Being 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 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.
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.
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.