Hands On With iPhone OS 4.0

I managed to become part of the iPhone Developer program, so I was able to install the first beta of OS 4. So far I am very impressed with how stable it is, as I figured this being the first beta, it would have some problems. My only disappointment is that on the 3G iPhone you can’t set up a custom wallpaper on the home screen. I’ve read mixed reports that this could turn up in the later Betas, but for now it is only working on the 3GS model just like multitasking. I took some screenshots to show some of the new things that will be coming for those still using the 3G iPhone.

First up is the home screen. You can see the dock has been changed to match that of the Mac Leopard operating system, where the icons now sit on a plane giving them more of a 3D look. Also, there is a bit more of an animation effect when going back to the home screen when closing an app and it is pretty smooth considering the slower processor of the 3G.

I did a test of the folders option by dragging the clock, calculator, and voice memos apps. The OS automatically named the folder Utilities and that was fine by me. However, you can change the name to whatever you want. Tapping on the folder puts all of the other icons in a faded background and brings the ones contained within the folder to the front. Tap the folder again and it closes to take you back to the main home screen. It makes it pretty easy to navigate the folders. I think I will be using the feature quite a bit to get most of my apps all on one screen.

The system before did a pretty good job at correcting misspelled words, but now they’ve gone one step further. If you have a word that the OS doesn’t understand, it underlines it in red, just like in the Mac OS. Now if you double tap on that word it will give you some suggestions to fix the error. In the test I purposely misspelled testing and it was the only suggestion. So, it did a pretty good job at passing my test.

A big feature the a lot of people have been wanting is a universal inbox for managing multiple accounts. I’m really happy with how this turned out. As you can see I have 4 email accounts on my iPhone and it was really a hassle to move back and forth each account to read a new email. Now I just go into the all inboxes and there is my mail from all my accounts. Another nice feature is threaded conversations which work pretty much like gmail. If I have several emails from the same conversation, then they get grouped together. Earlier this week I was talking with a friend about a Luke Jedi star wars item. You can see that next to the message it has a 3 followed by a chevron symbol to tell me that it contains 3 messages. You simply tap that message and there are all 3 emails.

Something new has also been added to the search feature of the phone. Before the search was limited to only the files, emails, apps, directly on the phone. Now you can use it as a search for google and wikipedia. In the example I type Sega Genesis, I don’t have anything related to that on my phone, so it popped right up with the web and wikipedia search options.

A few things have changed in the iPod app. The way an album is listed has changed and I really like the new look. Another thing that I’ve noticed is podcasts now can display the info by just tapping on their graphic when you have them loaded up.

The last new feature is the camera zoom. From what I’ve read this equates to about a 5x digital zoom. You just tap on the photo area in camera mode and it brings up a slider to zoom in and out. Zooming in doesn’t look too good on the 3G and I imagine it is much better with the higher quality camera in the 3GS.

Overall I like the new features and I think it will be a decent upgrade even for the 3G. Multitasking would have been nice, but where the 3G has half the RAM of the 3GS, I can understand why it isn’t an option. The wallpaper thing still doesn’t make sense and I will update, if it gets added in a later build of the OS. I’ve only spend a day using it, so I’m sure there will be some other things that get found between now and when it is officially released in the summer.

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