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First Look: iPhone OS 3.0 Beta

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icon_ipswBeing enrolled in the iPhone Developer Program, I was lucky enough to have access to the iPhone 3.0 pre-release beta, which I installed on my iPod touch as soon as Apple’s (s aapl) servers recovered from the initial shock. I was a little hesitant to put it on my iPhone 3G right away, since it is my primary phone and we are still talking about early beta software. After less than a day of working with the OS on my touch, however, I couldn’t resist any longer and took the plunge.

It’s not really the case that there are so many big changes that I just can’t live without, but the little ones make a big difference in the device’s usability and day-to-day operation. So if you do plan on installing this beta build, don’t expect to be blown away, but do expect a growing sense of contentment with your phone. As long as you don’t mind a few bugs, that is.

Cut, Copy, and Paste

While maybe not something I’ll find myself using every day, I do appreciate copy and paste being available now, and the implementation is fairly elegant, especially in Safari. Currently, it seems like you have to wait for a page to load fully before you can select any text, which may have something to do with the selection prediction algorithm that predetermines likely blocks of text for copying.


Once loaded, though, the interface couldn’t be easier. Just tapping and holding on a paragraph like the one you see in the screenshot selects it automatically, and you get control discs at the top and sides for resizing your selection. Changing the horizontal size brings you in to a more traditional selection mode, where you can alter the area by words and letters.

Pasting across applications works fine, which I found when I pasted the text from TAB into Notes. Copying and pasting within Notes, and Notes performance in general, is buggy in 3.0, but not so much so that it becomes unusable. I’ve tested out copy/paste with third-party apps like Tweetie, too, and had no problems so far. It just works.


This might very well be the best new user-side feature in iPhone 3.0. You access it either by clicking home or swiping left from your default home screen (the springboard with Apple’s default apps), and it searches your contacts, apps, music, podcasts, video, audiobooks, notes, mail, and calendar. And should you not require such an extensive search, you can turn off any of the above-mentioned categories in your iPhone’s Settings under General > Home > Search Results.


Just as advertised, clicking any result will open the appropriate application or play the media instantly, so it does work great as a launch pad, or even as a quick way to start up your iPod functions. I would love to see Google and YouTube results somehow integrated, but it might be hard to do so unobtrusively. A little laggy in beta, but considering what it’s accomplishing, that’s to be expected.

Voice Memo

A nice little app, although lacking some of the features of third-party offerings at this stage. It’s possible that they may be added later, but it may also be that Apple wanted to make a simple app for general use, and if people need something more involved they can go to other developers. The UI is nice, and the volume indicator lets you know if what you’re saying is actually getting picked up.


I can’t tell if there’s a time limit, but there is desktop sync, via an iTunes playlist. It seems pretty rudimentary at the moment, but likely they’re still working out how best to implement the desktop side of things. Ringer volume appears all the time, maybe to let you know that it’ll be recorded too? I found it annoying and unnecessary, though.

Landscape Keyboard

It’s there in Messages, and in Mail and Notes, and it works like a dream. There was a bit of an adjustment period because I’d become so used to the portrait keyboard, but pretty soon my words-per-minute were up to near-secretarial levels. I’m already getting stares of jealousy from non 3.0 iPhone friends when I turn the phone sideways to reply to a text.


So far I’ve not been able to get MMS up and running yet, though some have by modifying their carrier’s IPCC file, which can also enable tethering. A share via MMS link is available when viewing contacts, but it doesn’t do anything. There are changes in the app itself, though, like the ability to add subjects to messages, and to delete individual messages from conversations. You can also select and copy individual messages, although thanks to a bug, they stay blue (selected) even when you select something else.



Aside from the publicized shake to shuffle feature, which is present, and makes a funny noise when used, there’s also new podcast features in iPhone 3.0. You can rewind 30 seconds with a conveniently placed button, shuffle and repeat no longer apply to podcasts even when turned on for your iPod in general, and you can send an iTunes link to the podcast via a mail icon. You can also navigate through the podcast with the playback slider, moving faster or slower by sliding above or below it, as if you were using a dictaphone or analog playback device. Really handy if you’re trying to track down a particular sound bite or song name. And you can change the playback speed by clicking the “1x” icon in the upper right-hand corner.


So, even though MMS and Tethering aren’t officially up and running, and I’m not sure about A2DP Bluetooth support, since I don’t have a Bluetooth stereo headset on hand, iPhone 3.0 already has a lot to recommend it. That’s before developers have even had a chance to show what they can do with the new API access, and before Apple has had a chance to iron out the details. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what the final product has in store come summer.

23 Responses to “First Look: iPhone OS 3.0 Beta”

  1. Justin

    I would really like to see built in iChat, with support for AIM, like on the Mac. Seeing as they have included all of the other Mac functionality, why not include this?

  2. I was a genius and bricked my iphone 2 days ago and was stuck until i found the website that i linked to my name above, just click on my name to go there. They had me up and running in no time and i now have complete access to their Apple developers account with my own user ID and password. It was worth it, just my 2 cents for anyone who is in the same boat i was.

  3. If you want to install 3.0 on your phone you just need to find someone with developer account and ask them to register your UUID. Last I saw people were selling signups for $5 but I imagine it will go up as interest builds, its allowed as long as you have some input on a project of theirs (read: impossible for Apple to track).

    Unfortunately all my slots are taken up as each of our designers have at least 3 iPhones/iPTouches :-P

    @ Websearcher – No it is not available, you’ll need to jailbreak to get that ability in a third party browser.

  4. WebSearcher

    The biggest need for search is searching a long webpage (Safari) for a phrase or name, but it isn’t in 3.0! Please tell me I’m wrong and it really is there?

  5. The NDA only covers stuff that wasn’t discussed by Apple in the Keynote. Afaict, what is in the article is basically what was already shown with the possible exception of the iPod stuff.

  6. Kobie Rhodes

    Hi there. Just installed 3.0. All good for the most part, but anyone else able to use Maps? Mine just freezes. It seems the screen taps do nothing, just like in Tiki Towers.
    I’m new to all this, but keen to learn, hence why I signed up for the SDK. I can live without games and maps for now. Any thoughts?

    Much appreciated.