Apple offers a major upgrade to the iPhone operating system starting today, adding numerous features that should have been included from the beginning. Among all the new features, one of the most useful is its Bluetooth keyboard compatibility, letting you turn your iPhone into something that's much more.
As usual, Apple engineers waited until they had completely refined the Bluetooth feature, finally releasing it months later than its competitors. We downloaded iOS4, and whoa. It's almost like having a new phone. Our iPhone 3GS has suddenly learned some new tricks. Here are our first impressions of its most impressive new features.
Bluetooth keyboard connectivity: I long for the day where I can use the iPhone just like I use my laptop now. Now that you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to the iPhone, it feels even more like a computer. Activated from the Bluetooth menu on the iPhone, it was a snap to pair the iPhone with a compact Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile keyboard 6000. I put the iPhone into its dock, placed the keyboard in front of it, and viola! I shall name it Mini Mac. Oh, hold on, that could get confusing. Aha — Pocket Mac! The PC guys aren't using it anymore anyway.
Now all we need is the ability to connect the iPhone to a full-rez monitor, and it will be a full-fledged wonder machine at home, in the office, and on the road. My only reservation is the forward-delete key, which functions just like the delete key. It should delete the character to the right of the cursor instead. Bah. But finally, that inexplicable restriction from attaching Bluetooth keyboards is gone forever.
Multitasking: This is the headline feature, and it works, taking the iPhone beyond what it was before, and ever closer to deserving that Pocket Mac name. The most highly touted advantage is the ability to play streaming Internet music from Pandora while you do other things on the iPhone. At first, this wasn't working for us, but as soon as we downloaded the latest update to Pandora, it worked perfectly. Pandora kept playing, just like iTunes did before, even while we were checking email, running Safari, and playing with various other apps. However, if we wanted to shoot some video, Pandora graciously faded away. So it doesn't work all the time, but most of the time.
Multitasking is also conveniently easy to invoke, where a couple of taps reveals your recently used apps. Select one of those and you're off and running with multitasking (which is more like fast switching than true multitasking). It works, as long as the app has been rewritten to do that. Many have gotten that far yet. For instance, a quick check of our GPS navigation app from Tom Tom was not capable of multitasking yet. We're looking forward to all apps being up for this quick switching.
Folders: You can do this on a Mac, so why not on the iPhone? This is one of the many new features that I recognize from my days of jailbreaking. But Apple has made this function a lot easier to use, where you simply drag one app on top of another, and a folder is created with a logical name attached. I have way too many apps on my iPhone, so this simplified matters greatly. And it's fun to organize your apps into these folders. This is a big plus that should have been on the iPhone since Apple introduced apps.
Wallpaper: What a trifle, to be able to choose your own wallpaper for the home screen as a background for your app icons! But we can all do that with any Mac or PC, so let's do that with the iPhone now. Finally. You could customize the lock screen background before. However, for some reason, the ability to customize the home screen was never available for the iPhone unless you wanted to jailbreak it. It's refreshing to choose your own background.
There's a lot to like with his update to the iPhone operating system. It's a delight to download free software, where all of a sudden it's as if your old-hat iPhone got itself a brain transplant. Many thanks to Apple for making the crooked straight and the rough places plane with his sweet update. If you haven't decided whether to get a new iPhone 4 yet, download and install this iOS4 update and see if that satisfies your acquisition Jones. After all, it's a whole lot cheaper than buying a whole new iPhone.