This has been one of the most requested features for quite a while, and in iPhone 3.0, it's finally a reality. Push notifications allow iPhone applications to provide a faux backgrounding service. In our testing, Apple's notification service works so well that you would almost think the application was running in the background.
When you download and install an application that features notifications, you get a new Settings menu called "Notifications." In this panel, you will be able to select, per application, how you would like to receive notifications. You can choose any variety of sounds, alerts or badges. Sounds will be a predefined sound from the application that will sound only if you have the ringer on; alerts will give you a pop-up alert that will either appear on the lock screen or in any application you might be in at the time; badges will give you a counter on the application icon on the home screen.
Quite a few people (including myself) have wanted an app launcher on the iPhone. While Spotlight Searching doesn't make up for the lack of an actual app launching application, it does provide some solace to the app loving iPhone users out there. Spotlight resides on the home screen, taking up one of the screens. When you are on the first home screen, sliding to the right will display the searching interface.
While simple, the interface allows you to type in a name, phrase, or other search terms and have the whole phone searched. Enter a contact, it will display the contact name. Enter a song, it will show the song and allow you to go to the iPod application. Enter a calendar event, and with one click you can view that calendar and the event schedule.
There are some shortcuts and settings that go along with Spotlight. If you want quick and easy access to the Spotlight feature, you can have it automatically launch by double clicking the home button (you can change this setting in Settings > General > Home). Just as you have the ability to order search results in Spotlight on your Mac, Spotlight on your iPhone allows you to do the same type of order. Just navigate to Settings > General > Home > Search Results. From this screen, you can enable/disable certain search results and control the order in which the search results are shown.
Read on to learn more about the iPhone 3.0 software update, and to see more of the new features.
Cut, Copy, and Paste
No matter how excited you were about the iPhone supporting push notifications, I bet nothing can top your excitement for the new cut, copy, and paste integration. Any application that has text boxes or text areas will now allow you to cut, copy, and paste text to and from those boxes. Even if the application wasn't specifically built for the iPhone 3.0 in mind, I found that most applications could take advantage of the new feature.
To select text for cutting or copying, just double tap in the text area. The blinking cursor will turn to two blue insertion point markers that you can drag to select the text you want to copy or paste. Optionally, you can hold down your finger on the text area and then let go -- a balloon will pop up asking if you want to select, select all, or paste. Tapping select will bring up the two blue insertion points and let you highlight the appropriate text; the select all option will highlight all of the text in the box, and the paste will paste any text from the clipboard into the text area.
When you are ready to paste your text into an application or text area, just single tap and hold for a few seconds, then let go. A balloon will display the paste option. Selecting this option will place the clipboard contents inside of the text area. To undo/redo your paste just shake the iPhone left and right -- a dialog will ask if you wish to undo or cancel.
Text Messaging, Email, and Notes
Communication on the iPhone has changed for the better with iPhone 3.0. With text messaging you now have the ability to delete only a certain text, instead of the whole conversation. You can also forward or copy/paste a message. The iPhone on AT&T currently only supports SMS, but MMS (Multimedia Messaging) is supposed to be coming in late summer.
Email has also changed in iPhone 3.0. You can now view and write every piece of email in landscape mode with the extra-large keyboard. In addition, a search feature takes over the application to extend your communication beyond your computer. For IMAP, MobileMe or Exchange accounts, you can search email on the iPhone and on the email server. With one easy search term you can search the to, from, message, and all fields. You can also copy and paste from emails with ease, and paste full HTML markup from Safari or other applications into a new message.
With the software update, you can also search through your notes application. The searching works similarly to the way Mail does, but you don't have any filters. In addition to just searching through your notes, you can also sync them back to your Mac for later reading in Mail.app.
Camera and Photos
Pictures on the iPhone have long been a hassle to share with friends and family via email. When you navigate to the new Photos application and attempt to share some of your favorite pictures, you will see several new sharing options. You can now select up to 5 pictures to send via email, MMS, or MobileMe; you can also copy even more pictures than that and paste them into your favorite application. You can delete multiple pictures just by selecting them.
The YouTube application has received a major overhaul in the 3.0 update. You can now login to your YouTube account to view subscriptions, favorites, history, playlists, most recent, and top rated. In addition, you can view your uploaded videos. The bookmarks and favorites will be synced between YouTube and your phone. When I first launched the application and signed in, I was prompted to "merge" my bookmarks with YouTube.
iTunes and AppStore
The iTunes application now gives you even more purchasing options. You can now purchase and download videos, including whole television shows and movies. You also have full access to downloading sections from iTunes U and Audio books. The AppStore now allows you a better view of application screenshots, a section that lets you find out which applications need updating, and a place to redeem those ever-so-popular app promo codes.
... and more goodies await
We've only scratched the surface when it comes to what was updated in the iPhone 3.0 software. Some of the other improvements include:
- Better parental controls
- Internet Tethering (supported by only a few carriers at this time)
- Stereo Bluetooth
- Automatic WiFi login
- MobileMe Find My iPhone and Remote Wipe
- Shake to Shuffle
- Voice memos
- Encrypt your iPhone backups in iTunes