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Saturday, June 26, 2010

iOS4 and the 3GS...

Finally after all the anticipation and anxious waiting, the iOS 4 was released on Monday (June 21st, 2010) in the US (late night June 21st/early morning June 22nd in Malaysia) and just about everyone rushed to get a hold of the latest OS for the iPhone & iPod Touch (I think it's also for the iPad but I'm not too sure).  Me being me just had to get it done almost immediately.  I would definitely recommend syncing and backing up your iPhone first before updating just to kinda speed the process up a bit if you haven't done it in awhile.  The update will require you to download the latest iTunes software (version 9.2) as well.

Anyways, here are my thoughts on the new OS on the 3GS (the iPhone 4 comes preinstalled with iOS 4 and will be available in Malaysia tentatively in August 2010).  Let me warn you this is going to be a pretty long post on one particular subject, the iOS 4 as experienced on the 3GS:


Double tap the home button and up pops the multitasking dock.  A lot of techies out there are still debating on the fact that Apple's take on multitasking isn't true multitasking but for me, it works.  Once you open an app, it automatically gets added to the dock and when you switch between apps, it saves the screen information and idles while you are attempting other tasks.  In this essence, apps are not running in the background save for music which continues to play even when switching apps.  I've not tested this yet but supposedly when you're net browsing it will load the page while it sits in the multitasking dock before idling.  In other words, it completes the last task before going to sleep.  The dock shows 4 apps at a time and you can see the rest of your apps by swiping to the left (like you would unlock the screen).  Supposedly the OS will determine which apps are to be removed from the dock automatically but who knows how that works really.  Personally, I manually remove the "running" apps the same way you delete an app on the home screen (only instead of and "x" badge it shows a "-" badge.


Folders for me was a nice addition to the new OS.  I love having things organized as much as I can and although these folders doesn't have nesting capabilities, the execution was done quite well true to Apple's signature simple style.  Creating folders is easy, simply drag one app on top of another and a folder is automatically created with miniature versions of the apps icons nicely placed inside the folder icon plus it automatically names the folders based on the categories of the apps you group together.  Of course, folder names are easily edited.  This is done by tapping on the folder you want once the apps start jiggling.  To take an app out of a folder, simply drag and drop it to the home screen.  Although each folder holds a maximum of 12 apps, the icon will only be able to display 9 our of the 12 apps on the homescreen.  I managed to group my apps and downsize the number of pages from 11 (max) to 5. Yay!

Cosmetic Upgrades

There were a few cosmetic upgrades that I noticed starting with a couple of new icons for the Calculator and Notes app respectively.  Shown below is an image I found (credit: Multi-touch fans forum) illustrating the evolution of the calculator icon:

As for the Notes icon, I might be wrong but I don't recall it having look like a couple of pages have been torn off (like a regular notepad would).  Of course this could've been a change that came with OS 3 and I forgot about it.  In which case, silly me.

Another thing I found interesting was the fact that somehow the icons and display were a tad more crisp.  I reckon they've upgraded the icon resolution to cater to the Retina Display of the iPhone 4.  The permanent dock at the bottom of the screen has also undergone a makeover and now looks similar to the icon dock on the Mac OS.

You might have noticed an obvious enhancement to the home screen - custom wallpaper.  You can  choose to have the same image for both the lock screen and home screen (done by default upon updating) or have different images on both.

Mail Improvements

When I'm out of the office, the Mail app is extremely important.  Since I only read e-mail from one account on my iPhone, I haven't tried the unified mailbox feature.  However, I'm really excited about the threading feature now integrated in Mail.  Threading is one of the main reasons I prefer GMail to any other e-mail provider.  It makes following e-mail conversations a lot easier especially since the iPhone can only store a limited number of e-mail messages at a time.  Another feature added complements GMail quite well.  That's the ability to archive messages instead of delete them.

Now, instead of asking if you want to save your draft e-mail or discard it, it asks if you would like to delete or save the draft which isn't a huge change but it makes things a bit more clear especially with the Delete Draft button in bright red.

Camera Zoom

To be honest, I wasn't too excited with the enhancement to the Camera app.  Digital zoom even on a regular camera doesn't deliver good picture quality so I wasn't expecting much.  The photo output compared to that taken with the Free Zoom app is brighter but delivers comparable quality.  The slider appears by tapping anywhere on the screen.

Add Contact Info

Previously to insert a new contacts name you'll be brought to a different screen to key in the First Name, Last Name and Company information.  Now, it's in the same screen.  Simple but should have been this design in the first place.

Search Options

I love that we can search messages now.  I've been waiting for that feature for a long time and am glad it's included in iOS 4.  It makes it easier to find a specific message amidst the massive amount of messages stored in the phone.  Messages is also searchable via Spotlight Search (page on the farthest left).  Spotlight Search now allows you to customize and select which items to search which is great to help you search through certain applications only under Settings > General > Spotlight Search.  It also comes with the ability to search for the search term instantly on the web or on Wikipedia.

The browser also has an additional Search provider added to select.  Welcome Bing to the iPhone Safari.

Additional Settings

For those of you who are wary of your cellular data charges, the new OS comes with an option to block your apps from accessing the internet by switching cellular data on or off under Settings > General > Network.

A new feature that a lot of people have been looking forward to is the alphanumeric passcode capability.  Of course you can opt for the simple 4 digit numeric passcode if you so wish.


The Messages app got a few tweaks in and are not exactly mind blowing but helpful to some I'd say.  First is the character count (nothing new in most other brand phones) which is only visible if you're typing more than 1 line of text (makes sense though considering 1 line of text would definitely be well below the 160 characters per message limit).  The second add on is a spellchecker which I've personally not encountered as of yet despite typing in Messages and Mail numerous time.  I've also read elsewhere there is an option to add words to the spellchecker if (and only if) the word was not in the preset dictionary.


Just the other day I was annoyed at the fact that there was at the time no way to select multiple photos in the Camera Roll to Share, Copy or Delete.  Imagine my delight when I discovered that this option is now available.  Excellent.

Attaching photos on your phone to Mail comes with sizing options as well.  Choose between Low, Medium, High or the Actual Size.  I can't seem to get mine to work that way though.  Is there a particular way to get it done?  

Yep.  You're seeing correctly.  Photo albums are viewable in landscape mode.  Did I mention photos has geo tagging as well?

iBooks & iBookstore

The popular iBooks app introduced in the iPad has now been brought to the iPhone (comes with the complimentary iBook Winnie The Pooh).  For the avid reader, this is an excellent addition.  Please do note though that the iBooks app doesn't come preinstalled with the iOS 4 update and you will have to download it yourself from the App Store (for free).  What's an iBooks app without the iBookstore.  I'm a bit disappointed that the books selection currently available in the store leaves much to be desired for.  I'm not sure though if it's due to the regionalized store or if it's iBookstore for the iPhone in general.  All I can find in the store are books under Project Gutenberg.

Other New Enhancements/Additions/Changes

With the past OS, a list of previously typed URLs appears when you start typing the site address in Safari.  The new OS now shows a list of sites based on your browsing history containing words (and parts therein) that you've entered in the address field.

I've also come across user comments indicating that the new OS also has intelligent highlighting of dates and other numbers linking it to the relevant applications.  I've always only noticed that phones numbers displayed on sites can be tapped to call.

In the far left of the multitasking dock are the music controls (previously accessible by double tapping the home button).  These controls works with most music player apps (I think).  These controls are still accessible by double tapping the home button while in lock screen as per before.  Notice the odd icon with a arrowed circle on the far left?  Well, you can now lock your screen in portrait mode (unfortunately you can't lock it in landscape, yet) by tapping on that little icon.

I'm a bit annoyed though that YouTube videos shifts to portrait when you turn the phone upright.  It means that I can no longer twist and turn lying down and watch YouTube in full landscape mode.

According to Apple, you can also now gift apps purchased at the App Store.  Not really sure how that works though.  I've noticed a plus sign on some of the pricetags of applications.  Could that be it?

For iPod users (both on the iPhone and iPod Touch), you can now create custom playlists for your music.

Other items that I noticed are:
  • The progress circle now sits next to the battery gauge on top of the screen instead of next to the time
  • You're no longer asked to rate an app when you're deleting it from the Home Screen

Gizmodo has an awesome guide for the new OS here.

As much as I appreciate the new bells and whistles, I do still have a few things on my iOS wishlist:
  • Ability to lock to 3G network only (especially great when you need to stay in 3G) with a good infrastructure to support clinging on to 3G
  • I'd like for the photo album creation feature to return from I believe the 1st generation iPhone as it's quite cumbersome to only be able to add/create albums in Photos via iTunes
  • A shortcut to turn WiFi and/or Bluetooth on or off bypassing the Settings screen.  In a similar manner the portrait lock is done perhaps?
  • It would really be nice if we could select multiple apps (an app download list?) before having the App Store whisk you away to the Home Screen to proceed with download.  I'm not expecting a never ending list of downloads (that won't be practical now would it?).  A download list with a limit of a few apps added at a time would suffice.
  • Another thing that annoys me is the notifications you get when you're on the phone taking a call and you receive a message at the same time, the message ringtone will be blasting in your ears (you do have the receiver to your ear at the time or your earphones) and that's startling and uncomfortable and not to mention incredibly disrupting.  I think in those cases, a nice beep to indicate incoming message would be all it needs.
Things I Wasn't Too Happy About
  • I'm not sure if it's due to the update or it's just the software in general but in some instances my network reception fluctuates between GPRS, EDGE and 3G even when I'm in close range with a 3G base station.  It's odd though because sometimes after restarting the phone, I get decent reception again.
  • My camera application is not as snappy as it used to be.  It would be nice to have the option to disable digital zoom if that is the reason for my lagging camera.
And that wraps up my rather lengthy look into the latest OS for the iPhone specifically on the 3GS.  I'll probably do another update post on the iOS 4 on the 3G and iPod Touch 3rd generation.


  1. I'm putting the iPhone4 on my wishlist but I'm happy with my iPod. I use Stanza and I find it's much better than iBook. Have a look at this site for books I get most of my books from there.

  2. :) Cool. I'm keen on getting the iPhone 4 especially with the new design. It's good to have a good (or at least decent enough) camera alternative for when my dedicated camera runs out of battery (or when I forgot to charge it). Haha.

    Will check out Stanza and the site. :)