I have to admit I was impatient and when I learned I could follow some easy steps to upgrade to the shipping version of the iPhone 3.0 software before the June 17 general availability date -- I just had to try it. Of course it helped to have fellow TMC blogger Tom Keating there to step me through the process. You see Tom wrote a piece yesterday detailing exactly what you need to do to get ahead of the pack and be the first in your neighborhood to type emails on your iPhone in landscape mode.
The instructions are here but I should warn you that although the process is dead easy it can take many hours to go through the upgrade. It took me about six hours for the new OS to be downloaded, the software to be restored, the apps to be loaded, the podcasts to be downloaded and the photos to be synced. Then again I have thousands of contacts and photos and over 50 applications.
Apple has done a wonderful job of backing up and restoring the iPhone devices so OS upgrades are smooth. However, one past pain point of iPhone OS upgrades was having to reenter the WEP keys needed for secure WiFi. To my happy surprise I didn't have to reenter a single WEP key as a result of this upgrade.
So is the upgrade worth it? I have to say yes. The push email works great and the landscape keyboard in email makes typing on this device infinitely better. It is also less clunky when sending a URL to someone as in the past you had to switch from landscape to portrait when opening the email application for a send. In addition, when looking at a list of emails you can now tell which is a Cc, Bcc or direct send which is signified by a "To" symbol. Ironically there is no Bcc symbol meaning if there is no symbol you have been Bcced. This is an important addition to the OS as quite often mobile devices make it more difficult to know if you have been Bcced meaning users can accidentally reply to all without realizing they probably shouldn't.
There is also MMS support but this won't work on AT&T Wireless for now. Copy and paste is a much-needed function and works as advertised - the fact that one of the most advanced smartphones on the market "forgot" to add cut and paste sooner still baffles me and I am sure I will be telling my grandkids about it someday.
Spotlight search is another much-needed function - especially when you realize there is no way to organize applications, and is activated when you scroll all the way to the left from the home page. Searches will sift through contacts, programs, calendar, email, songs and other data on the phone but unlike the Palm Pre will not check the web if the device search comes back empty.
Voice Memos are a great addition allowing you to record your voice and send the recordings via email if desired. Third-party apps did this in the past but like many other operating systems, upgrades entail taking popular software packages and replicating their functionality.
The calendar has been improved as well with the ability to add repeating reminders but these are limited to fixed time periods like every week, 2 weeks, month or year. Ideally you would be allowed to enter recurring reminders for selected days - like every Monday or the first Wednesday of the month. In addition - what if someone wants a three-week reminder? You may think at first that they just don't have three-week recurring meetings in Cupertino... The reality of course is this was a design decision which gives most of the functionality you need in a clear and uncluttered interface.
Then there are calendar reminders... I would have preferred to have the ability to set a reminder more than two-days before an appointment and a version 3.0 upgrade would have been a great opportunity to add this option. Microsoft Windows Mobile has had this ability for years so there seems to be no technical reason to exclude such a feature.
Safari is supposed to be faster and it may be I haven't been able to verify this- likely because with push email turned on the device is constantly getting new emails so I am getting less processor for my foreground applications. I did check out the browser's ability to remember passwords - this worked out fine and is a welcome addition.
Internet tethering could not be tested because AT&T doesn't allow this functionality. I will be in Europe tomorrow and if the carrier allows it I will give this a try. I gave Bluetooth stereo a shot and found it paired with both the Plantronics Pulsar 590 stereo headphones and Sharper Image Bluetooth Speakers. For some reason the sound would not come out of the Sharper Image speakers but the Plantronics headset worked fine.
Other functions such as accessing multiple iTunes accounts, shake to shuffle, notes syncing, syncing multiple email folders and YouTube login were not tried. Remote wiping wasn't tried either for obvious reasons.
Apple took a very good phone and made it much better with this upgrade. Typing emails in landscape mode is a veritable pleasure compared to portrait and when you combine this function with cut and paste and push email the iPhone becomes a more credible corporate smartphone meaning Palm, Nokia, Microsoft and RIM have more to worry about.
So now heavy iPhone users probably don't need to be concerned about the keyboard as much as before but they will need to start thinking about spare external batteries. The reason is simple. The iPhone 3.0 is more usable and with push email and bluetooth stereo enabled, you can expect even less battery life.
It is worth explaining that Windows Mobile also drains battery life quickly for heavy email users in push mode. The alternative is RIM devices which do much better in push mode and are optimized in many ways to maximize battery life regardless of mode.
Should you upgrade? Yes. Should you do it early? That is up to you but you should be really happy with the new iPhone 3.0 software, it is a winner.