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Discover New Music

  • Trouble

    • 8 out of 10
    • Ray LaMontagne
    • At first, Ray LaMontagne might strike you as just another breathy-voiced knockoff of folk/rock guitarists like John Mayer and Jack Johnson. But he's actually got a better voice than either, he tell

  • Jagged Little Pill (Acoustic)

    • 6 out of 10
    • Alanis Morissette
    • Ten years after the original release, comes the traditional celebratory acoustic re-recording. The album has held up remarkably well. While it is not as meaningful to me as it was when I was sixteen,
  • Never Let Me Down [ECD]

    • 4 out of 10
    • David Bowie
    • It must be a lonely place to be considered David Bowie's worst album by just about everyone, including the artist himself. As the last album before Bowie "rebooted" and formed the band Tin Machine, "N
  • Supermodified

    • 10 out of 10
    • Amon Tobin
    • The genius is in the beats. Amon Tobin creates fantastic, groovy beats behind beats. "Supermodified" rolls through your expectations of breakbeat music, and turns them up a bit. It's a mellow album, p
  • Mystics Anonymous

    • 8 out of 10
    • Mystics Anonymous
    • Mystics Anonymous is the brainchild project of Jeff Steblea, a fantastic songwriter and good friend of mine, as well. In fact, I even played the drums on all but one of the tracks on this album. Jef

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In-Depth Review

The Nitty-Gritty Review of iPhone OS 3.0

iPhone OS 3.0 is a seminal release. The list of enhancements is amazing, and one can get lost in the sheer tonnage of text surrounding it. The proper approach, however, pays dividends, namely, moving from an amazed, casual, frustrated user to an experienced iPhone user. That requires some nitty-gritty experimentation and digging.

How Apple Develops new OSes

Apple has developed a tradition of rolling out a new OS that appears to be too simplistic and perhaps a little dysfunctional, only to make dramatic improvements later. (And catching the competition off-guard.) When Mac OS X 10.0, "Cheetah," was rolled out on March 24, 2001, it couldn't play DVD discs. There was no DVD, and Apple was roundly criticized, especially because that feature had been standard in Mac OS 9.x. Very soon, however, Apple fixed that, and a host of other things, in September, 2001, with Mac OS X 10.1, "Puma." Then, over the years, we all grew up with Mac OS X together.

That philosophy has also been used in the iPhone OS. When a new piece of hardware rolls out, like the iPhone in June, 2007, Apple knew that acceptance would be based on how easy the new device would be to use, not on the feature count or hardware specs. With iPhone 3.0, two years after initial launch of the iPhone, Apple is leveraging from (and depending on) our being accustomed to the iPhone to add important features. Lots of them. As a result, it's more or less up to the users to graduate from a similarly simple approach to the iPhone to one that goes from casual, easy going use, to the kind of expertise that we all take for granted on the Mac.


iTunes, OS 3 features, 1

iTunes, the opening list of features

Accordingly, when face with a huge list of enhancements, like what one sees in the install screen in iTunes, it's a really good idea to dig in and explore every one of those features. Not doing so risks being left behind in the next major release.

iTunes, OS 3 features, 2.

And the list goes on, and on, and on...

Wikipedia has a very good listing of the important features of each iPhone OS release. The section for iPhone OS 3.0 and identifies which features are supported only on the iPhone 3Gs.

Any Sufficiently Complex OS ...

... seemingly has a mind of its own. Here are three examples I have found.

1. Syncing Notes. iPhone OS 3.0 adds the ability to sync notes with the host Mac through the One might think that all one has to do is check the box in iTunes.

Notes sync

New in OS 3, Notes Sync (iTunes)


Perhaps not. It depends on how you want those notes synced. For example, in your Preferences, you specify how created notes get synced.

Mail prefs

Mail app Preferences, Composing

Understanding which e-mail account you're in and how you want the notes synced requires some planning and thoughtfulness about about how things are working. Otherwise new features and complexity can result in mysteries and frustration.

2. E-mail Search. One of the things we take for granted on the Mac is the concept of periodically emptying the trash. E-mail works the same on the iPhone, except that in our rush to casualness and a simple way of doing things, we can often forget that e-mail also trash needs to be deleted from time to time. Nothing brings this out more than playing with the new Spotlight search in iPhone OS 3.0. One might be tempted to search for an e-mail that got deleted and discover, with mysterious overtones, that the e-mail still exists. It does because it's still in the trash.


Editing e-mail trash

Editing E-mail, Trash

To delete e-mails in the trash, for a given account, go to the mailbox page for that account, click on Trash, then in the upper right corner, click Edit. Aha. Now, at the bottom we see how to Delete the e-mail trash. After that, Spotlight should no longer find mysterious e-mails that you believed were deleted. (One reader claims that after trash deletion, Spotlight still found one of his e-mails, but I haven't been able to duplicate that.)

Once again, the added capability of Spotlight combined with our possibly casual way of treating the iPhone can introduce mysterious behavior that has to be investigated and explained to be totally happy with the way the iPhone OS 3.0 works.

3. Sending Multiple Photos. On the Mac, we think nothing of dragging multiple photos into an e-mail sender. However, the metaphor on the iPhone is different, thanks to limited screen real estate. Some users, as a result, have complained that even though this feature is advertised in iPhone OS 3.0, they can't figure out how to attach multiple photos to an e-mail message.

The trick is have photo perspective instead of a text e-mail perspective and start in the Camera Roll. In iPhone 3.0, there is a new icon at the bottom of the Camera Roll page that didn't exist before, a deceptively simple ascending right arrow. (Apple doesn't seem to have an official name for this icon, so that's what I call it.) Once you touch it, there are three new buttons at the bottom:

Selecting photos to share

Selecting photos to share (Photos from WWDC)

Now, just touch each photo you want to share and a check box appears. When ready, touch the "Share" button at the bottom and, for now, an E-mail option appears. Touch that, and all your selected photos are dropped into a mailer.

In this case, it's a new way to doing things on the Phone, derived from necessity, that forces us into a new way of thinking. Creative play and experimentation are required to overcome the frustration of not being able to do everything in the Macintosh Way.

4. Cut and Paste. The first time you experiment with Cut and Paste in iPhone OS 3.0, you're likely to select the Notes app. And to your amazement, after you double tap a string, only the "Copy" function pops up. You may be thinking, wtf. However, cut is only made visible when keyboard is visible. 

On the other hand, it's perfectly possible to cut out text in an e-mail sender just by tapping. So it's up to the application to decide how to implement cut and paste -- something we'll be getting used to by and by.

Cut & Paste in E-mail.

Cut away when in E-mail

As an aside, I particularly like the way Apple has implemented the hot spot corners when selecting text.  Just drag up and left or down and right to expand the text to be selected. It portends a world without mice.

5. Hierarchical Thinking & Hidden Prefs. As Apple has added features and complexity in iPhone OS 3.0, it's tempting to add preferences in a hierarchical way. That's logical, but for one-off preferences, sometimes, it doesn't make sense.

Here's an example for the iPhone 3GS users. To turn on the battery meter, percentage indicator in digits, one has to go to Settings -> General -> Usage in order to find a maverick kind of setting, the Battery Percentage. One wouldn't think to look there because usage has traditionally related to call minutes used. It seems misplaced, but creating a new category may have simply been a waste of space. Finding stuff like this requires long duration play, something that doesn't fit everyone's personality. It's required anyway.

Lists Are Incomplete

In time, we'll all learn these ins and outs of iPhone OS 3.0, the implications of the choices we make in the settings, and how features work. It's a growth process, and TMO will be reporting on those items in HOWTOs and Quick Tips for the next year or so. Stay tuned.

That's why I don't think just listing all the new features in iPhone OS 3.0, is productive. The Apple Website, Wikipedia and other sites can do that easily enough.

Reaction to iPhone OS 3.0

Apple is deadly serious in its efforts to make the iPhone the clear choice for most consumers. After years of being abused by our cell phones, Apple is working to achieve complete domination, and the only way to do that is to dazzle with simplicity and elegance at first while simultaneously, energetically developing its product to break down barriers and drive the competition to despair.

iPhone OS 2.x was likely that last version of the OS in which a casual user could skate. By that, I mean poke around and get things done with luck and a little iPhone savvy. iPhone 3.0 is now serious stuff. It's a major foundation for the future, and it's a pivotal point.

A famous PC writer told his readers back in 1985 that it was time to get on the PC bus. By that he meant that if you didn't get on board with the PC, buy one and grow with the technology, you'd be forever left behind. And he was right.

This is the pivotal point, iPhone OS 3.0, where it's time to get on the bus. Every feature should be understood. MobileMe should be engaged. All the technology that Apple has put into place is rushing forward at light speed. For example, we've already had our first heroic tale of a lost iPhone and its recovery with the "Find My iPhone" service.

People are starting to do amazing things with the iPhone, so it's no longer just a smartphone that's fun to use. It's an important platform that must be studied and understood. That means delving into every new feature of iPhone OS 3.0 whether you think it's important or not.

The bus is leaving. Looking at iPhone OS 3.0, my sense is that it's time to get on board.

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