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The time has come. On the 17th of June we get the next version of the iPhone OS. But thanks to the MobileinJapan community, I was able to get my hands on the OS a bit early. So here is a preview of the new iPhone 3.0 OS, running on an iPhone 3G on Softbank Japans 3G network. This is the full version of 3.0, but there are a few features like push and MMS that we are waiting for the network to activate.

This review is also cross-posted to my blog here.

In a Nutshell:
The long wait is over. OS 3.0 brings a lot of overdue functionality to the iPhone and a few neat tricks to boot. Still this is nothing like the bump from 1.0 to 2.0. In fact, the overall feel to the phone is exactly the same. Only a few small graphical changes give away the upgrade at first glance. Also, I don’t credit for push apps since this was promised as part of the 2.0 upgrade. I still haven’t seen how that works, but will try it out as soon as the apps hit the store. I do see why the new hardware has a faster processor though as I felt that the interface is a bit sluggish since the upgrade. I asked a few other people to try out my phone though and they say that it feels the same, so I guess no definite call there yet.

Batteries not included:
So what is not in the upgrade? Obviously, hardware related features are out. No new 3MP autofocus camera. No macro lens. no digital compass, no Nike+iPod integration. Additionally there are really no new features. Most of the changes that are available to iPhone 3G owners are merely enhancements and upgrades to existing functionality. In typical fashion, for new features, you gotta show the dough. So this means no video recording, no voice control, no turn based navigation in Maps, And of course there is the didyourcarrierscrewya feature, tethering. in Softbanks case the answer is an expected “Not a chance you freeloading bum.” No tethering in Japan. Finally, while Softbank has promised to turn on MMS support on the 17th, it’s not on now so I wasn’t able to test it out.
So that’s what is not inside. What did we get then?

Search: I know I left that app somewhere

Simply swipe your finger left from the Home screen and you enter the new search screen. Basically a Spotlight for the iPhone, Search lets you easy find and open Contacts, Apps, Emails and messages. Surpassingly responsive and seemingly comprehensive, This should make the Home screen a much more popular place to live. If you are not currently using the “push center button once to go Home” shortcut, I think you soon might be.

Much needed feature and well implemented. 10 points.

Cut&Paste: Was it worth the wait?

One of the more popular reasons to jailbreak your iPhone is now gone. And I mean gone. Cut&Paste forks just as advertised. Simply press and hold over any text or graphics and when you release, the Copy options appear. Then you can drag the points apart to increase the area you want to cut. No longer limited to text fields, you can now grab paragraphs from webpages, even objects and inline graphics. Then open up Mail or Notes and press-hold one more time to bring up the paste command. Easy-peasy and doesn’t stop you from running Skype.

You can even use the new motion commands to shake to undo. Still requires verification, so no accidental undos on the train.

Long overdue function that works as advertised. a bit tricky to get the hang of though. 9 points.

Bluetooth A2DP Support: Cut the cord already!

Yay! Finally stereo bluetooth support. I pulled out an old pair of Sony bluetooth headphone and discovering them was a piece of cake. Once paired, the iPhone reconnects automatically whenever the headphones are turned on. Sound quality was better and the connection was much more stable compared to using one of the plug-in dongles that have been kicking around. I was even able to take an incoming phone call by using the call button on the headphones. Music playback just pauses while you are on the call and resumes as soon as you hang up.
I think I can see why this was delayed however. Signal processing must take quite a bit of power so if I try running an app (say Tweetie for instance) while playing music through bluetooth, the iPhone starts crawling. More reason to upgrade to the 3G-S I guess.

Just press the speaker icon in the control wind to switch between speaker and bluetooth.
Another overdue feature, but old hardware suffers under the stress. Also lacks some functionality. 6 points.

Landscape keyboards: Mrs. Beacon would be proud.

Yup. Landscape keyboard alright. Available in all basic apps including Email. Ummm. yup. Like the landscape. yup.
Oooo. moving along.

Simple, Easy, Reliable. 10 Points.

Download Video from the iTunes Store: Die, Blockbuster, Die!

With a US based iTunes account you can now buy and rent videos on the iTunes store. That includes Movies, TV Shows and Music Videos. You can even redeem itunes gift cards right on your iPhone. No need to ever plug your iPhone into a computer again (well, not really). Of course, you are probably thinking that it can’t be that easy. And of course. The silly little 10MB limitation on 3G data connections is still there. so really video downloading is a wi-fi only feature.Mr. Jobs? Tear down this wall.

More importantly now however it the ability to log out of your iTunes account on the iPhone manually. This is a godsend for those of us with multiple accounts so we can download apps from the Japanese appstore. In the past you had to switch accounts on your computer, so switching around while out and about was not possible. The new Store menu in Settings takes care of that.

Great for people with iTunes accounts in multiple countries. -2 points for leaving the 10MB wall intact. 8 points.

Find My iPhone/Remote Wipe: Hit em’ from orbit

Afraid of losing your phone? Think you might have left it on the subway? Or maybe it’s at the office. Now you can be sure.Make sure to activate Find My iPhone in your MobileMe settings (requires a ridiculously overprices MobileMe account) and you can now pinpoint exactly where your iPhone is. Provided the power is on that is.
Just log in to you account on a computer and you can find your phone, send a wipe command (will delete all data on the phone, but leave phone functions active), or even send a message to the Yakuza currently holding your phone.

Typical enterprise feature that is cool to play with, but requires expesive MobileMe account. 5 points.

Anything else?
Apple advertise hundreds of changes in this version, and I’m sure I haven’t found them all. But here are a few more that I thought were at least somewhat useful.

  • Youtube account integration. You can now log into your own Youtube account! -5 points
  • Notes sync: Synchronize Notes to a desktop computer – 4 points
  • Autofill in Safari: Remembers your usernames and stuff – 4 points
  • Autologin to wi-fil hotspots: MUCH easier to get into those hotspots that require a login to connect. -5 points
  • ics support in calendar: You can now subscribe to calendars on the iPhone! -6 points
  • Voice recorder app: a 99cent app now part of the standard apps. -3 points

Is that it?Well, that’s all I got. So tally up the points and you get… Sorry. I don’t do math. Basically it’s a good upgrade, but nothing world changing here. Free for existing iPhone users is a good thing. It’s all pretty much positive, except I still think things are running a bit slower. Guess it’s time to start saving my yens for an iPhone 3G-s.

If you have any questions, post em up on MobileinJapan and I’ll try to get to em.

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