A Few First Impressions of iPhone OS 3.0

/ 18 June 2009

Yesterday at approximately 12:11 pm I downloaded and installed the new major release of Apple’s Mobile OS, v3.0, to my iPod Touch. In the extended body of this post I have a few quick notes on the main new features and what I like about them. Enjoy, Alex.

Home Screen/ Spotlight: The main new feature of the Home Screen (the SpringBoard application) is Spotlight. But before I dive into my experiences with that I do want to reiterate that you can also now have double the home screens, so double the apps. So on to the main new feature here, Spotlight. For those PC owners that own an iPhone or iPod Touch: Spotlight has been around on Mac OS X since the release of Tiger (10.4.x) back in (I think) 2005. It’s sole purpose is to help the user find things on the Mac with a simple search field (there are more complex ways to search for specific things too). It’s powered by a system-wide index that uses metadata importers to find the data. So, on the iPhone OS 3.0 Spotlight is vert similar. I doubt that 3rd-party support exists like it does on OS X, or that there is a central index, but to the user who syncs the device to a Mac it will be dead-simple to know how to use. To start, swipe to the right on your first/ main home screen to reveal the interface. On my iPod, searching for the names of members in my family quickly brought up their contact cards and other data. Searching for apps that I have installed was also quite fast.

Mail: The two new features that I have thus far encountered is the much-apreciated by many Landscape mode/ keyboard and the search. There isn’t much to say about Landscape, so on to the search feature. This is no doubt tied in to the Spotlight functionality (like all other Search features on the device now), but of course can get more specific in the Mail app. You can search From, To, Subject, or All (and assume/ hope that body is included in the All). After searching the local mail, it gives you the option of forwarding the search on to your mail server.

Calendar: The three new features I’ve dealt with here are CalDAV, Subscriptions, and Search. Setup of CalDAV and Subscriptions is sadly manual, there is no way as of yet to have iTunes sync the settings from iCal. So, it took me 30 minutes of tapping, and relying heavily on the new Copy/ Paste functionality to set up my 7 CalDAV calendars (syncs to Google Calendar), and my 4 Subscriptions. But the result seems nearly seamless and is a huge improvement from either over-the-wire sync or Microsoft Exchange with Google. Now all my core calendars are syncing all the time over-the-air to Google, and thus my calendar data is kept in sync constantly with iCal, and is editable on both devices + the web. Also, the CalDAV setup allows me to still sync the 2 local calendars that I have in iCal (that are edited by external applications on my Mac) in sync. Oh, and in the new Calendar app (v3.0) the colors are synced! This doesn’t happen for my Subscriptions (by nature of them not really getting synced to iCal at all), but both local over-the-wire calendars and CalDAV calendars are now the same color in iCal, in Calendar, and (for the CalDAVs) on Google Calendar. So on to Search, it took me forever to dig up. I always keep my calendar view (in all 3 locations) to the Day view. Sometimes the Month view, but never the List view on the iPod. Well, it turns out that Search is only available in List view.

Music: The main new feature here is Search. Finally this feature that has been on the scroll-wheel iPods shows up on the iPod that has a fairly regular keyboard! Sadly the Search will search the entire library all the time, and not limit the search to the view your currently in (playlists, a single playlist, artists, albums, a single artist or album, etc.). To find the search (like in Contacts and Mail) just swipe down (to see the top of the view). There aren’t really any key new features here other than the Search.

Safari (/YouTube): Well, Safari now has AutoFill! But don’t forget to first enable it in the Safari Settings. The AutoFill contains the content from your contact card for yourself (you get to choose what contact card to use at setup), and username/ password combinations. Now all we need is integrated 1Password for those of us that use 1Password for all our passwords (which incidentally is coming in an update to 1Password, a “Go and Fill” feature that uses the new clipboard functionality). The only real new feature in the YouTube application is YouTube account-specific functionality. You can sign in to your YouTube account and see your videos, playlists etc.

Push Notifications: This is one of the main new features of the 3.0 firmware. It is the alternative to Apple allowing 3rd-party apps to run in the background and run the battery down faster. It allows the developer’s server to send out little notifications to Apple’s Push Notification server, that will then send that notification down to you. The one app that uses it so far on my iPod is also the first app to ever use it, AP News. But other apps of mine, like Mobile NetNewsWire, and hopefully a few others (WeatherBug, etc.) are all but guaranteed to incorporate the service.

Cut/ Copy/ Paste: This should have come out in iPhone OS 1.0. To use it you hold your finger over a word and the cursor (if there in the first place) turns into two blue dots. Move these and you’re able to copy or cut (if you could edit the text). To paste just double-tap on the section of text field that you want to paste into and a “Paste” button shows up.

Some notes on the new settings that are available: Naturally Apple has drastically expanded the available settings. Of note include Notification settings, the ability to view your iTunes Account information, Home button settings for the iPod Touch (Home, Spotlight, iPod, the ability to view iPod controls when music is playing {or all the time as a bad bug, otherwise I’d enable it}), and search result preferences identical to those of Spotlight on Mac OS X.