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iPhone OS 3.0 – First look

Posted on Wednesday 18 March 2009

Edit: Wow!! Beta 2 is out, and is running a lot smoother. Bugs that have been fixed are now crossed out.

iphone 3.0 home screenI installed the iPhone 3.0 beta OS tonight and am pretty impressed. If you are a registered iphone developer ($99), you can download the beta and install it on your phone. A warning though – according to the PDF apple provides, once you install the beta you cannot restore your phone to a previous version. So if the beta sucks, you’re out of luck (!).

Luckily, so far it doesn’t suck.

The update comes with an .ipsw file and no documentation. Double clicking it doesn’t work – you have to option-click (or alt-click in windows, I assume) the “restore” button in iTunes, and then it prompts you for a firmware file and you point it to your downloaded .ipsw file.

Back up your phone first by syncing it before installing, and all of your data will be saved.

The install took forever – maybe 30 minutes to install the OS, another hour to restore my backup, and then another hour and a half to install all of my applications. But I have over 140 applications and the rest is filled with music, so I was expecting this.

horizontal notes, copy and pasteThe first thing I tried to figure out was where notes would sync on the mac. They weren’t anywhere to be found in iTunes. They weren’t initially showing up in Mail either, but I tried composing a new note in Mail and then the rest of my iphone ones showed up. In Mail, they look exactly the same as on the iphone, and you can sort them by name or date. When I resynced, it successfully put my new notes from the mac back on the iphone. Unfortunately, todo items in mail still do not sync with the phone.

iphone 3.0 email searchNotes on the phone are searchable now, and the results show up as you type, which is great. Landscape typing in notes and mail is great too. You still can’t sort notes by name, which is annoying. But you can email notes, and now, you can copy and paste too! Copying and pasting worked between notes and between apps.

Mail has an awesome search function, and you can search by From, To, Subject, or All. Yahoo mail has a “continue search on server” function, for emails no longer on your phone, but it doesn’t seem to be working yet. Gmail and my other POP/IMAP email accounts do not have this function.

spotlight exampleSpotlight is fantastic. It searches your contacts first, and then apps, emails, and music come up a second or two later. The interface is great, the little category icons butt up against each other and knock each other out of the way as you scroll. It doesn’t seem to search bookmarks though. If you hit home in spotlight, it brings you back to the first page (which is to the right of spotlight).

I thought I was missing some apps at first, because I have three blank spots on the first page, but I think it just consolidated my three blank spots onto the first page, when they were on other pages before. (Edit: My custom Xcode apps were not installed automatically.) Every time I restore my phone my apps also get resorted into alphabetical order, more or less. This happened again today. However, I was really impressed that my app data was maintained–Amazon Kindle still knew what page I was in my Reacher novel, and VoiceNote’s files didn’t disappear. Whew!

iphone 3.0 horizontal mailCopy and paste is great, and is more intuitive than I thought, though its behavior differs per application. In notes, double clicking brings up a character-by-character selection box that allows you to cut, copy or paste. In mail though, you have to double click and then hold to bring up the selection box. Just holding brings up a “Select|Select All” dialog.

When you’re writing a mail, clicking and holding moves the magnifying glass. Double clicking and holding brings up the cut/copy/paste menu.

iphone 3.0 copy and paste in safariIn Safari, it’s the most different. You can still double click to zoom in or zoom out. Double click and holding, or just holding on a paragraph bring up the same copy menu. But this time, it’s contextual and based on paragraphs. A box appears with four dots on the top, bottom, left and right. You can drag the dots outward to expand other paragraphs or page elements, including photos and tables. However if you drag the side dots inward, the paragraph becomes a regular text selection. But you can’t edit the text selection start and end points. You can, it just wasn’t working on the particular page I was on.

The amount you can copy and paste seems to be unlimited. I copied the whole page of an NPR article, pasted it and emailed it to myself, and the images and layout came through perfectly in HTML format (using remote URLs for image srcs). I don’t think even outlook does this that well.

One disappointment: Since phone does not have a regular text field in the dialer, you can’t paste numbers into it to call.

Texting is much improved! There is a little camera icon where you can take a photo or “choose existing”, for MMS. I hear from gizmodo that MMS isn’t working yet–I haven’t tried. Also, doesn’t MMS support other content, such as videos? I wonder if the iphone supports receiving videos, sound, and animations. Still, sending photo MMS messages is a welcome addition.

iphone 3.0 SMS thread managementThere’s a new edit button in the threaded discussions, and if you click on it, each text bubble gets a dot next to it, similar to editing in mail. However, here you can delete or forward individual texts! You can even forward multiple messages — it appends them into one. Awesome.

The messages icon has changed–they removed SMS from it and call it Messages, since it’s an SMS and MMS app now. It looks kind of blank to me, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.

iphone 3.0 voice memoVoice memos is great–it’s a pretty app, with a mini analog VU meter at the bottom and a giant microphone. There’s a record button, which doubles as a pause button, and a stop button which doubles as a play/list recordings button to view your recordings. Memos are saved as m4a, which is impressive but annoying (aiff or wav would be better), but you can share them via email or MMS. Hmm. I wonder if other phones will support m4a. It probably converts them before sending them. Ok, so the voice memo program is how you would send an audio MMS to a friend–you have no option to attach an audio file in the messaging app. But as far as I can tell you can only send recordings from your iphone–you couldn’t send funny sound clips or music unless you rerecorded them. I still wish this phone had an accessible file system.

One downside to the voice memos – they don’t sync to your computer. Hey, actually they do. iTunes shows a new playlist on the iPhone called “Voice Memos”, but you can’t edit it or drag files from it. “Voice Memos” doesn’t show up in the iPod player on the phone, which is good. But the voice memos DO show up on your computer’s library in “Unknown Album” and in a Voice Memos playlist. Files are named with timestamps, such as 3/17/09. However it’s embarrassing that it puts them in your Library–imagine having your iTunes on shuffle at a party and then a memo comes up that says, “remind myself to fire Jenny,” or some personal journal entry or something.
I’m really excited for push notifications and turn-by-turn directions…We won’t get to see the fruit of this labor until the update is officially released and developers are allowed to publish 3.0 applications. I’m curious how push notifications will work (does the application get to do *anything* with the data coming in? Automatically or only if you allow it? What’s the limit on the length of data? I assume the popup notification allows you to open the application it’s attributed to, at least). Bluetooth sharing, custom protocols, bonjour, wifi sharing, voice and video streaming…this all looks very promising.

Google maps doesn’t look any different. I haven’t seen any fully embedded maps in 3.0 applications yet, obviously.

YouTube does not work! Every button in the application gives me the message “Cannot connect to YouTube”. When I click on the new “sign in” button I also get the same error. Embedded youtube links from safari do not work either. 🙁 I assume they will fix this soon. (Edit: this is a bug that occurs when you restore a backup on the phone.)

The first time I launched voicemail, it called it directly, but when I hung up and loaded the voicemail tab again, then visual voicemail loaded.

So far, other than YouTube, I’ve only noticed two things in 3.0 that are worse than 2.2.1. One, there are a few additional lags that have come up–one was displayed prominently when they demoed the messaging app in the keynote. I‘ve noticed especially in notes and mail, there are some new delays clicking on notes or messages, and delays when the apps first launch.

The other problem was I had difficulty connecting to my WIFI network at first once I first booted the phone. Previously the iphone had had no problem, in fact it connected faster and more reliably than any of my computers. But tonight I’ve had to connect three times. It could be a coincidence or it could be a 3.0 bug–only time will tell.

The app store still needs improvement–it’s exactly the same, too hard to find anything except for top 10 lists of apps. And video, access to the file system, categorization of apps, flash, etc. would all be nice. But overall, I’m *very* happy with this update.

iphone 3.0 youtube brokenAddendum after a couple more hours of playing. Youtube does not work at all. Neither does MMS (I tried). Hopefully they will fix this soon.

I found out the hard way this morning that the alarm clock no longer sounds or even vibrates if you have your phone in silent mode. (It used to). I just had this silent visual notification, “Alarm”, that I found 45 minutes later than I was supposed to get up. Thanks, iPhone! (My silent/vibrate-only ringtone on my home page should still work in normal mode).

Now you can turn off multiple audio notifications of text messages. Some people were thrilled when this was turned on, but I for one am glad to be able to turn it back off.

Camera has a new little thumbnail next to the shutter button that shows the last photo you took. It’s helpful to check if you took a blurry photo, but it just takes you back to the photo library. It’s also a little slow.

The iPhone seems to have a new way of handling WIFI authentication. At school for instance we have open WIFI but get redirected to a login page to log in with our school ID. Safari now has a new popup that shows this page. What’s amazing is that when I’m *checking my email*, a popup will come up with the HTML log in page to allow me to authenticate. I don’t know how it does this – the iphone must detect the redirection. Macs and PCs don’t even do this. When have you tried to check your mail and had Firefox pop up to allow you to authenticate with the router and finish checking your email?

Unfortunately, the pop up authentication doesn’t always work yet. Sometimes it like rotates itself and then you can’t see or type anymore. I can still authenticate with the original page in Safari though. I have noticed a couple more rotation bugs, such as in mail it sometimes doesn’t redraw right. It will be cool when they get this worked out.

iphone 3.0 autofillAutofill is great. It was greyed out at first–I had to turn it on in settings. It’s pretty clever–it detects email fields and uses your mail account data to fill in possible from: addresses as you type, with a little cancel “x” button similar to spell check, but yellow. It has some quirks–I started typing an @ symbol thinking that it would change my email address, and instead it auto-filled and then put the @ after my email. And I wish it used a dropdown autofill of possibilites instead of just one. But overall it’s a big timesaver, especially with passwords and that WIFI authentication screen mentioned above.

Safari now has “next” and “previous” buttons for forms similar to tab and shift-tab on a computer. These are a great time saver. However the cursor seems to have disappeared in forms, so it’s hard to see where you’re typing anymore! There’s also still a bug where the shift button is enabled but not highlighted when you start typing in forms.

Commenters have mentioned that there’s a “Find my iPhone” setting in mobileme. I haven’t played with this and it doesn’t seem to be working yet but it sounds cool. Thieves beware!

Contacts can be sorted into groups, but you can’t edit groups on the phone, so I assume you have to do this on the computer. I would love to have a phone-number only group, and am going to see if I can do this on the computer.

I’m noticing that the iPod app isn’t finding some songs it should. Like if I search for Passiflora in songs it can’t find it even though it’s in my playlists and library, and it can’t find Babel Gilberto if I search in artists. However it does search better if I search in spotlight (well, it finds Passiflora, but not Babel). It’d be neat if you could make playlists based on searches, but right now it doesn’t even play the temporary search list you created, instead it jumps to the album of the song you selected.

Mail…I still wish there were two more functions: Mark as read and Mark all as read. I could do this with windows mobile and it was a huge time saver.

I’m finding a couple more lags in Safari and other native apps that are frustrating. But in general third party apps are also more responsive, and shut down immediately if you hit home after accidentally clicking on one.

Shake to shuffle: it wasn’t working at first but now it is. Sweet! I think you just have to wait for the first song to play a while. Sometimes turning the shuffle button on and off first helps.

Another addendum after another day of playing.

Running into more crashes as commenters have mentioned. The most annoying is when the phone app itself crashes. Settings crashes too sometimes, often after you click on a setting that’s supposed to bring up another column. I’ve had two big crashes, once where sound wouldn’t play in any app and I couldn’t launch Ipod, another where the screen wouldn’t turn on. Apple, do you have a bug report page for this beta?? So far it’s always been recoverable but it definitely feels buggy. Obviously it’s buggy since it’s a beta, but after a few days’ use the bugs are becoming distracting.

Still more cool features though…In SMS, instead of a big black screen blocking the keyboard and showing a giant progress bar when you send a text, a tiny progress bar animates and shows up at the top and allows you to keep typing while it sends the first one. It doesn’t play the outgoing ichat noise anymore though once it sends. Also, as many users have complained, it still doesn’t allow you to cancel an outgoing text, and often it autocorrects the last word I typed and I still claw at the screen while I watch the spelling error send and I can’t do anything about it. Still though, the small progress bar and faster texting is an improvement.

theiphoneblog.com mentioned that the podcast interface is different and you can now download over 10 MB podcasts over 3G! Indeed the interface is different, and I love the changes. You can listen to podcasts at 2X or .5X speed. There is also a convenient back-30-seconds button which is useful since the tiny progress bar isn’t accurate enough for long podcasts. There also is a little mail icon that doesn’t seem to do anything yet. The new/half listened to / old blue dot indicator also doesn’t always seem to be working correctly, but the podcasts do resume where you left off.

I did get the new WIFI authentication screen to finally work, and I LOVE it! I love that if I need to authenticate when checking my mail I can do it in one step. I still don’t know how they did this–maybe it pings a test site on port 80 first and checks for a redirect before the POP/IMAP/exchange networking starts. The autofill buttons show up on the authentication page, but currently it is not possible to save/autofill the fields since the save password prompt would ordinarily appear on the next page in Safari, and instead you’re returned to mail. Hopefully that will be fixed, and then this will truly be an awesome function.

Users are reporting that some third party apps no longer work, like facebook. Edit: oh, this blog is right, images aren’t showing up in facebook. I thought I was just having network issues. He says, “we should just call it book.” LOL. He’s also having the same “Cannot connect to youtube” problem I’m having. I’ve found a bunch of solutions for my youtube problem on the web but they all require jailbreaking. *Shakes fist at apple*…Do you want to FORCE me to jailbreak?

There are reports of getting a 3G tethering hack working, but it sounds too risky and experimental so for now I think I’m going to wait.

More updates:

Probably the most annoying bug is SMS crashing on launch a lot. Sometimes the send progress bar gets stuck too and you can’t tell if it’s sent or not. Today I tried to send a group SMS, and it treated it like a group MMS and as a result it couldn’t send the message. (Edit: You can get this to work if you turn off MMS completely in settings.) I did get an error message though with the option to try deleting or try resending.

Google maps seems to be less accurate (5 blocks off, typically) and crashy too. For a couple days I thought it’d completely crashed on this one directions screen until I finally waited it out and it eventually woke up again.

I’m confident that these bugs will be fixed by launch. However, the more I think about push notifications the more I worry. I *always* keep push email off because it’s *such* a battery hog. I tried turning it on again with 3.0 and the phone was dead within 4 hours. I don’t think I was even using it. It may have just been a bug where some app was continuously trying to connect, but if this wasn’t a bug and battery life is this dismal with push, I don’t see how it’s going to be practical. (Edit: many users are confirming a battery life bug in 3.0, maybe having to do with wifi and not push.)

These are mostly just beta bug reports; I’m sure it will get better. I’ve used copy and paste a lot and search some–I keep forgetting it’s there but it’s super useful when I remember, especially for finding apps.

3/29 update
I heard that 3.0 works a lot better when you activate it as a new phone instead of restoring from backup and it’s true. I came up with this technique on my problems to solve blog for backing up my SMS messages into an excel sheet. (This only worked for messages pre-3.0 though.) I ran iphoto and downloaded all of my pictures, and synced in iTunes. Then, I option-restored the phone again with the 3.0 firmware.

What this does on the phone: You lose all your music and apps on the phone, obviously. But you also lose which apps and music iTunes is set to resync. Kind of a pain to set up again but not terrible. You lose all of your SMS and photos (hence my backing up above). Worst of all your app data appears to be lost (I had to do a lot of reconfiguring, and things like VoiceNotes are lost unless you backed up first).

Contacts, notes, and email were all resynced successfully. I had to manually set up my webmail accounts again and re-set up exchange.

This time, I installed a bare minimum of apps (it’s nice that you can keep them un-synced in iTunes and save them for later, so to speak). Even in 2.2.1, having 9 pages of apps = fail. Without that many apps, the phone is running a lot snappier.

Google maps seems to be running a lot better, though GPS is still sporadic. Mail is working well. Youtube works with the fresh restore! I had to reconfigure all of my phone settings and wifi. The annoying 30 second pause in settings especially in general > network is still there. All in all though the phone seems to be running better. A lot of the bugs seem to have cropped up when you try and restore from backup.

Beta 2 update
All in all MOST of the bugs I complained about were fixed. The safari rotation bookmark bug, GPS craziness, the settings hang, the google maps hang, the notes hang, the mail hang. The phone is a lot more usable!!

UNFORTUNATELY Youtube is broken and “cannot connect to youtube” AGAIN. This time I had restored from a backup from beta 1. Don’t really feel like starting from scratch and setting it up AGAIN, so I’m going to leave it for now.

I hear you can have 11 pages of apps now but haven’t tried. The only other bug I’ve noticed so far is WIFI won’t list your network in settings, but when you close settings you see it’s connected to your network automatically. Weird.

Facebook still cannot display photos. I don’t know if this is an API bug or an app bug.

One thing I keep forgetting to mention, is Safari is very stable and a lot faster. There has been some speculation that it is using a new javascript engine; All I know is that everything loads faster and it hasn’t crashed on me. Wohoo!

17 Comments for 'iPhone OS 3.0 – First look'

    March 18, 2009 | 1:09 pm

    I’ve searched around the entire messages app and settings app, enabled MMS but still can’t send images (tried via copy and paste and it pastes only the filename).

    I’ve discovered an option in the mobileme settings “Find my iPhone”. Anyone knows what’s about?

    March 18, 2009 | 3:11 pm

    Lorenzo–as far as I can tell MMS isn’t working yet. Neither is youtube. I think apple/AT&T is still working on it.
    As for Find my iPhone: I dunno but it sounds pretty rad.

    March 19, 2009 | 12:13 am

    hey, upgraded my iphone.. didnt take long.. my YouTube worked great (over 3G) and played video ok.

    March 19, 2009 | 1:15 am

    Hmm, thanks kiwi. All I can find is that a lot of other people are having this problem, though not necessarily on 3.0.

    March 19, 2009 | 8:00 am

    […] iPhone OS 3.0 – First look – One developer’s first […]

    March 19, 2009 | 11:13 am

    nice post. very detailed. too bad i was able to read it only after i upgraded to 3.0. all in all, 3.0 is very nice. the new features are very cool. i’m still contemplating on downgrading to 2.2.1.

    i think most of the problems are app-centric (facebook, omnifocus, etc). problem is, i dont think they’ll be be “3.0 compatible” before 3.0 ships out officially. kinda reminds me when leopard first came out. lots of incompatibility issues

    March 19, 2009 | 12:05 pm

    […] Despite the number of new features in 3.0, I’m still having some regret in upgrading.  It kinda reminds me of the time when Leopard first came out.  Apps need to be “Leopard-compatible”.  Maybe it’s the 3rd party apps’ fault.  That YouTube bug is unacceptable.  thatProblem is, since 3.0 is not official, they will probably release their updates  once 3.0 is out.  More info on 3.0’s shit can be found here and here. […]

    March 19, 2009 | 3:19 pm

    Pow, facebook works fine for me, but youtube does not. What problems with facebook are you having?

    March 19, 2009 | 9:02 pm

    My gmail account in the Mail app can continue searching on the server…

    I’ve noticed a few bugs/issues in OS 3.0:

    -very slow lag after manually entering a couple dozen contacts (exiting the app and reopening solved this)
    -in my gmail account, after i delete items from any folder other than the inbox, the back button in the upper left goes away. i have to exit the app and reopen to get it back.
    -when searching for apps in the app store, sometimes the search bar will disappear, much like the back button described above
    -when adding a bookmark in safari, the pop up page is way of the screen, totally misaligned.

    anyone else experiencing these?

    March 19, 2009 | 10:14 pm

    hi another update.. Safari hangs sometimes. Email app crashes occasionally. Seen some sluggishness in other apps such as NetNewsWire. Voice Memo app is cool. had it crash a couple of times too.

    March 19, 2009 | 11:16 pm

    hi jordan,

    no pictures on my facebook. some users are also experiencing that problem http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=669911

    anyone here who do not face problems with the facebook app?

    i also experience that bug when adding a bookmark in safari.

    looks like there are a variety of problems with 3.0. i think i can still consider myself lucky because i dont experience other people’s problem such as syncing and navigating the settings menu takes 30s to complete.

    fwiw, i’m using the 2g iphone. restore to 2.2.1 -> quickpwn -> upgrade to 3.0 -> setup as new phone

    March 24, 2009 | 9:56 am

    Great Read & i am having all the problems you are having. But no way back so just have to live with it. To FIX your YouTube Problems you need to restore the iPhone as a brand new phone do not restore from a back up. Yes it is a pain in the ass putting everything back on but it WORKS

    Let me know if it works for you

    March 31, 2009 | 2:31 pm

    Jordan, great informative blog!

    I have a question for you. I’ve noticed that 3.0 adds a new feature under Settings > Messages > Show Preview. There’s an On/Off toggle. Can you tell us what that does? Does it disable the annoying pop-up that I get whenever someone sends me a TXT message? I would love just to be notified once (vibrate or sound) without the message and sender pop-up…


    March 31, 2009 | 4:24 pm

    @Rye – Thanks!
    I believe that toggle was there since 2.0. With it off you’ll still get an alert but it won’t show the actual message. Some people like being able to see the message on the home screen even with the iphone passcode locked, but others want the privacy of not displaying the message. (There are some amusing “My GF texted me inappropriately while my boss was looking at it” stories out there!)

    April 1, 2009 | 8:47 am

    hmmm interesting. I didn’t see that option on my phone (2.2 software) I had to use the “trick” of setting the passcode lock and turning the preview off etc., and then (like you said) if someone borrows your phone to check a map or something, the text message pops right up!

    I really wish they would fix this. The iPhone is great; however, I find that it lacks a lot of basic phone functionality (just my little rant).


    April 1, 2009 | 11:07 am

    Agreed…My friend Air likes to tease, “Your phone can tell the future but it still can’t send picture messages.”

    April 26, 2009 | 7:32 am

    “The install took forever – maybe 30 minutes to install the OS, another hour to restore my backup, and then another hour and a half to install all of my applications. But I have over 140 applications and the rest is filled with music, so I was expecting this.”

    Does that mean, if i was to backup my up-to-date os2 iphone 3g (UK – 02) and then update properly (not jailbroken!) i can then restore my old backup and still have all my texts etc.?

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