First Look: iPhone 2.0 software delivers big thanks to App Store

Okay, I'll admit it. The iPhone makes me giddy with excitement. It's been a year since I first opened its box, feeling like a boy on Christmas morning. Looking at the 2.0 firmware file on my Desktop, all those feelings came rushing back. Except this time around, the software is what I'm most interested in.

This day has been promised by Steve Jobs for over 6 months, and the global release of the iPhone 3G ensured that the new firmware and App Store would be available to US consumers one day early. A direct link to the iPhone 2.0 software, not yet officially available, has enabled early adopters to test out the newly opened platform and the third-party applications it brings with it.

Here's an outline of the upgrade process:

  • A bit trickier to update this time -- had to manually select the firmware file. This won't be an issue when it's officially released.
  • "Preparing iPhone for software update" took about 7 minutes.
  • "Updating iPhone software" took about 2 minutes.
  • "Updating iPhone firmware" took about 3 minutes.
  • Phone reboots into the "Connect to iTunes" screen. The "Slide to unlock" message cycles through several languages.
  • Phone reboots again, then displays the activation screen in iTunes.

After a quick download and painless upgrade process, I downloaded a few free apps. iPhone applications are synced just like any music or videos being transferred to the device.

One annoyance is the App Store continues to list apps that are already installed as if they haven't been downloaded, making it difficult to discover more obscure apps.This is unlikely to change, however, as the iTunes Store has behaved this way with music and movies since its inception.

Of course, the current top 25 apps listed are all games. Who didn't see that coming?

The best iPhone app I've seen so far is Apple Remote (by Apple). It connects to your iTunes-enabled computer, or Apple TV, and allows you to manipulate its controls wirelessly. The application even downloads the album art from the host machine and displays it on the iPhone's screen. Button presses instantaneously affect the host with no lag. Very impressive to say the least.

WeatherBug, meanwhile, renders Apple's built-in weather app completely useless. Detailed descriptions of upcoming weather, wind speed and direction, local cameras and radar on Google Maps are just a few of the features this third-party application offers. I did, however, manage to get it to crash a few times when attempting to add a new location.

Twitterrific (to the right) is by far the most beautiful application available on the App Store today. Designed by Iconfactory, all your Twitter needs are available right from the iPhone.

A long awaited addition to the iPhone, AIM by AOL, is very fast and easy to use, but only shows messages when the application is opened. It does not pop-up IMs if you're on the home screen or in another app, and when you navigate back to AIM, a flood of messages come in at once. Since you can't turn off the sounds in the application, it quickly becomes annoying.

Will I be in line to purchase a new iPhone 3G tomorrow morning? Maybe not after testing the 2.0 software.

The App Store has massively increased the first generation iPhone's potential without added cost. The 3G data network is arguably a requirement for browsing the normal Web, but third party applications are designed to work well on Edge. And with companies like Bank of America, MySpace, AOL and eBay all releasing apps, it's no longer necessary to launch Safari for many tasks that previously required a Web browser.

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