Review: iPhone 3G firmware

Upgrading to the new firmware? This is what you need to know


Elsewhere, the Sketches app (£4.99) also looks interesting, enabling you to scribble down notes and annotate/deface your photos. A natural extension of this finger-graffiti is Etch-A-Sketch (£2.99), an eerily faithful recreation of the classic 1950's toy. Drummer (£2.99) turns your phone into a virtual drumkit, while Rotary Dialer (free) supplements the iPhone's virtual keypad with an old rotary dialer.

The less we say about PhoneSaber (it makes your iPhone sound like a Star Wars lightsaber), the better. At least it's free.

Tidying up the iPhone OS

Apple is hoping that the 2.0 software on the iPhone will help it break into a corporate market dominated by RIM's Blackberry and Microsoft's Windows Mobile. Support for MS Exchange enables the sort of push calendaring, push email, push contacts and remote wipe capabilities that businesses have been crying out for. Ditto the built-in Cisco IPSec VPN client and WPA2 Enterprise support.

For the rest of us, there are only a few improvements to the 1.1.4 firmware, mostly designed to minimise excessive taps and swipes. The Contacts application has been gifted a nifty search function, so you no longer have to slide through the lengthy list of entries to find the contact you want. It works beautifully.

The Mail application, meanwhile, gets a handy bulk move/delete option. Again, this is hardly worthy of a "Woo! Yeah!", but it sensibly streamlines email management by letting you highlight several messages at once. You can then delete the messages or move them to another mail folder. Easy.

The Mail application can also now display Microsoft PowerPoint and iWork attachments, complementing the iPhone's original Microsoft Word and Excel compatibility. And should you receive picture/photo attachments in an email, the 2.0 software now enables you to save them to your Camera Roll.

Delve into the Settings menu and you'll see it's now got a 'Fetch New Data' option. This manages the 'push' functionality on the iPhone, which can be set to 15, 30 and 60 minute increments (or you can get your data manually).

If you have a MobileMe account, this option will regularly push and sync new mail, contacts, calendar entries and bookmarks to the iPhone. The menu warns that frequent 'pushing' will dent the battery life, however.

Most of the default applications – Stocks, Clock, Notes, Weather – are unchanged. Other changes are a result of Apple's new software or hardware. Tap on a photo in the Camera Roll, for example, and you now get the option to 'Send to MobileMe'. Start the Camera and you get the message: "Camera would like to use your current location". With the GPS in the iPhone 3G, you can now geo-tag your photos.

Finally, for all you Calculator fans out there, the resident number-crunching application has been given a scientific makeover. Turn the iPhone sideways and the Calculator flips into scientific mode.

It's all about version 2.0

There's no denying that the biggest impact of the 2.0 software is the App Store.

In amongst the Expense trackers and calorie counters, NYC subway maps and task lists, there are some interesting applications. It's still early days, so while we might lament the lack of a Trillian, an iPhone-friendly Wordpress UI or a video recorder, the current App Store should act as inspiration for other developers.

As an iPhone owner, though, it's disappointing that Apple put all its eggs into the corporate and App Store baskets. There are some glaring omissions from the 2.0 firmware – the ability to cut-and-paste text, for example, the ability to forward an SMS, forward contact info by SMS or email and MMS support.

I'm already looking forward to firmware 2.0.1.