Preview: iPhone OS 3.0 Software Walkthrough (Updated to Beta 5)

Our update iPhone 3.0 Walkthrough (release version) is now online. Please re-direct yourselves there.

(We'll keep this up for historical interest, however)

Just like January 2007 when Steve Jobs held up the first iPhone at Macworld and showed the world full screen multi-touch, and March 2008 when Jobs, along with Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall stood up at the Apple Town Hall and unveiled iPhone 2.0 and the App Store, this week Forstall and Greg Joswiack dropped iPhone 3.0 and... what exactly?

Let's take a walk through the first beta release of the software and find out together. Of course, this being a beta, come this "summer" when the final release version is made available to consumers (free for iPhone users, US$9.95 for iPod touch users), things could be a tad different. This is the way things are now, with the first beautiful, buggy beta into for developers to test Last year there were 8 betas between the first and the final release. Who knows how many there will be this time, and what may change between now and then. So don't take this as full feature review, just a preview.

What Hasn't Changed

We have a very full plate here with 3.0, so we'll start by clearing off what we can -- and it isn't much. Best as we can tell, this is what hasn't changed from iPhone 2.2.1:

  • Maps: While the SDK got a shot of Google Maps goodness in the form of imbed-able tiles and controls, it appears the app itself hasn't gotten any additions this time around.
  • Weather: Still unchanged from iPhone 1.0. Still no HTC TouchFlo 3D style animations, no landscape mode with more/different information. Nada.
  • Calculator: Upgraded back in 2.0 for landscape scientific mode, calculator doesn't sport any additions this time around.

Home Screen

At first glance the SpringBoard app behind the iPhone 3.0 Home Screen seems identical to earlier versions. Sure, the Stocks icon has had a make-over and, for some unfathomable reason, it appears a rogue designer snuck in and added diagonal pin stripes to the backgrounds of several icons, including Messages, Phone, and iPod.

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With Beta 2, the previous 9 pages, allowing 148 apps total, have been expanded to 11 pages, allowing 180 apps total.

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Not much else looks different. There are still tiny dots that signify your additional app screen. However, there's now an equally tiny magnifying glass icon to the left of them...

Spotlight

On the Mac, Spotlight is the system-wide indexing and search feature that allows you to find files by scouring through metadata and text strings. Apple re-purposes the name and icon here for a new, system-wide iPhone search feature that serves up Contact names, App names, iPod media file names, Email headers (from, to, and subject), and Calendar event names.

You can access Spotlight from the main/primary Home Screen by swiping from left to right, or by clicking the Home Button. When on the Spotlight Screen, you can return the main/primary Home Screen by swiping back from right to left, or clicking the Home Button again. (Yes, clicking Home will toggle you back and forth between those two screens).

Spotlight starts with a blacked-out screen with a search box on top and the portrait keyboard on the bottom (no landscape mode for Spotlight thus far). As you type, results begin to popular, narrowing as you refine your search term. At any point, you can tap on a Spotlight search result to launch the app and/or take you to the resulting content within an app.

Hitting the Search button on the keyboard will slide it away and give you full screen results. Or almost full screen. Since Spotlight is integrated into SpringBoard, the Dock is revealed along with the results so you can quickly launch any of your four docked apps (Phone, Mail, Safari, and iPod still being the defaults) as well.

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Messages

Messages replaces SMS as the top left-most app on the Home Screen, and is renamed to signify the addition of MMS (multi-media messaging service). It allows, in the case of the new iPhone OS 3.0 software, for pictures, vCards (contacts), audio, and location to be sent using the Messages interface to any other smartphone or feature-phone that supports MMS and those file types.

The details of MMS vary carrier to carrier. Not all carriers seem to have MMS enabled on their end yet, some do, and some error out. Not all 3.0 iPhones on all carriers seem to surface MMS functionality yet either. For example, some installs show a camera icon to the left of the text entry field for selecting a picture, while on others it's completely absent. Whether this will eventually become uniform or not on release, or whether it will still vary from carrier to carrier depending on which choose to support it, we have no idea (though we obviously hope for the former).

When the camera icon is there, tapping on it will bring up a requester asking you to select between Take Photo, Use Existing, or Cancel. Take Photo brings up the Camera app while Use Existing launches the Photo picker. If you take a photo, a Preview screen will appear asking if you want to Retake the photo or Use it. If you use it, the picture is then shown, thumbnail-sized, inside a typical bubble.

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Perhaps due to carrier issues, we're also unable to determine at this time whether you can initiate an audio, vCard, or location message from within the Messages app, or whether those have to begin with Share buttons in Voice Memos, Contacts, Maps, etc. (If you have the answer, drop us a comment).

The new, system-wide Cut, Copy, and Paste service has also been introduced into Messages. It works in a similar way to the implementation in the Notes app, and we'll cover it more fully there. One difference is that double tapping a previous SMS will give you the Copy popup allowing you to duplicate the entire contents of the SMS to the clip board. Tapping on an empty text entry box will launch the Paste popup, so you can stick the text back down in an message of your own. If the entry box already contains text, double tapping will select the closest word, and double tapping an holding will select the closet word and popup the loupe. See Notes for more on how all this works.

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Messages also now includes line-item deletion and forwarding. Tap the Edit button at the top right, select the messages you want, as many of them as you want, and then hit the red Delete button at the bottom, or the blue Forward button beside it. Edit still isn't the most elegant name for deletion or forwarding, mind you, but the functionality is consistent with the Mass Edit feature introduced in Mail in 2.0.

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Lastly, Apple has also answered the call for pervasive landscape-style keyboards, and Messages is one of the text-entry apps that received it. For those who want a Cadillac-wide typing experience, enjoy!

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Calendar

Calendar appears largely unchanged within the app itself. No landscape rotation for week view, no week view of any kind. What changes there are occur in the plumbing and are -- somewhat counter-intuitively at least for us -- hidden entirely away inside the Preferences app. That's a shame because they're rather significant: support for CalDAV and Subscribed Calendars.

Once added via Preferences, however, here's an example of how Subscribed Calendars look:

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Photos

The Photo app receives an update in the form of integration into the copy and MMS systems. Now, when in the Gallery view mode (where pictures are tiled in four columns of thumbnails), tapping on the Action button at the bottom left corner will no longer slide up a menu, but will place three buttons along the bottom: Share, Copy, and Delete.

Tapping on a thumbnail will select it (or de-select it if it has previously been selected). Selected photos are labeled with a red check mark icon in the lower right corner, and number of photos selected is reported in parenthesis and continuously updated beside each of the three buttons.

Tapping on Share button will let you send the photos via Email or MMS, Copy will place them on the clipboard, and Delete will trash them.

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New in Beta 4, you also get the same controls and ability to share photos when in landscape mode.

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In Beta 2, some well-buried screenshots were found by BGR which shows iPhone-shot video playback functionality. Whether this will be enabled for current iPhone 3G owners or require next generation hardware is unknown.

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Camera

Camera gets a minor tweak, replacing the Camera Roll icon with a tiny thumbnail of the last photo taken.

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A far more major tweak, currently not surfaced but discovered by MacRumors, shows off video recording and the control to toggle between still camera and video camera modes. As mentioned above, however, it's unknown if this functionality will be enabled for iPhone 3G owners or will require next generation hardware.

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Sharing to MobileMe has also been updated in Beta 3, with a new "Publishing to MobileMe" progress bar, and new options to view published items on MobileMe, or "tell a friend" (via MMS?).

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YouTube

The big news for the YouTube app in OS 3.0 is account integration. You can now enter your YouTube login information for access to your Subscriptions and Playlists.

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Stocks

The Stocks widget is still powered by Yahoo, and still lists your favorite stocks on top and a handy graph at the bottom. You can now swipe across that handy, however, to change it into a news feed or a more detailed set of information including opening price, high, low, volume, P/E, market cap, 52 week high, 52 week low, average volume, and yield.

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Rotating Stocks to landscape mode now expands the graph to full, wide screen mode. But there's more: youch a point on the graph and you get the exact price for that day, touch a second finger somewhere else on the graph and you get the difference in value between those two days (delta).

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Voice Memos

Following iTunes and App Store, Apple's third new built in app since launching the iPhone is also it's first non-Store-front. Voice Memos was relegated by default to the second Home Screen page, alongside the separate Contacts app, but as of Beta 3 it's now front and first page left-of center, shoving other apps aside a notch to claim its place.

(Note: Remote and Keynote, though from Apple, aren't built in to a firmware update and require download or purchase separately from the App Store.)

Voice Memos, from icon to main screen, pays homage to an old-style microphone (though, unlike Calculator, we don't believe it's one ever manufactured by Braun...). The bottom has buttons for Record and (a rather non-intuitive-looking stack of three horizontal lines for) Voice Memos that have previously been recorded. In the middle is a sound level meter.

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Tap Record to begin and the Record button becomes Pause, the More button becomes Stop, and the top of the screen flashes red to show you you're recording and the duration of the recording.

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When you're finished recording, the More page shows Voice Memos in a similar fashion to Visual Voice Mail in the Phone app. Tap a Voice Memo to play or pause it, toggle Speaker on or off, or use the buttons along the bottom to Share (via email or MMS) or Delete.

You can also tap the blue circles at the far right of each recording to slide into an Info screen where you can further tap to slide across to a Label screen pre-populated with tags including None, Podcast, Interview, Lecture, Idea, Meeting, Memo, and Custom. Choosing Custom slides another screen over where you can input your own Label names.

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Back on the Info screen, tapping on Trim Memo slides up a bare-bones editing interface for taking off any unwanted content from the beginning and/or end of your recording. Interestingly, Apple chose yellow for trim slider and Trim Voice Memo action button.

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Share on the Info screen does the same thing as the Share button on the Voice Memos screen. Convenience through repetition?

Notes

First up, you can now "swipe to delete" notes from the contests listing screen, just as you could "swipe to delete" email all the way back to the original iPhone OS. Consistency points!

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Next, like messages, Notes benefits from the several system-wide, or at least multi-app wide improvements in iPhone 3.0. The first is the pervasive landscape keyboard:

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The big thing, of course, is Cut/Copy and Paste. It works similarly -- though not identically -- across all applications, so we'll do the heavy lifting here. To start, double tap on some text. That will highlight the word and pop-up buttons for Cut, Copy, and Paste (the last of which only appears if there's text in the clipboard). You can also tap on an empty area to pop-up buttons for Select, Select All, and Paste. (Select highlight the closest word to the current cursor position).

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If you want to change the length of your selection, grab one of the blue dot handles on the top left or bottom right of your current selection and drag them in or out to add or subtract text. As you move the handles, a magnifying loupe will appear, similar to the round curser placement loupe that dates back to iPhone 1.0. This one, however, is a wide, rounded rectangle and lets you more precisely adjust your text selection.

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Selected text can then be cut out or copied to the clipboard, or replaced by pasting over text from the clipboard. Text can also be pasted at the current cursor location by double tapping to bring up the Select, Select All, and Paste pop up.

If at any time you either type or paste something in by mistake, Apple has added a gimmicky but semi-cool undo feature -- just shake your iPhone to call up an Undo, Redo, and Cancel dialog.

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(Note: While the Mail app, discussed below, gets similar Cut/Copy and Paste functionality, so do most 3rd part App Store application that use standard text input controls. Awesome).

Lastly, predictive text in general seems to have been improved as of Beta 3. Or rather, the dictionary that tries to guess and replace words as you type seems to have been updated.

Clock

Minor tweak only in Clock so far; you get a lap display in the upper right hand corner of the Stop Watch.

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Settings

As always, many of the small, yet more numerous changes Apple delivers in new firmware versions are tucked neatly away in the Settings app.

Wi-Fi increases the ease of logging into commercial-style Wi-Fi services, the kind that typically present a web-based password form for authentication. In Settings, you now have the option to toggle on Auto-Join, which we're assuming saves passwords for commercial, web-fronted WiFi services like you'd find at a hotel or coffee shop.

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Also, when you login, you get a special slide-up window with some new controls and an embeded web-view — no more app-jump to Safari.

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Along with the previously discussed copy and paste features -- and while it's not yet working -- it also looks like we'll be able to paste in Wi-Fi passwords. If this works by the final release, fans of super-strong, pseudo-random passwords -- the kind almost impossible to type by hand -- will be well pleased.

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Notifications gets its own top level button in Beta 3 and as of Beta 5 and Apple beginning Push Notification testing, not only can users globally or individually enable or disable Sounds, Alerts (text boxes), and/or Badges, but each app gets its own sub-screen to do likewise. (i.e. if you want Twitter to badge but not alert, IM to sound but not badge, etc. you can have it your way).

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As with GPS on iPhone 3G under OS 2.0, Push Notification-enabled apps will ask permission on launch, and give you a chance to choose "Don't Allow" or "Okay" on a per-app basis as well.

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General Settings, Usage, found buried in Beta 2 and shown by BGR, show off a toggle for Battery Percentage, which should allow for a more precise, numeric reading of battery level.

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General Settings, Network will apparently allow for Tethering to be enabled for those with carrier who choose to support it. Not surfaced in the current 3.0 Beta 1, MacRumors reported that some enterprising developers had found it and got it working none the less.

Their screen captures show options to enable Tethering for USB and/or Bluetooth, and when tethered, the Home Screen with a blue Internet Tethering band across the top, similar to the green band that currently denotes an active phone call.

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General Settings, Location, when viewed with debug menus enabled under Beta 5, reveals settings for a digital compass, which would require new iPhone hardware (via BGR)

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General Settings, Restrictions now provide more in the way of Parental Controls. First off, iPod has been removed from the top menu and Location has been added. A secondary menu has now been added below to provide more granular control over iPod content, allowing you to select which country/region ratings you use, and then set Music & Podcasts, Movies, and TV Shows. Control for Apps is at the very bottom.

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iPhone 3.0 Beta 3 adds yet another new Restriction button, this one for In-App Purchases.

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iPhone 3.0 Beta 5 further elaborates on the app restrictions, this time with options including:

  • Don't Allow Apps
  • 4+
  • 9+
  • 12+
  • 17+
  • Allow All Apps

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General Settings, Home increases the options you can assign to a double-click of the Home button from Home, Phone Favorites, and iPod to include Search (epic win for mobile accomplishers) and Camera.

A sub-menu for Search Results allows you to check on or off what types of information are called up in a Spotlight Search, including Contacts, Applications, Music, Podcasts, Video, Audiobooks, Notes, Mail, and Calendar.

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General, International courtesy of some Beta 2 hacking, as reported by BGR, show off a tab for Voice Control. No information yet on what exactly that functionality covers.

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General, Keyboard, International Keyboards (or General, International, Keyboards) now includes Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Malay, and Thai. Good news for people in those regions eager to get their iPhone on.

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Settings, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, allows you to add a MobileMe account, just like before. In Beta 3, however, if you already have bookmarks, contacts, or other data on your iPhone (for example, if you synced it over via iTunes) and you enable MobileMe, a menu will slide up asking if you want to merge the data, not merge (i.e. replace), or cancel.

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Once you've added a MobileMe account, there's now a new option called Find My iPhone. There's no definitive information about what functionality will be included in this still-unannounced feature, but the text description makes reference to a new MobileMe WebApp that will enable it. Guesses include everything from pushing a ring sound to your phone if you've misplaced it in your house, to using the GPS to recover a lost or stolen iPhone.

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As mentioned previously, also hidden here are the new LDAP (contacts directory), CalDAV, and Calendar Subscription, features under Add Account, Other.

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Settings, Safari includes options for the new AutoFill feature, and a submenu for choosing who's Contact Info you want to use for the fill, as well as an option to allow Names & Passwords to be stored and AutoFilled, and a button for Clear All to wipe the AutoFill database clean. This, at least, gives us some control as to whether we want the security of not storing and filling our passwords on a device that could be lost or accessed without our approval, or the convenience of saving us a lot of typing.

Likewise, the new anti-Phishing Fraud Warning can be toggled on and off. Keeping it on, of course, provides some level of safety when encountering malicious websites made to look like ones we trust, intent on stealing our login info and/or credit card data. Of course, no list of Phishing sites is ever complete or completely up to date, so keep surfing safely.

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