Apple iPhone 3GS review: Same clothes, new feel

GSMArena team, 30 June 2009.
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Tags: Apple, iPhone 3GS

iPhone OS 3.0 changelog or over 100 new features for the new and older iPhones

The iPhone OS 3.0 is quite more progressive than the new iPhone 3GS itself. And since it's available to past iPhone owners as well, the 3GS certainly looses an edge here. Nevertheless, it comes with some exclusive features that are not available to the iPhone 3G despite the same OS used (you can refresh your memory on the first page).

The iPhone OS 3.0 introduces more than 100 new features, which bring the iPhone functionality up to date, while catering for some badly missed stuff, which users of other mobile phones take for granted.

Well, Apple certainly took their time, but two years ago, even in its limited form, the Touch UI presented on the first iPhone was nothing short of revolutionary. It took the other manufacturers more than a year to catch up and though they may have long surpassed the iPhone as far as hardware is concerned, the interface remains one of the finest example of the industry.

Sure Palm have their WebOS and Google have their Android but they have yet to close down on the fluidity, sophistication and the reach, if you like, of the Apple mobile OS. Not to mention that the fast growing Apple AppStore is making the iPhone one of the most exciting platforms to date capable of offering modern smartphone functionality.

So after some serious work we managed to distill this list of the 100 new iPhone features introduced by the OS 3.0. Some of them are huge (in iPhone terms at least), while others are minor, but are still there. We'll cover the major ones on the following pages, but we just wanted to give you a one-page, bulleted scoop of what's changed and how.

General UI changes

  • A system-wide search Spotlight is added now including Mail, Calendar, Notes, iPod and web. Pushing Home button on first home screen takes you to Spotlight, pushing Home button on Spotlight takes user to first home screen. In Settings>General>Home>Search Results, users can choose what is searched on the phone and in what order. Copy/paste photos is now available.
  • Moving apps through homescreens is now easier
  • Push background notifications service is finally ready. The alerts supported by the service include changing of the app icon (addition of a counter icon badge), pop-up SMS-style reminders or sound alerts.
  • Stocks app gets news stories and stock details. It also shows graphical history in landscape mode.
  • Increased number of supported languages and keyboards
  • Parental Controls are extended to movies, TV shows and App Store content (so possibly XXX apps are coming our way).
  • Voice recorder with editing, cropping and email/MMS sharing. It can record in the background, but doesn't record during calls.
  • Accessories manufacturers can now offer managing software as well (think FM radio receivers or transmitters, Bluetooth heart rate monitors or even finger pricking Bluetooth glucose testers for diabetics)
  • Double clicking the Home button now can either open Spotlight search, the Camera or Favorite contacts (default)
  • A maximum of 11 application screens now allowed instead of 9 previously
  • Peer-to-peer via Wi-Fi now available
  • Improved predictive dictionary
  • Turn-by-turn navigation is now possible (but only with third-party apps and third-party maps)
  • Stopwatch gets additional field for total and lap time
  • Unlimited size podcast downloads over 3G
  • Encypted profiles and backup are now available
  • Exchange ActiveSync policies support
  • Find My iPhone online service via Apple MobileMe (paid subscription)

Text input and management

  • System-wide Cut, Copy and Paste text feature (even from web pages)
  • Text edit Undo and Redo support. The Undo/Redo dialog box pops up when you shake your iPhone in a text-entry field.
  • System-wide landscape keyboard (doesn't work with popups or in Calendar)
  • A space is no longer needed between two words for predictive texting to function

Contacts and Calls Log

  • You can swipe-to-delete individual phone numbers (but not individual contacts)
  • Sharing contact details is now possible via email and MMS in .vcf format
  • Detailed Calls Log (yes, with call durations besides call times)
  • The type of phone number used now gets listed under each call in Recents (i.e., mobile, home, work, etc.)
  • You can delete individual entries in Calls log and you can also edit the contacts themselves straight from there
  • iTunes store account creation is possible straight from the mobile
  • iTunes store allows rental and purchase of movies from the iPhone.

Messaging

  • There's now MMS support but it's an operator dependent feature. MMS is also not available to iPhone 2G without some tinkering.
  • You can forward SMS or combine several SMS into one for forwarding
  • Search bar in the Mail app searches in sender recipient and Subject
  • Option "Load/Don't Load Remote Images" added in Mail settings
  • New action button in Photos lets you choose multiple pictures to attach to a mail message
  • You can now send full-res camera photos via email (but only when you copy and paste them in the email body as opposed to attaching them)
  • You can disable text message reminder alerts
  • You can disable text message previews

Camera

  • Camera displays last taken picture in lower left corner

Safari update

  • Safari gets password and auto fill managers
  • Anti-phishing tool in Mobile Safari. With support for the latest standards for secure access and information sharing on the web, Safari protects you. It includes built-in anti-phishing technology that detects fraudulent websites and support for EV (Extended Validation) Certificates.
  • Safari now has proxy support
  • Safari gets new Copy Link and Open in New Page commands
  • Faster JavaScript performance. Thanks to the new SquirelFish Extreme engine rendering HTML and especially JavaScript on the iPhone 3G with 3.0 OS is up to 2x faster than iPhones running previous 2.x OS. In the same time, the iPhone 3GS is up to 3x times faster in JavaScript benchmarks over iPhone 3G running on the same 3.0 OS.
  • New video streaming capabilities (HTML 5 video, h.264 and HTTP). Bitrate and data quality adjust to connection speed.
  • Auto-login for public Wi-Fi hotspots (ones that have login redirects)
  • Option to close a single web page in Safari page view, which immediately opens a new blank page

iPod player

  • iPod gets shake-to-shuffle function
  • iPod music library has its own local search now
  • Listening to music while charging the battery now displays the album art instead of the battery
  • Third-party apps can now get access to your iPod music library
  • Media scrubber allows more precise rewinding and fast-forwarding in music and video

YouTube app

  • Support for YouTube accounts (login) and YouTube subscriptions
  • You can see Comments in YouTube now
  • You can rate videos in YouTube

Notes

  • Notes can now be synced to third-party applications via iTunes
  • Swipe to delete notes in the Notes app
  • Scroll down in Notes app to reveal a local Notes search field

Calendar

  • Calendar gets Exchange support
  • Calendar gets CalDAV support now. CalDAV is a calendaring and scheduling client/server protocol designed to allow users to access calendar data on a server, and to schedule meetings with other users on that server or other servers. Google Calendar, Apple iCal or Yahoo calendar are just a couple of popular examples.

Bluetooth

  • Stereo A2DP Bluetooth streaming is on (not available to iPhone 2G)
  • Bluetooth peer-to-peer connection
  • Internet tethering is now supported both via Bluetooth and USB (but available only optionally via operator settings and not to iPhone 2G)

iTunes store and AppStore

  • You can create iTunes store account straight from the mobile
  • You can rent and purchase movies straight from the iPhone
  • You can manage iTunes/AppStore accounts straight from the device (for instance, toggle between two accounts you may have)
  • New way of browsing app screenshots in the AppStore - by scrolling sideways
  • Application subscriptions (for a monthly fee). Some applications will offer users services based on a monthly flat rate. AT&T Navigator is a nice example.
  • Third-party applications can now have In-App Purchases, meaning paid apps will be able to offer users optional upgrades or modules directly from the application environment (think an e-book reader with books available for purchases). Unfortunately, free apps will not be able to offer paid upgrades. The business model for in-app purchases will be the same as the current model: Apple gets 30 percent of the revenue, while developers take home 70 percent.

And the stuff iPhone OS failed to deliver

  • No Flash support in the web browser
  • Still no file manager (or any other way to see all your files in one place)
  • Still no vibration feedback when touching the screen
  • No Bluetooth file transfers between mobile devices (you cannot send a photo to another phone or even iPhone and you can't receive one as well)
  • Contacts lack a swipe-to-delete or mass delete feature (but you can swipe-to-delete individual phone numbers)
  • Lacking SMS/MMS features: No msg character counting, no delivery notifications
  • Lacking email features: no bulk "mark as read", no ZIP or RAR support in mail, mail search doesn't search in email body
  • No smart dialing (but Spotlight is a good substitute)
  • No TO-DO app (but can be installed additionally)
  • No turn-to-mute feature (though that's more of a gimmick)
  • The Lock screen could have accommodate some info plug-ins such as upcoming appointments and events, weather, stocks, news, RSS feeds, etc.
  • A Wireless manager would have made turning on/off 3G, GPS, Wi-Fi, Airplane mode, and Bluetooth much more user-friendly
  • Still no true multitasking support (but perhaps for the better, having in mind the already poor battery life)
  • The system-wide search Spotlight is often too slow to launch iPod tracks
  • You can't use the iPhone massive storage as a removable USB drive under Windows
  • The whole iPhone is too dependent on iTunes - you cannot upload one type of content (video, photos, apps) from two computers, iTunes behaves fairly poorly under Windows, a regular file management interface would have been much better
  • Still no DivX or XviD video support and no official third-party application to play that
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