Apple iPhone 3.0 Software Adds Much-Needed Basics, eWEEK Labs Finds

REVIEW: The free upgrade to iPhone OS adds cut-and-paste capabilities, landscape mode for e-mail, and the ability to find and remotely wipe devices. However, in preliminary tests, restoring a wiped device was easier said than done.

The Apple iPhone 3.0 software adds much-needed basics-such as cut and paste and e-mail viewing in landscape mode-along with tools to help find or disable lost handsets that have gone astray. The no-cost upgrade will greatly enhance individual users' experience, while also increasing the pressure for centrally managed, enterprise-class tools to harness the new power provided by the update, which became available June 17.

The ability to select text and graphics for cut-and-paste operations is a feature that has been sorely missing on the iPhone. With the new software, it is simple enough to tap and hold to activate the selection tool and then drag the selector over text and graphics. Another tap brings up a cut/copy menu bar. After moving to the target application, pasting the selection is a quick two-tap process.

Many applications already have the ability to work in portrait or landscape mode on the iPhone, so the addition of this feature to the built-in mail application is welcome (if a little tardy). Mail works the same in either mode, with the keyboard changing to match the device orientation. The larger keyboard in landscape mode should help users who have had trouble accurately typing on the smaller keyboard that is used when mail is in portrait mode.

Some iPhone application makers are going to find it tough to go up against the free offerings from Apple that are included in the iPhone 3.0 software. For example, the built-in Voice Memos application records clearly and is simple to operate, and it trumps the voice recorder application I bought from the App Store.

Lost and Found

Apple now provides a way to find lost iPhones and remotely wipe data, but only if individuals are signed up for a $99-per-year MobileMe subscription. The new features require that "push" be turned on, which can be a significant drain on the iPhone battery, depending on how frequently the process is set to run.

During tests, the Find My iPhone feature was generally accurate, narrowing down the location of my phone to within a couple hundred yards of where I was testing the device at home. However, when I used the Google maps app to locate my position, it was much more accurate than the iPhone app.

The remote wipe feature appears to be a deadly poison for iPhones. Apple says that remotely wiped phones can be restored from MobileMe or through the restore process in the iTunes desktop client. However, after sending the destruct signal to my second-generation phone and attempting to restore it, the device just showed the Apple logo and then turned off.

I'll have more to say about improvements made to the calendar, stock app and other iPhone tweaks, but, for now, I'm off to the Apple Store for some remote wipe first aid.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at [email protected]