Posted by: Bob Pfeiffer | June 12, 2009

iPhone 3G and 3Gs/OS 3.0

I have owned an iPhone 3G since it has been available in Canada. Now that the new iPhone 3Gs and OS 3.0 have been announced I thought I would put together a post about how I ended up with my iPhone 3G and what I think about the 3Gs (and OS 3.0)

I had been a Palm guy for many years but more recently became disappointed with Palm’s decisions and deliveries. My list of Palm devices includes:

  • Palm Personal (with 2Mb memory card upgrade)
  • Palm Vx
  • Palm M505
  • Palm Tungsten T
  • Palm T3
  • Treo 700p

The original Palm Personal was groundbreaking. There was nothing like it anywhere and for many years they were the runaway leaders in the PDA market.  I loved my Vx because it was the coolest and most useful device available.  However, Palm let their development slide over the next number of years and when I finally broke down and went from a PDA and phone to a smartphone and purchased the Treo, I was disappointed with it. I didn’t think it was a very good phone, it dropped calls, the volume controls were a constant struggle, the Bluetooth stack never worked correctly, applications constantly caused it to reset and the small screen was something that I never really got used to. I think that they rushed the Treo model out the door to be one of the first real smartphones but because it was just a PDA with cellular technology jammed in, it never really worked that well and they had no way of upgrading when other players started bringing out much better solutions.

I was hoping that Palm was going to come up with something new and exciting for a long time. There was a lot of talk of Linux and an all new design but it never materialized. When the first iPhone was announced, I thought it was the coolest thing but it didn’t do the things I was currently doing on my Treo and it didn’t have the ability to add apps so it was not a real option (also being in Canada made it complicated). When Apple put all the iPhone features into the new iPod Touch, I got excited. I didn’t really have a good mp3 player at the time and I thought the ability to browse the web and watch videos and podcasts on a small device was very attractive. I purchased one and within a couple of days I was totally hooked. A fantastic interface, great browsing experience and video podcasts in a great size to watch in bed. I made the decision at that point that when the iPhone was available in Canada and if it had the ability to add applications, I would be purchasing it. And that’s what happened. On July 11, 2008 it became available in Canada and at the same time, the app store was born. I spent the next month working to get out of my Telus contract and get rid of my Treo (this turned out to be more costly than I had anticipated) and then I finally bought my iPhone from Costco on August 9th.

Now I’m not saying that the iPhone is the best smartphone ever but just that it’s the best smartphone for me based on my wants and needs even 10 months later. It’s got a fantastic user interface, a great browser and the music and video interface is terrific (not surprising since it was Apple that put the term iPod in our lexicon forever). I had a few trepidations leaving the Palm world because I had been using my various PDAs for a huge number of things and I knew that at first the iPhone would not be able to completely take over all those functions but with the app store up and running I was encouraged that at some point or another either Apple would update the OS or somebody would come up with an app to do everything I was able to do on my Palm. The eReader software was available immediately so that was one box I could check on my list of things the iPhone needed to be able to do. Next eWallet became available shortly thereafter and I was able to take my Palm eWallet file and import it directly into the iPhone version and soon I had all my secure information with me. Another box checked off. In the 10 months since I’ve owned the iPhone, I have downloaded and tried many many apps and some have become staples that I use everyday. I am currently at 114 apps on my iPhone and counting.

However there are still a few issues with the iPhone that I would like resolved either with an Apple update or by a third party developer.

  • Calendar – The Apple calendar built into the iPhone seems to have been forgotten about when they were building and refining the basic PIM applications. Unlike Contacts, there are no linked fields  like addresses and phone numbers that you can later tap and either bring up Google Maps or dial the phone. Even though a new event in the Calendar does have a field for location, this location does nothing besides display in the event view. Why can’t I tap on this and bring up Google Maps. Why can’t I put a phone number in this field of a conference call event that I can tap and dial the number. It would be nice if I could add a contact to an event and then be able to tap on that contact name and bring up their profile in the Contacts app.  The repeating events dialog also needs to be upgraded. All you have is every day, week, 2 weeks, month and year. You can’t repeat every 3 weeks, or every 2nd monday of each month or every 2 years. It just seems unfinished. Another problem with Calendar is the Alerts. Unlike the Alarms or the Phone ringer, you cannot change what sound is played for an alert and the default one is not loud enough to really alert you unless you are in a quiet room. Also, why can’t the alert just keep going until you attend to it (like the Alarm app)? You only have a choice of 1 alert or 2 and the alert only lasts for about a second so hopefully you heard it. I would also like more options for the alerts like 0 minutes before (i.e. at the time of the event) and 3,4,5 or more hours before. I was hoping to see some developer like Agendus come up with an app to do all this stuff but because Apple doesn’t allow background applications and also is a little picky about allowing applications that duplicate native functionality, I am concerned that this may never happen. Maybe when they FINALLY give us push alerts some developer will step up to the plate.
  • voice dialing – This is something that baffles me. My old Motorola phone used to give me this capability but yet my 2 smartphones which are supposed to be the top of the line of “pocket computers” can’t get this right. Even with the new iPhone 3Gs, you still have to push a button on the phone itself to initiate the voice functionality. To be really useful, voice dialing needs to be activated by a bluetooth headset so you can keep the iPhone tucked away somewhere and never need to bring it out to make a call.
  • cut and paste – This is included in OS 3.0 finally but it’s something that should have been there since day 1.
  • Notes and ToDos – The current Notes application is pretty basic and not being able to sync notes is an issue. There also needs to be a basic ToDo app that also syncs.

Now that OS 3.0 is about to be released (c’mon June 17th!), let’s look at what’s included in that update and whether it fixes any of my issues:

  • Cut, Copy & Paste – as stated before this should have been there since day 1 but I’m glad it’s finally here.
  • Landscape Keyboard (in mail, message and notes) – it will be nice to view and type emails in landscape.
  • MMS – meh. I don’t send or receive MMS messages.
  • Spotlight Search – I’ve have to wait and see how useful this ends up being but with 8 pages of apps, it might be my main way of starting up apps.
  • Voice Memos – I already do this with a third party app but I’ve only recorded 1 or 2 memos so I don’t think this is a big deal.
  • Improved Calendar – on the Apple website they talk about creating meetings with Exchange ActiveSync and CalDAV support. If this is all the changes they’ve made with Calendar and nothing of what I mentioned above, I’ll be very disappointed.
  • Buy TV, Movies and Audiobooks – don’t care about this. TV downloads will be very limited as I’m in Canada, and I don’t buy movies or audiobooks from Apple.
  • Enhanced Stock App – I don’t think ANYBODY cares about this.
  • Safari Improvements – faster browsing sounds great and I love that they are adding autofill.
  • Internet Tethering – looks like Rogers is going to allow this but personally, I don’t think I’ll ever end up using it. But for that 1 time I need it, it’ll be worth it.
  • Stereo Bluetooth – this is another thing that should’ve been there since day 1. I mean you’ve got a bluetooth transmitter in the device, why wait to give us A2DP?
  • Automatic Wi-Fi Login – Good
  • Sync Notes – as I said above, this was needed but where’s the To-Do app?
  • Parental Controls – don’t need ‘em. However, forcing apps and media to add age ratings could possibly mean that Apple will allow more risqué stuff to go through the iTunes store.
  • iTunes Store Account – allowing me to log into more than one account from the iPhone will be nice.
  • YouTube login – don’t care.
  • Shake to Shuffle – don’t care.
  • New Languages – don’t care.
  • Find My Phone and Remote Wipe – I don’t want to pay for MobileMe to get this service so I don’t care. Hopefully if I ever do need it, I can sign up at that time, use the service and then cancel my account. :)
  • Peer to Peer Games – This could be really cool.

Now let’s look at the iPhone 3Gs:

  • Faster Processor and more memory will make using the iPhone that much more pleasurable. It’s a great upgrade.
  • Video – this is a good feature but I just don’t take enough video for this to appeal to me.
  • New Camera – 3 mega-pixel, auto-focus is a nice improvement over the original crappy camera.
  • Voice Control – as I said above, it you cannot initiate this feature from a button on a Bluetooth headset, it’s useless for me.
  • Compass – it’s an OK feature but not something that I feel needs to be there.
  • Accessibility – Great for Apple to include this but not applicable for me.
  • Nike + iPod – Don’t care.

Overall the new features of the 3Gs are nice but there is nothing there that’s groundbreaking and OS 3.0 alone will add a lot more features for no extra cost. Since I’m not even 1 year into my 3 year Rogers contract, there is no upgrade path at this point anyways.

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