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  • iPhone 2.0: Direct From New Zealand!

    July 10th, 2008

    First of all, The Night Owl will never write a story about beta software that isn’t supposed to be distributed to the public. I won’t report on something acquired illegally either, because I don’t do that sort of thing. However, it is also true that the iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 software were both released around the world on a staggered rollout schedule, depending on your local time. So, for example, residents of, say, New Zealand, got theirs the day before customers in the U.S.A.

    Of course, once the firmware update became available, you were readily able to locate a number of direct links, so you didn’t have to wait for it to arrive in your city. It’s all been well publicized, and I won’t tell you specifically where you might find your copy, as it’ll be available in your country by the time most of you read this article.

    So for once I didn’t have to feel tempted to impersonate Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal or my old friend David Pogue of The New York Times to get an early look at something new from Apple. Or simply felt a little left out, because my skills at impersonating anyone are extremely limited. Even better, I didn’t have to violate any laws by using pirated software, and that makes me happy.

    However, this update I installed wasn’t automatically located by clicking Check for Update in iTunes. Since I downloaded the file directly, I had to use the Option key shortcut when activating the Update function, which let me locate the file on my Mac’s hard drive.

    In any case, I still did the iPhone 2.0 upgrade with not a little trepidation, fearing that, perhaps, using a firmware upgrade designated for another country might do my iPhone in and create problems. Happily, this is a world phone and that didn’t happen, although the default time zone was clearly way, way off. That oddity, however, was readily fixed.

    Otherwise, the installation process, while far more lengthy than any 1.x version, was uneventful, and I didn’t babysit the process, other than to OK restoration of my previous settings and data.

    The number of surface changes in iPhone 2.0 are fairly limited, actually, although some of them are quite significant. According to Apple’s site, which may be updated from time to time, the arrival of the App Store holds the most promise, because it means that you’ll be able to download and install hundreds or perhaps thousands of third-party applications to expand the scope of your iPhone.

    Before I get to the other features, I did try a single application, AOL’s Instant Messenger, a free app that was first on the App Store list when I checked it after the firmware update. Download and setup was quick. I clicked the Free button and, on the next screen, Install. Within a few seconds, the telltale AIM icon was on my iPhone’s home page.

    Now one of the concerns that have been voiced is the fact that application’s can’t run in the background on an iPhone, according to Apple’s strictly-enforced guidelines, because it would suck up huge chunks of battery power. And with a sealed battery, it’s not as if you can just change it.

    However, as I moved back and forth through different applications and returned to AIM, it actually seemed as if I was still signed on. So I suppose it’s a matter of somehow suspending your connection to the AIM network when the application is quit, so you’re rapidly restored when you launch the application again. This is something that the programmers in our audience can better explain. Meantime, there will be a further update for the iPhone that will better tackle this dilemma in the fall.

    One of the key features Apple touts for iPhone 2.0 is native support for Microsoft Exchange. This may not hold out much significance for most of you, but if you require seamless connections to your office’s Exchange server for email, events and so on, it’s extremely significant. It also makes the iPhone a powerful player in the enterprise, an area where it can really excel.

    The other features don’t seem quite as outstanding. You can search your contacts, do a mass delete of your email, and view iWork and Microsoft PowerPoint attachments. You’ll also be able to rotate your iPhone with the Calculator app running, and have it turn into the scientific variety. As to MobileMe, well since it made a largely unflattering debut, because of constant outages, I’ll leave that for another article.

    A lot of critics have already voiced concerns about the features that didn’t make the cut. You can’t, for example, do voice dialing natively, even though that singular feature is available on the cheapest cell phone with Bluetooth capability. You also cannot use the standard Cut, Copy and Paste functions that have been part of the Mac OS since Day One. Of course, doing the latter with a touch keypad my be a trifle complicated, and Apple wants the interface to be seamless.

    I would look for some of these features to appear over time in future Apple updates. Meantime a third party is already touting a solution for voice dialing, but it’s not something I need. I use a car-based Bluetooth system that has its own voice capability, and it had no problems interfacing with iPhone 2.0.

    Right now, however, this is just an early look at the upgrade. I expect that most everyone with the original iPhone will install the new firmware within the first week, and then we’ll know about any bugs, such as crashes or performance anomalies.

    So far, however, things are rock stable, and I haven’t seen the return of those occasional browser crashes that afflicted my iPhone with the older firmware. However, frequent browsing could likely change that. Or not.

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