Daniel Eran Dilger
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What’s new in iPhone 2.0.1 – Notes and Video Report

talkingheadtv
Daniel Eran Dilger
Apple released the first update to iPhone 2.0 yesterday, sending iPhone and iPod touch users scrambling to iTunes in order to get a handle on the much needed fixes in the original iPhone 2.0.0. Here’s some notes on what’s new along with video segments I did with TalkingHeadTV.


What’s new?
For an idea on what needed to be fixed, you can consult the iPhone 2.0 reports compiled by my mild mannered alter ego mainstream alternative writer Mr. Prince McLean of AppleInsider:

Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone 3G Hardware
Inside iPhone 2.0: iPhone 3G vs. other smartphones
Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone 3G Software
Inside iPhone 2.0: iPhone OS vs. other mobile platforms

While the new 2.0.1 update doesn’t turn the iPhone into a Bluetooth-loving, tether-happy, mobile camcorder that cures herpes (I actually haven’t researched its ability to address medical conditions, and I don’t have any way to test its efficacy for killing that virus in particular, as I’m currently clean as the proverbial whistle, nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean?), the new update does turn things around for iPhone 2.0, bumping it from from the betaesque bin up toward the lofty perch of stability formerly maintained by the original iPhone 1.x release.

It couldn’t come a moment too soon, as iPhone 2.0 involved some very aggravatingly long delays and even some all too frequent system-wide restarts that made it feel a bit more akin to the decade long joke that is WinCE/Windows Mobile.

Interestingly, the 2.0.1 update release comes on the heels of a report by ZDNet that Apple would “drop” the update, despite never having announced it publicly (it was only know to exist from the signature left in web logs by Apple and AT&T users browsing the web while testing the new software out). Imagine having the cooshy job of writing for CNET’s ZDNet, being able to make stuff up for attention grabbing headlines, and then having the power to change your report and erase your previous headlines from everything apart from the Google cache. Poof!

[Jason O’Grady wrote to set me straight on the fact that the ZDNet “drop” headline was not intended to suggest that Apple was revoking the update, but rather that it was just delivering it, and that it was edited to clarify, not to change the meaning. I misread the events and got entirely too bent out of shape in my attempt to castigate the corporate tech media. I apologized to Jason for overreacting – Dan]

Stronger, Better, Faster.
Over the last evening, I was able to doodle around with Aurora Feint, currently my favorite way to blow away idle pastime and my iPhone 3G battery, simultaneously, all without the usual wonkishness, failures on restart, and other problems that were evidently the fault of Apple, not the third party developer.

Photo-1

Given that the company cranked out the update within just three weeks, I’ll have to say I’m pretty happy. For the record, other smartphones get updates at most annually in good years, and those updates are often not even available to many existing users of the given operating system.

But I digress. Here’s what’s fixed, and what isn’t:

Contacts: starts up normally now without any unwieldy hesitation. Thanks, but now can you add a prominent search button so I don’t have to scroll to the top of the list or target the microscopic magnifying glass above A? I’d also like the ability to create new contact Groups on the phone, and a mechanism for editing the group membership from the group and from an individual contact. I’d also like to be able to address an email with a contact group. Again, these are feature requests, not bug fixes, so perhaps they’ll turn up in iPhone 2.1 next month.

Phone: More bars are better, so now the iPhone shows more bars. Did it improve reception, or just re-calibrate itself to make things look better? It appears the bars are actually more accurate now.

I live on the edge of an AT&T black hole, and I’m now seeing three bars on the the edge of the void, where voice and data are indeed usable. Previously, I’d get a zero bars in the grey area, but still be able to connect. After entering the dead zone, the bars trail off faster, and so appear to provide a better indication of whether a call or SMS will actually work from the given location.

While it is extremely difficult to make accurate judgements on signal strength due to the complex nature of radio waves in environments where obstructions and interference may restrict even otherwise decent reception, the iPhone interface has always seemed to trail behind in its indication of signal strength.

This is particularly noticeable when entering a known dead zone such as a tunnel, where you know you don’t have service but the iPhone continues to suggest that yes perhaps you might, up until you try to use it. This should continually improve as Apple muscles its way into the smartphone market and gains cellular expertise.

SMS & Mail: nothing spellbindingly new here, apart from the lack of egregious delays that hampered the experience of iPhone 2.0.

Safari: While the OS seems to be much less likely to want to dive bomb into a restart, Safari is back at the top of being the most likely app to unceremoniously quit. Given the complexity of rendering random web pages, that might be expected, but we hope it continues to make progress. One other disappointment is that Apple continues to hide its MobileMe apps from iPhone users in Safari, directing them instead to using Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. What happened to the “real Internet?”

It appears there’s some kinks left to work out, but this is particularly a problem with push doesn’t work as expected, and you’d like to access the web apps to see where the problem lies. Previously, one could pull up .Mac webmail for troubleshooting; no longer possible under MobileMe.

GPS: Noticed that you don’t get the accurate blue blip in Maps while indoors? That’s not a bug, it’s because GPS signals are quite weak. Even with a dedicated GPS unit, you can obscure the signal with your hand. Being inside a wood or metal frame is no match for the faint whisper emitted by the orbiting satellites. The graphic below gives a nice representation of how far the GPS satellites are from the Earth’s surface: a LONG ways: 20,200 kilometers or 12,600 miles.

That’s just over half-way to the geosynchronous orbit of 35,786 km (22,240 miles), meaning that GPS satellites don’t hang in a given position in the sky as direct broadcast TV satellites do, but rather continuously circle the earth in a constellation made up of currently 31 satellites, with at least six visible at once from any point on Earth. Of course none of this has much to do with the iPhone 2.0.1 update, I’m just amazed that we can have this technology in our pockets.

GPS orbits

Internal Updates: International readers on other providers have noted show-stopping upgrade problems due to the fact that the new iPhone 2.0.1 update includes revisions to the iPhone 3G’s baseband firmware. Vodaphone customers with unlocked phones have reported an inability to link up with iTunes, along with an “0xE8000001” error.

The fact that the new bug fix updates core firmware also means trouble for users who have illicitly unlocked their phones, meaning they’ll have to wait to install the update until the unlocking team figures out how to navigate around the new changes.

For everyone else, the internal updates indicate that Apple has done more than just diddle with user interface bugs. More testing is needed, but I hope to see some improvements to battery life and signal reception that go beyond just more accurate bars.

Do Not Upgrade with Mobile Service Turned Off.
And now a warning: don’t perform the update while in Airplane mode, or the phone will restart and emerge from its brain transplant all freaked out that it can’t find the network. We’re not sure why anyone would be in Airplane mode while doing an update, but there’s now upwards of 6 million iPhone users, and who knows how many iPod touch users, so the chances of somebody setting up some inexplicably bizarre scenario during an update are sky high.

What have you noticed has changed in iPhone 2.0.1? Share your comments below. Also, be sure to check out the segments I did with Talking Head TV:

Does iPhone 2.0.1 Fix The Constant Crashes?

Jumping Icons, Long Backups: What Did iPhone 2.0.1 Miss?

I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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  • ebernet

    I was updating to 2.0.1 yesterday, and it was updating my apps, when a call came in. I answered the phone, and 30 seconds later (while still on the phone) the phone rebooted and stayed on the Apple Logo. I then spent 5 hours doing a restore.
    I can see that as a reason to put your iPhone in Airplane Mode.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    That’s a good point (and illustrates the concept of highly complex scenarios that plague the updating process). You should report your experience to Apple using the feedback page.

  • pecos.bill

    Wink, wink! Pick me!

    One way around the incoming call until Apple fixes it is to forward all calls before an update. I did my update around 11pm last night and had no problems. Took an eternity to download though.

    I’ve not noticed eternity-long backups and suspect that having only two apps may be a reason.

    2.0.1 definitely feels faster all around :-)

  • lmasanti

    quote:
    “Of course none of this has much to do with the iPhone 2.0.1 update, I’m just amazed that we can have this technology in our pockets.”

    As another side note, each Iridium’s satelites “contain seven Motorola/Freescale PowerPC 603E processors running at roughly 200 MHz.”
    [Just compare them with the iPhone’s hardware]

    And…
    “Iridium satellites are now an essential component of communications with remote science camps, especially the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. As of December 2006, an array of twelve Iridium modems was put online, providing 24/7 data services to the station for the first time. Total bandwidth is 28.8 kbit/s, making real time e-mail conversations finally possible”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRIDIUM

    (Not to mention Voyager I and II!)

  • Bill

    I haven’t had any problems with my 16GB 3G, but I haven’t added any more apps. I only have Exchange setup [it only takes 3 minutes for a novice typist] and have not even synced with iTunes, since it was activated at the Apple store last week. I really like it and it works well with Exchange [which syncs with Entourage 2004]. I will try the update this weekend. Thanks for the info Dan.

  • tino

    I did my update while in Airplane Mode. I’d got into the habit of turning on Airplane Mode when doing any kind of syncing that was going to take a while, because an incoming call would mean I’d have to start over. Before the recent iTunes update, it was taking an hour to do an *ordinary* sync.

    After my phone finished resetting, iTunes complained that the phone couldn’t be re-activated. I was able to fix this by attempting to make an ’emergency’ call to myself. After I hit ‘call’ but before phone placed the call (which wouldn’t have worked as it wasn’t to 911), the phone prompted me to turn off Airplane Mode; as soon as I hit the ‘disable’ button, the emergency call screen disappeared and I saw my regular lock screen back.

    Seems like someone would have thought of this possibility.

  • dscottbuch

    While contact is much better it still has significant lags in my experience. This may be due to having 1550+ contacts but it is still annoying. What is especially annoying is that if you go into contact and spend the time (maybe 20 seconds or so) to scan from top to bottom using the right side alphabet from they on everything is very ‘snappy’ so there is clearly some caching going on – which is good, but, unfortunately, they don’t seem to save it between launches of contacts. I know that Mobile-Me sync might impact this but turning off my Mobile-Me sync/connection to contact did nothing to improve it.

    Also, BTW, have had had essentially zero problems with push on either mail, contacts, or calendar.

  • http://www.thewell.au.com IainW

    Hi Daniel,

    You complain about not being able to target the small search icon, or get to the top quickly.

    You can search contacts in only two taps:

    1. Open contacts.
    2. Tap the time (status bar) to go to the top of the list immediately.
    3. Tap the search panel

    My contacts.app is much improved, but it still has some hesitation when it first loads, its not the 15 seconds of wailing pigshit it was under 2.0.0

  • http://www.thewell.au.com IainW

    In fact, the contacts.app behaviour is now a touch less consistent – did it always not remember you where in the group view when you quit it?

    I’d like an option added here – always ‘start’ at the top of the contacts list, so you can go to search if you want.

    Starting halfway down the list makes no sense to me. You are unlikely to call the person you just looked up again via contacts (you would use recent calls in phone.app to do that). Chances are you are loading the contacts.app to find someone new. Why leave it halfway down the list?

  • eliotw

    It’s consistent. 2.0 contacts also remembered where you were in the group view.
    Consider a scenario where you are looking for a contact and then exit out to double check an email or take a call and then go back to contacts. Being at the same spot is helpful in that case.
    Tapping on the status bar (clock) takes to the top and search bar so that’s handy for the other cases.

  • blacktalonz

    [quote]

    One other disappointment is that Apple continues to hide its MobileMe apps from iPhone users in Safari, directing them instead to using Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. What happened to the “real Internet?”

    [/quote]

    Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Thank you for assuming that I want the iPhone/iPod Touch version of your blog, when I have the “Real Internet” on my iPod.

    Yes, you can switch to normal, after you scroll all the way through the article and all of the comments, by then what’s the point.

  • Brau

    I just gotta agree regarding the fact that webpages are being reformatted for the iPhone. This is not directed at Daniel, but at the general trend within the industry. It started because the other phones simply could not display real content, but I bought this iPhone primarily for its promise of the “real internet” and I find myself getting choked when sites I normally visit on my PC suddenly offer me a list of simplistic HTML links just because I’m using an iPhone. It goes without saying that Apple should not limit iPhone users to using their onboard apps if they desire to use Safari based access instead.

    Thanks for the heads-up on the upgrade process Daniel. It will save me some possible grief when I get around to doing it.

    BTW: Really enjoying your AppleInsider in-depth iPhone review!

  • tehawesome

    As far as I can see, the single biggest actual change with 2.0.1 is the backup that occurs when you sync your device no longer takes several lifetimes. I strongly suspect that the backup being made is now incremental, so if you haven’t been messing about, iTunes merrily gets out of your way. Another nice find was that, unlike the 2.0 update, 2.0.1 didn’t move all my carefully-placed home screen icons around, though this might be a factor of it being an incremental update rather than the equivalent of an Archive’n’Install

  • askegg

    “Vodaphone customers with unlocked phones have reported an inability to link up with iTunes, along with an “0xE8000001” error.”

    It’s not just limited to Vodophone customers or unlocked phones. I have a legitimate iPhone with Telstra Australia that is experiencing exactly the same issue.

  • Bill

    I updated last night and everything works fine, but I wasn’t having problems before. However, I have almost nothing [3rd party] installed yet.