Apple's iPhone OS 3.1 with the updated iTunes 9 provides only a few new features, but frequent App Store users and those using the iPhone device with Microsoft Exchange Server will appreciate the update.
Immediately following its live event in San Francisco
this week, Apple released iPhone OS 3.1 with the updated iTunes 9. While
the new point revision of the iPhone OS offers only a few new features,
frequent App Store users and those using the iPhone device with Microsoft
Exchange Server will definitely appreciate the update.
For heavy App Store users, the most welcome new feature in Version 3.1 is
the ability to adjust application placement on the iPhone home screen panels
from within iTunes. Previously, users had to organize applications on the
device itself, an onerous time-waster, particularly after performing a restore
on the device. With Version 3.1, users can instead perform this customization
from their desktop PCs.
Click here for eWEEK Labs' gallery of iPhone OS 3.1 images.
With the device tethered to a PC running iTunes 9, I could select
applications from my inventory and drag the icons onto the representation of
the intended target screen. This customization is done per device, so
users with multiple iPhones or iPod Touches won't be forced to have the same application
layout on every device that syncs to that their iTunes
instance. Unfortunately, this also means that the device must be connected
to iTunes to perform the layout customization.
Apple has made a few modifications to the App Store layout within iTunes,
but the changes didn't do much to lead me to new, relevant
applications. Users are still presented with highlighted apps via Staff
Favorites and New and Noteworthy distinctions, and users can look at the Top
Paid, Top Free or Top Grossing applications. Within these last few
screens, however, I could now organize the lists by name, rank or release date.
Improved guidance to new content will likely come from the Genius
recommendation engine, which Apple has updated to include applications. At
this point in my testing, I have not yet seen the results of my Genius
recommendations, but, given the underwhelming recommendations I've received
from iTunes during the last year, I don't hold out a lot of hope that I'll get
many compelling suggestions for applications.
With iPhone OS 3.1, Apple has done some behind-the-scenes work to improve
synchronization and invitation handling in conjunction with Exchange Server
calendars. In my experience with previous versions of the iPhone OS, the
Exchange calendar would not synchronize in a predictable manner unless data
push was enabled. With the new version, synchronization occurred much
With a pair of iPhone 3GS units placed side by side-one running Version 3.1
and the other running Version 3.01, and both connected via Wi-Fi to manually
pull from the same Exchange account-3.1 reflected a calendar change made in
Outlook within 15 seconds while 3.01 remained unchanged for 5 full minutes.
(With 3.01, I finally gave up and checked e-mail, which seemed to trigger the
Since iPhone OS 3.0, iPhone 3GS users have been able to trigger voice
dialing or voice-enabled media controls by holding down the Home button or the Action
button on a corded headset. However, Bluetooth users could not utilize the
This capability was supposed to have been added in Version 3.1, according to
the release notes, but I was not able to get the feature to work with either my
BlueAnt Supertooth 3 speakerphone or a Motorola MotoROKR Bluetooth headset.
Holding down the call button on either Bluetooth device would only initiate a
redial, rather than activating Voice Control.
Finally, the iPhone's Accessibility features are now easier to turn on-I
could configure the Home button to activate the Accessibility feature when
Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.