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Monday, August 04, 2008, 05:00 am PT (08:00 am ET)

Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone 3G Software


Software Flaws and Limitations

There are also a number of issues left unaddressed in iPhone 2.0.

Bluetooth: No support for A2DP stereo headphones, file transfer, data sync, tether or dialup networking, serial support for GPS or barcode readers, keyboard input, or mouse output support, or other standard Bluetooth profiles. Apple has to supply this support itself, as the iPhone SDK does not allow third party developers to directly access the hardware. Users have also reported some new Bluetooth issues with a refusal to sync data with certain car integration systems and an echoing audio problem.

Calendar: You can not change the calendar of an event after it has been created. You can no longer select which calendars you want to keep in sync when using push updating instead of iTunes, and you can't sync in events from subscribed calendars without manually importing them (and losing the dynamic updates).

Camera: There's no new photo capture features. No video support, no shutter timer, no camera settings or other adjustments. The unchanged software shutter button is hard to target, particularly if you're trying to include yourself in the shot. The Camera app will also still rapidly kill the battery if it's left open as the foreground application.

Contacts is absurdly slow to the point of being nearly unusable. How it escaped from Apple's labs is an embarrassing mystery. There's also no way to create or delete a contact group on the iPhone, or move a contact to a group. Also missing is any to do event display and any capacity to sync to do events with iCal, MobileMe, or Exchange Server. 

iPod: No way to create a playlist and select songs and put into it. There's also no way to search for songs, an interesting omission now that the interface for Apple's Remote app lets you search the contents of remote iTunes systems (below left). Remote also provides separate listings of Movies, Music Videos, and TV Shows (below right), while the local iPod interface only shows Videos (below middle). Expect that to catch up quickly.

iPhone 3G


Keyboard: There's still no forward delete, requiring tedious precision in positioning the magnifying glass to correct a word. There's still no mechanism for copy and paste, nor a way to simply add shortcuts (typing a short letter sequence to enter a long phrase or section of text). Keepers of complaint lists also like to point out that most apps don't present a landscape keyboard, but the iPhone keyboard simply works better in vertical mode (below), is easier to type on, and leaves more usable screen real estate open. The landscape keyboard presents fatter keys with wider spacing that are paradoxically harder to hit quickly. It's not better.

iPhone 3G


Mail still lacks a unified mailbox, so if you check messages from multiple accounts, you have to browse the messages from each separately. There's also no way to search email, sort or filter by sender or other criteria. The Mail app also does not support sending messages from the alias email addresses configured on the account (as desktop Mail does), nor does it support syncing over or selecting from multiple email signatures, or the use of certificates to sign or encrypt sent emails. You also can't address an email to a group in Contacts. There's also no way to flag messages or mark them as unread (on the message itself, if you tap details in the upper right, more heading info appears with the option to "mark as unread"), or set priority on outgoing emails.

Maps: While the original Maps app blew us away, the latest version is not really improved at all. Where is Google traffic info (Google Traffic actually is supported), and what about Street Views, or Terrain mode? And how about consulting Google transit and walking directions for instructions on how to get to your destination without burning $5 a gallon gas? And while we're at it, how about integrating NextBus information? Google has already done the heavy lifting here, so Apple just needs to add support to its iPhone client software to present this rich (and free) information.

Notes: Still does not sync to the desktop, MobileMe, or Exchange Server, despite the addition of iPhone-looking Notes (and To Dos) that appeared in Leopard Mail. This can't be too far away however. Also no way to send a note out as an SMS. John Gruber is probably not pleased that Apple is still using Marker Felt (the long time companion of Comic Sans) while offering no alternative font in Notes.

Phone: No speed dial apart from the favorites list. No voice activated dialing. There's no way to export the list of calls you've made or received that the iPhone keeps track of internally. It would be great if this data synced into your desktop Address Book to provide a listing of dates and times you've called each contact. There's also no simple way to record and export voicemail messages to your desktop.

Photos: No way to create or delete photo albums. No way to pull up a map of the location of a geotagged photo.

Roaming: You can't reliably choose your roaming provider when traveling overseas. If you have to pay carriers through the nose to use the iPhone internationally, you should at least be able to pick which provider you want to use (such as the one that has the best service for the area you are in). Unfortunately, while the UI is there under Settings, it simply doesn't work to select a specific carrier rather than allowing the iPhone to pick its own provider automatically.

Safari: Bookmarks sync, but your desktop history does not. It would often come in handy to be able to reference a webpage you viewed earlier at home but didn't bookmark.

SMS: Can be dreadfully slow to start up. Initiating a new SMS can kick off a dead stall that lasts for more than 30 seconds. No ability to export your SMS conversations. No way to send or receive MMS picture messages. AT&T will relay a text message with a username and password you can use to log into their website to view a sent MMS photo, but the process isn't automated. It should send a URL that would open itself in mobile Safari.

On page 4 of 4: New but awful in iPhone 2.0; and Storm before the calm.