iPhone 1.1.3 Update First Impressions

Apple posted the 1.1.3 iPhone update shortly after the keynote (as promised) and I managed to slowly grab it via AT&T’s 3G ExpressCard (~161MB…full firmware load). The upgrade behaves like a standard iPhone firmware update and upon restart, you are greeted with a dialog explaining how to move icons around.

NOTE: This is the first time I have ever seen a company use the term “wiggle” in official documentation or dialogs, but Apple clearly states that to move icons, you press and hold till they “wiggle”, after which you can then happily re-arrange to your heart’s content.

It’s a bit like playing one of those games where you need to put numbered squares in the right order (I see a game coming once the API is official). It is very nice being able to put things where *you* want them and it would be even nicer if you had the ability to delete – not just move – some of the default apps/icons (I never use the YouTube one). The addition of multiple screens shows (to me at least) that Apple is serious about the upcoming API since you would not need the extra real estate just for Safari links. You can even move the four standard icons – Phone, Mail, Safari, iPod – at the bottom of the main display (the horrible, built-in Mail has been relegated to screen number four, along with YouTube)!

Google Maps

Google Maps has had very clean visual update and the keynote video no doubt shows off the features very well (I haven’t seen it yet). The cryptic direction/location search icon has been replaced with more intelligent named buttons at the bottom. If you’re lost, just press the locator icon in the lower-left corner and you get an approximation of where you are. AT&T/Google seemed to know I was within the city proper [Seattle] but that was about it. I’ll test it in other areas and provide updates if it seems to be any more accurate somewhere else in the greater Seattle area. If you want to toggle the visual display features (traffic, satellite view, etc) just hit the eye button in the lower-right. Apple has added a very slick, semi-transparent page-curl visual candy that really works well for this feature, although I can see it getting very old if it is callable from the API, since many developers will be tempted to use it [incorrectly].

Safari

Mobile Safari has a new “+” icon on the bottom toolbar and you use it to either make a bookmark, mail a link to someone or add the current page/viewport to your home screen. This option has made it very easy to add “application” icons for hosted Google Mail (their recent update is slick), Google Reader, mobile Twitter and Meebo. If you already have a URL open in a Mobile Safari “tab”, the home screen icon will switch you to it instead of creating a new one (nice). The bookmark icon used to be near the location text field and a search icon has replaced it which takes you directly to the search text field. Again, very subtle-yet-welcome change.

SMS Messaging

While I do not have much need to send SMS messages to multiple recipients, that feature seems to work as advertised (I annoyed a few folks just to test it). It will be interesting to see if the recently developed iPhone SMS backup applications account for what is probably a change in the underlying schema.

While I would have liked Mobile iChat, an early API release and some other wish-list features, this 1.1.3 upgrade adds some very nice capabilities, tweaks some visual elements in the right way and sets the stage for the February API release. While I haven’t trolled the iPhone hack blogs yet, I’m sure we’ll be seeing the reports confirming that this does, in fact, cause some consternation in that group.

The Google Mail folks are reporting on enhancements to IMAP mail integration with Mobile Mail and GMail. I’ll take a look at that once I get on Wi-Fi. It may be worth switching back to Mobile Mail, but the Mobile Safari interface is way too feature rich to toss aside. Similarly, I’ll take a look at the new lyrics feature of the iPod portion of the iPhone once I get back to my full music library.

If you’ve found any additional features I’ve missed, have some suggestions for good Mobile Safari home screen additions or want to sound off on your 1.1.3 update experience, definitely drop a note in the comments.

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