Hands on: iPhone 3.0 review

17th Jun 2009 | 17:28

Hands on: iPhone 3.0 review

Do you need an iPhone 3G S when your 3G does 3.0?

Hands on with iPhone 3.0

When O2 customers moaned about iPhone 3G S upgrades, the firm was quick to point out that version 3.0 of the iPhone OS would deliver almost everything the 3G S offered - without the pant-threateningly expensive upgrade prices.

So now it's here, is O2 right? Is Version 3.0 a whole new iPhone?

As far as everyday usability is concerned, iPhone 3.0 delivers three key features: copying and pasting, Spotlight searching and more use of the landscape keyboard. You now get a landscape keyboard in Mail, Messages and Notes, and the new developer APIs should see it in third-party apps, too.

However, we have one big reservation about the keyboard, and that's its size: it's still useless for fingers, but by taking the full width of the screen it's too wide for thumbs. For us at least, it's an ergonomic disaster area.


GO WIDE: The landscape keyboard is now available in Messages, Mail and Notes. The proportions are weird, though, and we found it very uncomfortable

With the arrival of Spotlight you can now search your iPhone in the same way as you search your Mac. Well, almost. While Spotlight does a decent job of phone-wide searches - for example searching for a name will bring up results from your Address Book, from Mail and from any other apps such as Calendar that contain that person's name - it's inevitably less powerful than its desktop equivalent, especially on email. You can search message titles and senders, but not the content of email messages.


SEARCH: Spotlight delivers quick and easy searching across your iPhone

iPhone copy and paste

FINALLY: Cut, copy and paste works flawlessly. You can also use it to copy URLs from Safari or images from your photo library

Copy and Paste is much more successful. Holding your finger on an object enables you to drag a selection area for text, and you can then cut, copy or select all; switch to your destination app, hold your finger down again and the paste option springs up. It doesn't just work for text: you can also copy photos, so for example you can copy a picture from your camera roll and paste it into an email or MMS, and it can also copy URLs from Safari's address bar.

Did we mention MMS? That's now implemented in the SMS application, now renamed Messages, although it comes at a price: the application is noticeably slower to load in version 3.0.


MMS: The Messages application feels very sluggish

Other goodies in iPhone 3.0

Other goodies in iPhone 3.0

Maps and Safari boast improvements under the hood that make a big improvement to page rendering times - Maps in particular is dramatically faster - and the browser now warns you of fraudulent sites. It also gets autofill, so it can populate forms with data from your Address Book entry, and you can use Settings > General > Restrictions to stop the kids going online.


FASTER RENDERING: Maps goes like lightning

If you have a MobileMe account you'll also be able to remotely wipe your phone if it gets nicked, and Calendar now supports Exchange ActiveSync and the CalDAV calendar standard.

iTunes now enables you to download audiobooks, movies and iTunes U content directly to your phone, and you can also redeem gift cards without rushing home to your PC.


ITUNES: You can now redeem gift cards from your phone

The new Voice Memos application enables you to record - yes! - voice memos. We're not sure why it doesn't have the voice control features of the iPhone 3G S, however: we can't think of any technical reason why it couldn't work on an iPhone 3G.

Voice memo

VOICE MEMOS: 3.0 delivers voice recording, but not voice control features available to iPhone 3G S users

Last and probably least, you can shake your iPhone to undo the most recent action or to change the currently playing song. It's a gimmick rather than a useful feature - hitting delete a few times is much faster and more reliable - and we can only assume Apple's stuck it into 3.0 to annoy joggers.

More to come

We suspect that the most interesting things about 3.0 won't appear until third-party developers start exploring them.

Bluetooth support should enable local multiplayer games, push notification will make it easier for applications to let you know important information, device support may herald a new wave of intelligent accessories, and in-app purchasing will enable game developers and media firms to offer extra content such as downloadable game levels or premium subscriptions.

Who knows, we might even see third-party keyboards.

So is 3.0 enough to convince you not to buy a 3G S? We think so - unless, that is, you really want to record video, have a digital compass or get significantly longer battery life.

Until third party developers really start to take advantage of the new APIs it's evolution rather than revolution, but it does keep your phone current without forcing you to shell out any more cash.


Liked this? Then check out 12 things you need to know about iPhone 3.0

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