended parental controls allow parents to further fine-tune how minors use their iPhone, while
the Safari anti-phishing mechanism keeps users away from duped sites. Safari will also get an auto-fill feature so you won't have to type in your
details in forms over and over again on the somewhat clunky keyboard.

Notes now finally syncs with
Mac and PC desktops (via iTunes).

And last but not the least, iPhone's iPod
application gets a cool shake-to-shuffle feature borrowed from the latest iPod nano released last week.

7. Mail:  Attach multiple images and landscape orientation


Users are no longer constrained
by one
image attachment per message. To send multiple images, go to the album view,
tap selection mode, and then select multiple photos by tapping
each.

The application now re-formats itself for
landscape mode when you turn the handset upside down, another useful
feature that will make reading longer messages easier on the eyes.
Typing long emails is also easier thanks to on-screen virtual keyboard
that now works also in landscape mode.

6. Calendar:  Supports CalDav and .ics subscriptions

The Calendar application is now enhanced with CalDAV
standard used by online calendars from Google, Yahoo and server
version of OS X. In addition, you can now subscribe to various
online calendars (national holidays, movies, etc.) because the app now
reads the .ics subscription format. TheCalDAV inclusion allows you to manage and
edit online calendars from inside the Calendar application.

These two enhancements come in addition to the syncing abilities already available via iTunes (for
personal calendars) and Microsoft's ActiveSync (for corporate
calendars).

Read on the next page:  5, 4, 3, 2 and 1...


5. Voice Memos

Developers of voice recording apps will not like this one. 3.0 ships with a new application, called Voice Memos.
It's designed to record voice notes with either the built-in microphone, or an external
one for better fidelity. The application also lets you save and organize voice memos, and supports basic editing features to trim down recordings. Voice
Notes
also supports sending saved recordings as an MMS message or as email attachment.

4. SMS now has MMS-support

Despite the fact that MMS is on its deathbed thanks to carriers who
overprice the service, this hasn't stopped iPhone haters from singling
out MMS as the most laughable drawback of the handset -- though most
complainers themselves have never sent a single MMS for the stated
reason. Nevertheless, 3.0's SMS app now supports MMS (Multimedia
Messaging Service) allowing those who prefer paying more to send and
receive images and audio files attached to MMS messages (rather than email). In
addition, MMS supports maps locations and
vCard-formatted contact cards that can be added directly to your
contact list.

Unfortunately, MMS support will not work on first-gen iPhones.
In
addition, the application now finally lets you forward messages and
delete a single or multiple messages at once, similar to how Mail
gained bulk delete feature recently.

3. Landscape mode and keyboard


3.0 brings a landscape virtual keyboard to several other applications by turning the handset upside down. This allows fat-fingered users
more comfortable typing thanks to larger keys. In addition, supported applications reformat their user interface
when you turn the handset upside down -- just like Safari and Calculator
today.

Apple confirmed (and demoed) the landscape
keyboard and rotating UI in key applications, including Mail (great for
widescreen attachments), Notes, Stocks, and SMS.

2. Search:  Spotlight comes to the iPhone


The search utility in OS X, called Spotlight, has come to 3.0. Apple added a search box to a number of key
applications. In Calendar you can find
calendar events more easily, and likewise in iPod for songs, and in Notes you can search title or body. In Mail
it scans message headers and the subject. It is even
clever enough to extend search queries to IMAP and Exchange mail
servers, thereby conducting remote searches. But more importantly than that, Apple has integrated Spotlight
search at a system level.

A new home screen called Spotlight is positioned to the left of the
original home screen. It shows a magnifying glass icon that allows you to
initiate an iPhone-wide search. Just like in OS X Leopard, items pop
up in the list as you start typing in the search box. Results are
formatted according to an item type: Found contacts items are grouped
together, songs are visually separated, as are installed application
that fit each search term.

Spotlight on the iPhone can now be used as a convenient
application launcher as well. A demo revealed Spotlight
understands music items, contacts, calendars, email messages, notes and
applications. It's unclear, however, if the new iPhone SDK will allow
developers to register new item types with the Spotlight search
service, like in OS X Leopard, to allow their new files to be auto-launched as well.

1. A clipboard:  Cut, copy and paste

Users finally get what is arguably the most requested iPhone feature: A clipboard.

Double-tap on text within an application to select it. A bubble appears hovering with cut, copy and paste options
above the selection. There are also smaller bubbles on the selected item that you can extend or shrink the selected area. There's also a magnifier to
position the text entry point.

To paste copied text, simply tap to bring up
the bubble, fine tune the paste point via a magnifier, and choose the paste option hovering in a bubble. Shake the handset to undo a paste operation, and shake it again to redo.

Copy-and-paste
works system-wide like on desktop computers. It also handles HTML-formatted text
that you can copy from pages viewed in mobile Safari browser. Apple
demoed pasting raw pieces of text between Notes, SMS and Mail
applications (copy-and-paste for multiple attachments), as well as rich-formatted text between Safari and Mail programs.
Both Safari and SMS applications even features an optimization where
if you hold down a finger over a block of text on a webpage, or over a bubble
with an SMS message, it will select the entire content.
Other items like images can be copied as well (see below).

While copy and paste
operations work across Apple's own improved applications preloaded in 3.0, the company also exposed its full functionality to
developers via new APIs. In addition, Cocoa Touch framework now
supports these features out-of-the-box, meaning most existing
applications should inherit these capabilities automatically. Those who
don't inherit will require "minimal [developer] work," Apple said.


ARTICLE UPDATES: March 26, 2009 - 7:45pm CST
  • Corrected editing typo in the headline that incorrectly suggested the iPhone 3.0 firmware will be paid upgrade for owners of the first-generation iPhone. Apple
    officially confirmed that 3.0 firmware will be free for all
    iPhone users, while iPod touch owners will have to pay $9.99 for the
    upgrade, as was the case with the 2.0 firmware.
  • Added explanation of the Wi-Fi Automation feature (thanks, Mr. B)