For the past week, I've been able to play with the beta version on the new iPhone OS 3.0. As you probably know, the 3.0 update brings a long list of features to the iPhone including multimedia messaging, cut and paste and a landscape keyboard. As I said last week, iPhone 3.0 has more many more hits than misses, particularly since it finally adds some very basic features that almost every other cell phone has.
Since this is a beta version, I'm not going to get hung up on the obvious bugs. Yes, my iPhone is much slower, and it has a tendency to crash more often, but such problems are to be expected on an OS that's not quite ready for the real world. Instead, I will tell you about my general experience form a usability standpoint.
Cut, cop and paste This is just as Apple execs described at the OS 3.0 announcement. Just double tap a selection to get the cut/copy/paste commands to appear. You then can change the highlighted area by dragging the blue "grab points" around the page. Once you get to your pasting area, just tap the screen again and select the "paste" button. I like the "shake to undo" option, as well. There's just one caveat: at present it seems to be working for notes only.
Landscape keyboard This is one of those "careful what you wish for" situations. After haranguing Apple over the past twenty months to give us a landscape keyboard for texting, notes and e-mail, I have to admit that it does take some acclimation now that I have it. Though the landscape keyboard is much wider with larger buttons, it's also a lot shorter. It did take me a couple of days to get the hang of it. Don't think that I'm not complaining, though, as it's quite the opposite. I love being able to use two hands, but I had grown accustomed to the one finger tap dance on the vertical keyboard. On the other hand, the new ability to view my e-mail inbox in landscape mode is very welcome.
Multimedia messaging While the process is easy, I haven't been able to actually send a message to a phone number just yet. Each time I tried, the connection timed out so I assume that AT&T hasn't readied things on its end. I also wasn't able to receive an MMS without the tedious process of clicking the link to to see the image.
Like with other cell phones, you can start an MMS while in the messaging application or you can pick a photo first and then send it in a message. It's an intuitive process in either case--the photo appears in the typing area of the message application and you can delete it if you change your mind.
Text messaging Deleting and forwarding individual messages in a texting thread works just like the e-mail app. When you select the "edit" button, small dots appear next to each message. Hits the dots for your desired messages before pressing the "delete" or "forward" options.
Spotlight Spotlight is a simple affair, as well. As you type in a search term the results appear below the search bar. What's more, the results are grouped together by category for easy navigation. Swiping to the Spotlight screen was a bit sluggish, but that should improve as the update is perfected.
Stereo Bluetooth I was very glad to see a stereo Bluetooth profile arrive with iPhone 3.0. I tested it with the LG HBS-250 stereo Bluetooth headset. The pairing process was easy and incident-free. In the music player, a small Bluetooth icon appears next to the player controls. Press it to route audio to the headset; you then can toggle back and forth between the speaker and the headset. Music quality was quite satisfactory--a big improvement over the iPhone's external speaker and on par with the standard wired headset. Of course, your experience will vary depending on which stereo headset you choose.
Camera upgrades After you take a photo, a tiny version of the shot will appear in the bottom left corner of the viewfinder. Tapping that image will take you directly to the photo viewer.
Safari In the browser, a useful upgrade makes it easier to open links. If you tap and hold on a Web link, a new menu will appear with choices to open the link, open it in another page, save an image, or copy the link.
Other additions The other new features, like the voice recording app, the shake to shuffle feature, the revamped stocks app and the forwarding of text contacts and meeting invites, worked exactly as described, which is to say they're simple and intuitive.
That's about it for now. I'll continue to play it with over the next couple of weeks and you can be assured that I'll give a full report when iPhone OS 3.0 becomes available this summer. Hopefully, I'll get to check it out on the next version of the iPhone hardware.