Opinion: The 5 best things about iPhone OS 3.0

iPhone users finally get copy/paste, Spotlighting searches and push

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3. Hardware compatibility -- Apple has created an API that allows developers to connect to external hardware via not just stereo bluetooth (a feature not fully implemented until 3.0), but through the Dock connector as well. The newly added ability to use external hardware in concert with the iPhone's software is going to open many doors for the phone. For instance, hardware peripheral makers were brought out at WWDC to demo connecting a guitar to the iPhone. Although the demo didn't quite work out, this is but a taste of what developers can do with access to the iPhone's dock. This may not be a feature that is noticeable right away to iPhone users, but it is one that will extend the phone's life and reach to an already powerful mobile platform.

4. Spotlight searching -- Swipe right on the iPhones touch-sensitive screen to bring up Spotlight (or press the Home button from the first page of apps) and with a few strokes of the keyboard, you can jump to anything on the phone. With Mac OS X 10.4, code-named Tiger, Apple added a system-wide search to its operating system that made finding just about any file or bit of data easy and quick. With iPhone 3.0, Apple brings that search functionality to the iPhone. Now you can quickly find and launch anything on the phone -- or if you're searching e-mail, even on servers. Songs, applications, notes, calendars, contacts, in my experience, Spotlight on the iPhone helped me find anything I searched for. And it's fast, too.

5. Safari -- One of the best features of the iPhone has been the Safari Web browser. While many people don't care how it's done, everyone appreciates how accurately web pages are rendered on the iPhone. Web marketshare for mobile devices has long skewed in the favor of Apple's products, and with the latest release, Apple continues to press its advantage. Safari for iPhone brings noticeable performance improvements and users will appreciate the addition of autofill for user names and passwords. Behind the scenes, Apple has worked in HTML 5.0 standards support and says it's improved the javascript rendering three-fold. Even more impressive is the support for HTTP audio and video streaming, which support automatic quality based on your connection speed. (This technology will also be available to other apps, and is already being utilized to stream live baseball games with the MLB At Bat 2009 app.) The best mobile browsing experience has just become even better.

No doubt, iPhone owners will find their own top five improvements in the new OS, but the one that permeates all is value. iPhone 3.0 is filled with refinements and improvements across the board, whether it's official support for internet tethering -- not yet available from AT&T -- MMS (coming this summer), the ability to finally sync Notes, or Landscape keyboard. iPhone 3.0 feels like a polished release that even manages to make the two-year-old original iPhone feel fresh and current. I find it an astounding feat by Apple that the latest, most current iPhone is running the exact same software as the iPhone that shipped two years ago, albeit with a few limitations dictated by the hardware. If there's one thing OS updates on any platform have showed us, it's that software updates often cause older hardware to become increasingly slow, pushing users to upgrade to the latest hardware. Apple has again bucked that trend with this release, a trend it stands to continue with the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard for Intel Macs in September.

Michael deAgonia is an award-winning writer, computer consultant and technologist who has been using Macs and working on them professionally since 1993. His tech-support background includes tenures with Computerworld, colleges, the biopharmaceutical industry, the graphics industry, Apple and as a Macintosh administrator at several companies.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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