iOS4x24 – A day in the life of a new Apple core.

Let’s try this again shall we?

I began writing this on my iPhone 3GS earlier today and am now rewriting it on my netbook, why? Well, to be honest I did think it was going to be due to the battery life of an iPhone 3GS using the new iOS4 which was, let’s face it, designed for a newer product, but no! It was O2’s appalling mobile data services and the fact that WordPress for iPhone deleted my local draft before it confirmed the transfer to online draft was complete! More on several of these factors in later entries I’m sure.

Anyway, to business!

For those of you  who are unaware; yesterday so the release of Apple’s next major revision of their mobile device OS. iOS4 has been written with the new iPhone4 which is released later this week firmly in mind, but most of the updates are compatible with some of the ‘legacy’ devices. The iPhone 3GS is the best off of these older devices with it being the most recent predecessor. It’s this device that I own and it’s my experiences over the first 24 hours with iOS4 that I will expand on here.

First off, please understand I’m not going to list all 100 updates in the release, I’m writing this from a user’s point of view not a tech manual. (For all the juicy details see Apple’s own site.)

The two most talked about updates are folders and multitasking and I’ll cover these after I’ve discussed a couple of aesthetic/UI points…

It may just be a matter of perception, or maybe due to high expectations, but I’m sure my display is much crisper than it has been before? After the painless upgrade process (aren’t they all) one of the first things I did was to add a wallpaper to my home screen. The overall feeling of the display with this new background (I’ve used one of the defaults after trying several of my own images) is a fresh and crisp UI. Much has been made of the new Retina display to be debuted on the iPhone 4 taking advantage of its higher resolution screen (960×540), I’m wondering now if the new firmware also takes advantage of the untapped power of the 3GS’ video processing chipset and has increased performance somehow? The overall feel is better and the ‘zoom bubble’ certainly seems to be a little clearer as well.

In addition to this the overall performance feels much smoother. Perhaps it’s the ‘clean’ build of a brand new major revision,  but I do feel that overall performance has improved and that, coupled with the new transitions between some screens, leads to a surprising level of improvement to what, to my mind, was already the best smartphone UI (I hate using that term for the iPhone, it’s so much more!) in the market.

Now to the ‘actual’ updates.

One of these I was particularly looking forward to. The ability to group apps in folders may seem nothing special to non Apple users but it’s quite a culture change we iPhone users. Up ’til now we’ve been able to group our apps on separate pages or virtual screens and to ‘flick’ between them which is a great way to do things and works very well, but the ability to select from 8 folders on a page and start the app inside rather than flick through the pages trying to remember where the app is a Godsend and one that should have been offered before now.

On switching on my device after the upgrade I tried creating folders straight away and was most perturbed to find that there was no option to create them anywhere in the settings. Uncharacteristically I went straight to the Apple site for advice and, this is where I turn a pleasant pink in embarrassment,  discovered the solution. Let’s face it, what could be more intuitive than simply dragging an app you want to group on top of the app you want to group it with?! It works really well. My only gripe would the limit of 9 apps to a folder, I’m now going to have to group my apps in sub categories!

A few folders on the new iOS

Folders on the iPhone 3GS

Overall this feature works well and I like the clean interface when you open a folder:

An open folder in iOS4

An open folder on an iPhone 3GS upgraded to iOS4

Next up is multitasking. I’m afraid this may disappoint many of those who were hoping this would solve their gripes with the iOS preventing this for all but Apple’s own apps such as the phone and iPod ones. Yes, you can switch between apps but, from my limited experience so far, it seems to me more like a ‘quick switch’ capability rather than true multitasking. The function is limited to only those apps which are written to take advantage of  it, it only allows switching between the last four apps used and, as far as I can see, doesn’t allow for an app to be used as a persistent option to switch to/from. Yes, it’s disappointing, I’d expected true multitasking, but I have to admit that I’m happy with the ability to go back to the last 3 or 4 apps I used in the state I left them.

The multitasking panel on the 3GS

Multitasking has arrived! Or has it?

Note – I’ve played with the phone since typing this and it seems I was mistaken! You can scroll through endless apps on the multitasking screen, I’m still not sure if it’s true multitasking or simply an app history, but time will tell.

We’ll now move on to several ‘little’ embellishments which I have noticed and think make for a greater overall user experience.

Again, a simple thing, but one which takes the iPhone light years ahead again: shlepchecking!

I’m not talking about the excellent/annoying/love/hate predictive text which already exists on the device, I am talking about true spellchecking in the same form as any office productivity package. That’s right, misspell a word and it get’s a red dotted underline, hover over that and you get alternatives or corrections to choose from and, now this is a nice touch, should you decide you meant what you typed after accepting a change, simply move back to it and the context sensitive menu offers the ability to revert to the original text, nice!

Then there’s the new option to show the number of characters in SMS/MMS messages, not one that concerns me with unlimited texts, but I can certainly see why this feature would be useful. There’s the advanced control over the ‘Spotlight Search’ options, being able to define what it actually searches on your iPhone, the ability to lock the orientation of the device (why?) and many other little things.

Overall my first 24 hours have been favourable and upgrading, for me at least, has been the right choice. But… there’s a but…

I’m a heavy user of my iPhone. I have location services on, notifications on, 3G on, I predominately use the device to surf the web or to interact online, I stream music and video, I upload music and video, I send and receive large files and all these uses come at a price; battery life. With this in mind my iPhone usually lasts from 0630 ’til about 2200 when I put it on charge for the night, every night.

I upgraded last night and, as usual, placed the iPhone on charge. I started using it at 0630 this morning when I went to the gym (as a simple iPod) and then continued to use it, slightly less than usual, throughout the day. At the beginning of this blog you may recall I bemoaned losing the first draft of this blog? The reason for this was that I was typing it throughout the day on my iPhone and, with the battery at 14% I was concerned I may lose it so started to transfer it from local draft to online at WordPress. It never made it, not due to the battery I might add, but the abysmal network coverage provided by O2 in my current location. Much of this post is similar to the original as ‘senior moments’ are, thankfully, still few and far between for me at the moment but one thing I can remember that the original did say was this:

I removed the iPhone from power at 06:30 this morning and since then have used it for 4 hours and 15 minutes with an additional 8 hours and 30 minutes on standby, it now has 14% power left and is reducing visibly. It’s 16:48 and I’m getting in to what is normally the time of day where I use the iPhone most, catching up on news (video and text), emails, music etc. I don’t usually see this drain on life until 21:00 hours so it’ll be interesting to see how things go over the next few days.

14% remaining after only 4 hours usage.

The figures speak volumes...

Now, bearing in mind that iOS4 was developed for a device with a battery of larger capacity and a newer processor which would, supposedly, be more frugal with its requirements, you can understand that it may be slightly heavier on juice usage.  To be honest I’m not overly concerned by this fact, I’d read on several developer’s blogs about the increased battery drain on ‘legacy’ devices and so was well prepared. In fact, it’s not as bad as some of the doomsayers foretold, I’d heard of 3 hours for some of the 2G devices and not much more for newer ones, so I suppose 12 hours isn’t too bad.

While I type this my iPhone is quietly recharging in the corner getting ready for the next 24 hours of abuse from its addicted owner. Am I happy I upgraded? Yes, of course I am, I’m a self-confessed techno-geek and always like new things to play with! Do I think you should upgrade? Yes, I do. Why? Because it’s the little things that matter, and in this major revision there are 100 ‘little’ things which make what was an already outstanding device even more so. It’s as simple as that…

And I haven’t even started on iBooks yet!




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