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  • The iPhone Report: Casual Observations on the 3.0 Upgrade

    June 24th, 2009

    I don’t really care if the decision came down from Steve Jobs, Tim Cook or another Apple executive, but the rollout of the new iPhone software was far less troublesome than last year. For one thing, Apple released it two days ahead of the unleashing of the iPhone 3GS (the space no longer is part of the name). In addition, they clearly tested 3.0 far more thoroughly, and it clearly doesn’t have all the ills that plagued the 2.0 upgrade.

    As you recall, Apple had to deliver several maintenance updates before things settled down, and even then I was the victim of occasional application crashes that returned me to the Home screen. Sometimes I even had to force a restart, and that happened either in Mail or Safari.

    That was yesterday.

    I often tell readers to be cautious about installing major upgrades, give it a few days for the dust to settle down, so we know if there are serious problems. But as a long-time early adopter, I seldom take that advice, so within five minutes after the iPhone 3.0 software was listed as available in iTunes, I was busy downloading it. Indeed, the installation went flawlessly, but I didn’t take the opportunity to put a stopwatch to the process. I just went back to work.

    Later on that morning, I disconnected my white iPhone 3G from its USB cable and did a little checking. For some reason, I wasn’t able to retrieve new email messages, so I restarted. After that everything worked flawlessly, something I can still say one week later.

    No I use the iPhone rather heavily for Internet access and phone calls, so it requires a daily recharge. I made special efforts to check image-laden email messages and the sites that would occasionally cause Safari to quit. It was all quite uneventful.

    Over the first week, I also noticed noticeably snappier performance, from switching and launching apps to accessing my favorite Internet haunts. The improvement probably isn’t sufficient to be measurable, although it does seem I save a second or two on retrieving most sites.

    The long-delayed cut, copy and paste feature works well, but it’s easy to confuse the finger motions with the one that simply magnifies text. You get used to it after a while, but I wonder why this issue is seldom mentioned. Maybe it’s just me.

    An AIM 3 came out days after the iPhone upgrade, so I was able to give Push Notification a try. It’s real simple, actually. If you’re doing something else on your iPhone, you’ll see a notice on the screen about instant messages waiting in AIM. The pop-up menu is not dissimilar from the one you already seen when SMS messages arrive.

    One positive note in all of this is the fact that nothing seems to have deteriorated in any way. Call quality and connection reliability are about the same, which for AT&T means fairly good, but not quite perfect. Sure we know AT&T is late to the party with tethering — so you can use your iPhone as a wireless modem with your Mac or PC — and MMS support. But these issues are secondary to the network, and it’s fair to say that AT&T has gotten better. Dropped calls are less frequent than they used to be, and most of the test spots in my neighborhood deliver a fairly decent 3G connection, though it drops to EDGE with a single bar at one highly-trafficked area about a mile from here.

    I wonder if all that talk about Apple cutting a deal with Verizon Wireless when the AT&T contract expires is partly designed to throw some uncertainty into the consciousness of the latter’s executives. When the iPhone first came out, they were barely prepared to handle the load on their network. Maybe they didn’t expect sales to take off so fast, or customers to use their browsers so often, but that’s their fault. They should have been prepared, though it’s also true that network upgrades don’t happen instantaneously. It may take years to make the requisite improvements.

    In saying that, if AT&T hopes to double the speed of their 3G connections, the better to support the 3GS, they better hurry fast. Otherwise, they will get tons of complaints from people who find Internet access has scarcely improved.

    All in all, the iPhone 3.0 upgrade gets an “A,” and AT&T gets a “B,” with plenty of room for improvement. I should tell you, though, that I’m glad they made their upgrade policies somewhat more lenient for many of their customers who bought an iPhone 3G last year.

    Since I won’t have to pay a penalty, I already have a 3GS on order from Apple’s online store. Sure, I could have just picked one up at an Apple Store in this area, but I’m in no rush. I didn’t even pay extra for speedier shipping. But I will have mine no later than the middle of next week, and I’ll report my experiences early on. They will, by the way, be real experiences from an owner and not those of a writer who gets a couple of weeks to play with a new tech toy and then has to send it back. My new iPhone 3GS is a gadget I plan to use every single day for a number of hours. And my son, due back shortly from his gig in Spain, is hinting he wants my 3G. I’ll think about it!



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