Tuesday, June 30, 2009

iPhone 3.0: 10 Hidden Features in Latest Update

With the recent release of the iPhone 3.0 software update there are many hidden and undocumented features popping up now that people have had time to play around with the new iPhone OS. Here is a compiled list from PC World of the top 10 unknown features of the new operating system and some of my thoughts.

Adjustable Song Scrolling Speed

When previously listening to a song on your iPhone, there was just a simple dot on the song bar to rewind or fast forward your music. However, in the new 3.0 software update, you can now scroll through songs at various speeds by using different movements with your finger. Normally, if you drag your finger left or right on the song bar, you will scroll through a song at "high speed". But, if you do this movement while dragging your finger down the screen, then the speed will decrease to "half speed," "quarter speed," or "fine scrubbing." While its unclear at this moment if this feature works with movies I still have to say the adjustable scrolling speed is a great addition to the iPhone, especially for music lovers.

Special Characters In Messaging

The 3.0 keyboard has a few new features such as special characters and a quick punctuation feature while typing in letter mode. Some of the new special characters are activated when holding down certain keys and signs. For example, if you hold down the "." you also get an option to choose "...". The dash"-" also displays an em-dash "-" while the quotations and apostrophes display "<<" and ">>" respectively. While I'm all for making typing quicker and easier, is there really any use in providing functionality for the ">>" and "<<" symbols?

More Ways to Access Spotlight

Spotlight, the search function that lets you look through your e-mail, contacts, appointments, and notes can now be accessed and opened in many different ways. Your Mail and Contacts screen now how a search bar at the top of the list for spotlight and spotlight can even be accessed quickly from the home screen by swiping towards the right side of the screen. To me, it seems that the spotlight function being added to the contacts and e-mail sections of the iPhone should of been a no-brainer in previous operating systems but its great to finally see them implemented.

Quote Fragment Within Reply in Mail

The Mail app in the iPhone 3.0 update can now reply with a quote from the original e-mail. In order to do so, you need to tap and hold while viewing an e-mail (just like with copy/paste) and select the portion of the text that you want to quote. Then simply hit the reply button and the selected text will be appended to the end of your e-mail under your signature. This seems to be an easy way to reply to specific parts of an e-mail without confusing the other reader.

Remove Individual Texts from A Conversation

One of the biggest annoyances in the iPhone 2.X software was that you had to remove an entire conversation of text messages instead of deleting parts. In the new 3.0 update, there is an Edit button which allows you to select and remove individual text messages from a certain tree, similar to the way it is done in the mail app. In this way, you can also select a text to forward instead of copy and pasting the text itself. This is a great way to keep track of important texts for later reference without having to keep all the extra junk attached.

Open Link In New Tab In Safari

Safari now uses tabbed browsing just like explorers on a desktop. When browsing all you have to do is tap and hold on a hyperlink and you will be prompted with dialog to open this link, copy it, or open it in a new tab, just like Firefox or IE. This is a great step forward in multi-tasking on the iPhone.

Force Quit Unresponsive Apps

Due to the many functionalities of the Home button on the iPhone, this key will no longer force quit unresponsive apps like it did in the previous version. To force quit an application in 3.0, you will now have to hold the sleep/wake button at the top until the red power off slider appears. You will then have to hold down the home button to quit the unresponsive application. While this will probably seem like a hassle at first since you will be accustomed to the old way of quitting applications, it seems that it was a necessary change to due the many functions already associated with the home key.

Change App Store Account On The Fly

In the old days you were stuck changing your iTunes account from your computer and then syncing back up with the iPhone. In the 3.0 software you can now change your account two different ways. The first by going to Settings/Store and logging out and then back in with a different account. The second way of changing your iTunes account is by going straight within the App Store application. At the bottom of each search page your account will be displayed and if you tap on it you will be able to view your account information and even change it.

Unlimited Number of Apps Installed

In the 3.0 software update you can now install an unlimited number of applications on your iPhone with space permitting. The number of application pages themselves has increased from nine to eleven and should applications be installed above the 176 mark, (i.e. they can't fit on the applications page), then these applications can be accessed through spotlight. Its great that iPhones can now have unlimited applications but what I don't get is why they couldn't just make an unlimited amount of application pages with the option to access any of them through spotlight.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

iPhone 3G S making waves, and not the good kind

On Tuesday June 9th, Apple made the much anticipated announcement of the new iPhone, the iPhone 3G S. The excitement was building to a level I had not seen before, and especially being kind of "non-techy" it nearly shocked me to see grown men and women acting like children on Christmas eve. Actually, I really think it may have been bigger than that, I think I'm going to go so far as to say the the behavior I saw in friends and across the Internet was more closely related to the fanaticism you see when you look at a pre-teen who is just about to meet her favorite Jonas brother.

Normally I wouldn't follow such a thing, an iPhone is just another cool phone to me. And in full disclosure, I don't own one, I have a BlackBerry. Perhaps that was my problem. That being said, I was interested in what the new iPhone would be like, what new features it would have, and how much it would make the old iPhone look like a 1985 Macintosh. So I watched, read, checked out the twitter trending topic. The second Steve Jobs spoke, his words literally flooded my computer screen at an amazing pace. I got all the info I needed, it wasn't much of a difference. You get a compass and a few features AT&T won't allow the iPhone users to access, at least not until the end of the year anyway. So, that lead me to think, "What are the iPhone junkies thinking now? That's got to be a let down, a huge let down." I was wrong. The excitement grew as the release date was announced and iPhone junkies were ecstatic, until they read the fine print.

According to the AT&T website, the iPhone 3G S pre-orders will start to show up on doorsteps June 19th. But before that can happen, current iPhone users looking for an upgrade need to make a huge decision. Right now (Thursday June 11th 10PM CST) current users have three options to purchase a new iphone, the first: pay to upgrade. This would be anywhere from $399 (16GB) - $499 (32GB) just for the phone. This isn't including the $18 upgrade fee, the additional $18 "one-time AT&T upgrade fee" or the extra $30 per month mandatory data plan. The second option: cancel your contract. Yep. You heard it right. AT&T customer service reps are actually telling irrate iPhone users that if they don't want to pay the full price to upgrade their phone they can cancel their contracts and start over as a "new" customer. But its going to cost you. The early termination fee is $175. I bet you're thinking, "Great, I'll take it!" But there's a catch. You then have to wait 90 days (after losing your phone number) to get a new contract with AT&T. And you'll still be paying $199 or $299 for your phone. The third option: wait until your contract is up and you can upgrade without all the hoops and extra cost. I'm sure by then a new iPhone will be released and you can, once again, be back up to speed with the rest of civilization.

So aside from the obvious bind this puts most "tech junkies" in, it also creates some moral questions. Especially since you, the customer, signed a contract with a company stating that you will be a customer for 2 years in exchange for the subsidized price on the iPhone you purchased last year. So based on my course work in the subject of "Life" and contracts, one would only assume that you are not entitled to a "discount" upgrade in the middle of your contract since you haven't totally fulfilled your part of the agreement. Sure, you can pay the $175 and you're all square, AT&T gets its subsidized money back and you are now free from your contract and the proud owner of an outdated iPhone that you can't use. Seems fair to me. According to a few blogs I've read this week pertaining to this issue, many customers have been loyal to AT&T and the iPhone brand and now they feel betrayed. From a business standpoint, you want a $500 phone for $250, I (as the business owner) will give you the phone for $250 in exchange for you signing a contract that you will be my customer for 2 years, I'll even give you a discounted upgrade at the end of those two years for staying loyal to me. Seems fair to me, and one heck of a deal.

I guess we will all just have to wait and see what Apple and AT&T do next. Perhaps Apple will issue everyone who upgrades and pays full price for the iPhone 3G S a $50 iTunes credit or an Apple store discount for life. Who knows. But all that I'm seeing now is a bunch of grown men and women literally crying over this piece of metal and plastic. Its a phone. Yes, its an iPhone. But its still JUST a phone. If you want it bad enough I guess you're just going to have to do what you need to do to get it. And for some, no price is too high to be the first to own something that everyone will have soon enough.