iPhone 2.0 and 3G: 48 hours

For the next 48 hours (from July 11-13), I'm going to use this blog entry to post my semi-random comments and discoveries regarding the iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 software. The most recent comments are at the top.

App Store software: slow to sync, upgrade and backup. [Note: This is my last update for this "48 hours" blog entry.] Today, I upgraded the NYTimes app (that I had previously obtained from the App Store). It was a simple process (and you even see a "loading" message appear under the app's icon in the Home screen while the update is taking place). But it took about 10 minutes to complete. At one point, my iPhone became so non-responsive, I thought it had crashed.

Similarly, transferring apps from the iPhone to iTunes on your Mac (or vice versa) during a sync takes an unusually long time, much longer than I would expect given the number of MBs involved. Further, when you sync your iPhone, the first step is typically a backup of the iPhone's non-media content. This appears to be backing up all the App Store apps on your iPhone. If you have added new software since your last backup, the backup takes a long time as well. [Update: Actually it appears to take just as long even if you haven't added new software. If you have a lot of App Store apps on your iPhone, be prepared for long backup times with each sync.]

I guess this is all something I'll just have to get used to.

On a related note, if you want to browse through the software available in the App Store, with the intent of obtaining and installing several items at once, you are much better off doing so via the iTunes Store on your Mac, than via the App Store on your iPhone. On the iPhone, every time you select to buy an app, it bumps you out of the Store and back to the home screen. When your return to the Store, you have to re-navigate to where you last were. The user experience in iTunes is much better.

A warning: If you do download apps directly to your iPhone, you will get a warning message the next time you connect your iPhone to iTunes. It will alert you that it has found items that are "not present in your iTunes Library...If you do not transfer these items...they will be removed from the iPhone." So, unless you want to lose these items, make sure you click the Transfer button here. If you do make a mistake here, Apple claims it will allow you to redownload any purchased software.

Update: On the other hand, as described in this iPhone Atlas report, things may not work as Apple describes. In fact, you may have trouble getting rid of an app that you no longer want.

Location Services. In Settings > General, you have the option to turn Location Services On or Off. This is true for the original iPhone (running 2.0 software) as well as the iPhone 3G. Here is what the latest version of the iPhone Users Guide has to say about this feature:

    Location Services allows applications such as Maps and Camera to gather and use data indicating your location. Location Services does not correlate the data it collects with your personally identifiable information. Your approximate location is determined using available information from cellular network data, local Wi-Fi networks (if you have Wi-Fi turned on), and GPS (if you have an iPhone 3G).

    You can turn Location Services off if you don’t want to use this feature. If you turn Location Services off, you’ll be prompted to turn it back on again the next time an application tries to use this feature.

    Note: To conserve battery life, turn Locations Services off when you’re not using it.

    Locations warnings are the requests made by applications (such as Camera and Maps) to use Location Services with those applications. iPhone stops presenting the warning for an application the second time you tap OK. Tap Reset Location Warnings to resume the warnings.

    You can reset the location warnings: Choose General > Reset and tap Reset Location Warnings.

Reactivating my original iPhone. My iPhone 3G has been running smoothly now for 48 hours. I continue to discover some some minor "clean-up" tasks that need to be done, such as relinking ringtones and photos to contacts, but the phone is overall doing very well. Those first day hassles are already a fading memory.

Update: I am still having some problems with Contacts. All of the photos and custom ringtones changes I made yesterday were gone today. I thought at first that it had to do with an alert I received about Contacts sync conflicts when I last synced the iPhone (apparently many of the contacts were missing the "person" tag). However, after re-adding the custom changes, they were again deleted on my next sync (even though there was no conflict this time). I continue to investigate this.

The final step in my transition weekend to the 3G was to take my original iPhone and switch it over to my wife's phone number. I had already called AT&T to make sure they had a record of her new SIM card. All I now needed to do was connect the iPhone to iTunes, activate and restore it as a new phone. I did all this -- without a single hiccup! In case you are in a similar situation, here is a brief rundown of the recommended steps:

1. Connect the iPhone to iTunes (while logged into the new owner's account on your Mac).
2. Ignore the request to update the iPhone to the 2.0 software. Instead, click the iPhone name in the Devices list. A "Welcome to AT&T" screen should appear. Click Continue to initiate the activation sequence. As part of the process, you'll need to set up an iTunes account for the second person (if they don't already have one). When done, you should have a functioning phone.
3. Next, from the iPhone's Summary screen, click the Restore button. Turn down the request to backup your iPhone before continuing (as you will be setting this up as a new iPhone).
4. The iPhone Software Update 2.0 will be downloaded and the restore sequence will begin, all without any input needed from you. You'll see the typical messages: "Preparing iPhone software for restore," "Verifying iPhone software," "Restoring iPhone Firmware," and "Your iPhone has been restored and is restarting..." When the sequence is completed (which can take several minutes), the final automatic step is to sync the iPhone (which adds Contacts, iCal events and Safari bookmarks to the iPhone, assuming you optionally selected for this in a prior step).
5. You can additionally sync any music and photos now. Or not. In either case, the new owner is now ready to enjoy their new iPhone.

Fast battery drain. I'm still testing this one out, but it appears that my iPhone 3G runs out of battery power a lot faster than my old iPhone -- even when I am not using it. I believe this is a separate issue from the increased battery usage of the 3G network -- which is acknowledged in text found in the Settings > General > Network screen, where you can turn the 3G network on or off.

The battery drain happens even overnight, while the iPhone is not in use (on in standby mode, but with the screen off). The next morning, the 3G's battery is significantly depleted, whereas my old iPhone's battery level has not noticeably dropped at all. Others have reported related problems (see here). I am going to to do some formal testing of this, both with 3G on and 3G off -- and I will report back soon.

Update: The problem appears not as bad as I initially thought. One difference in my most recent test: I made sure that the battery was fully charged, as determined by the battery icon in the toolbar shifting from the lightning bolt to the plug. The large battery image in the main screen indicates a "full" charge too soon; don't rely on that.

G3 network drop-outs. Sunday July 13. I live in the East Bay of San Francisco, just a stone's throw from the city. As such, I expected to be within a 3G network coverage area. As it turns out, I am -- sort of. However, when I pick up a 3G network in my home, it is very weak (only 1 bar). On the plus side, for an Internet connection, even a weak 3G signal is faster than a 5 bar EDGE connection. Phone call quality also remains good even with a "weak" 3G signal. The problem is that the 3G connection periodically drops out, and the iPhone reverts to EDGE. Overall, as I travel around nearby communities, I get a 3G connection no more than half the time. If that's the best I can do in this techno-rich area, I imagine it is worse -- much worse -- in most other places. Clearly, AT&T has a ways to go before iPhone users will get the maximum benefit from 3G.

MobileMe. Just beginning to experiment with MobileMe (I'll have much more on this later). As of now (Saturday morning, July 12), if you enter www.mac.com in your browser, you are still taken to the "maintenance" page that says "MobileMe web applications not yet available" (which is not true). If you enter www.mobileme.com, you are taken to the MobileMe PR page on apple.com. If you intsead simply enter "me" or "www.me.com," you are taken to the actual MobileMe site. From here, you will be given the option to set up your account (new or existing). Once set up, you can access the MobileMe applications, as well as your iDisk.

You can get MobileMe setup help by clicking the "Set Up Now" button at the top of the Info page of your iPhone in iTunes. Or by simply going here.

I was pleased to find that, as promised, all my existing .Mac HomePage Web sites are still there and work with the same URL.

Apple initially released a Mac OS X update that changed the .Mac System Preferences pane to a MobileMe System Preferences pane. It pulled it almost immediately (probably because of some just discovered bug). It will certainly return soon. For now, however, the .Mac System Preferences works for MobileMe just fine.

Update: Mac OS X Update for MobileMe 1.1 is now available, but it has a unique install process: you install it by first launching System Preferences and selecting the .Mac pane (as described here). A dialog alerting you to the update appears after a few moments. From this dialog, you click to go to Software Update, which now offers to install the new MobileMe System Preferences pane. Mac OS X 10.5.4 is required.

Tip: If you currently have an "old" .Mac account on your iPhone, delete it and create a new MobileMe account. If not, you are very likely to have problems with the new push mail features of MobileMe. I'll be writing more about this and other MobileMe issues in a MacFixIt article due within the next week or so.

New feature sitings. When entering passwords (many of which I had to be r-enter after upgrading), I noticed that the last character you type now appears in plain text. This is a welcome change, as it allows you detect typing errors. In prior versions, all entered text remained "hidden."

There are several new settings, including General>Restrictions (it's a parental controls feature). Plus, third party applications can add their own listing in Settings. On my iPhone, I so far have settings options for AIM and NYTimes.

Improved sound. Yes, the sound is much better in the iPhone 3G than in my original iPhone. Among other things, the better sound makes playing games a bit more enjoyable. But most importantly, the ringer and alerts sounds are now capable of being much louder. Last night, while I was sleeping, I received a text message on my iPhone 3G. The alert sound was so loud that, even though it was in the next room, the iPhone sound woke me up! That had never happened before.

Games. Saturday morning. Spent time last night playing Texas Holdem. Wow! I highly recommend it. It has two modes: single player view (in which you watch movie-like clips of each player's action) vs. full table view (if you hold the iPhone horizontally). Much better than any other Holdem game I have ever seen. Super Monkey Ball and Cro-Mag Rally lived up to their hype. I confess, however, that I am still having trouble using the iPhone as a game navigation device.

Success! 5:20 p.m. iPhone activated. It took a call to AT&T (not Apple) to get the problem resolved. They had me turn the iPhone completely off, remove the SIM card, and give them my SIM card number -- and they then did some voodoo at their end. Apparently, whatever AT&T should have done this morning when I was at the store, was not done. After putting everything back together again, the iPhone worked as expected. Yeah!

Updated my iPod touch to 2.0 as well. No problems. It appears that Apple has finally gotten their servers working again.

Still can't activate. It's 3:50 p.m. PDT. I just tried activating my iPhone 3G again. All seems to go well, except that I still get a message on the iPhone screen that states: ""Activation Alert; No signal detected. Signal is required to complete activation." The end result is that my iPhone is fully functional except for the phone activation. In other words, I have a sort of "iPhone touch."

AppStore apps sync on third try. It took me three tries to get all my AppStore apps (that I downloaded to my Mac via iTunes yesterday) to transfer to my iPhone. The first time, the sync just ended before completing the transfer. The second time, iTunes froze in the middle of the transfer. The third time was a charm.

iPhone 3G half-way activated. The last time I tried to activate my iPhone, I succeeded in getting about half-way. It restored data from my backup but was not able to activate my phone service, giving me a failure notice. iTunes now says that my iPhone is up-to-date and no longer requests that I activate it. The result is that I have an iPhone with Wi-Fi and working applications, but no phone services. I can even get programs from the AppStore (that I had downloaded via iTunes) to sync to the iPhone and work. Still, I assume I will have to do a complete Restore and start over, before the phone service becomes active. Meanwhile, at least my old iPhone continues to work, so I am not completely without a functioning mobile phone.

2.0 software hide-and-seek. Apple has apparently temporarily given up on letting users upgrade existing iPhones and iPod touches to 2.0 software. As I write this (2:15 p.m. PDT), my devices are again listed as "up to date" at version 1.1.4. For a brief moment, a 2.0 upgrade was listed and I was almost able to update my touch. But the upgrade failed and when I tried again, the option to upgrade had been removed.

I also have had trouble getting MobileMe setup.

What a mess. I would hate to be an Apple employee today.

Updating an existing phone to 2.0 vs. upgrading to a new 3G. Apple states in a support article that "Normally if you choose to update, the iPhone or iPod touch software is updated but your settings and media are not affected. If your device currently has a software version prior to 2.0 (1.x) and you are updating to software version 2.0 or later, all data on your device will be erased in order to perform install the new software. In this case, iTunes will offer to create a one-time media backup of your device depending on what content is on your device and what content is stored in the iTunes Library you are connected to."

Note, however, if you are instead moving from an original iPhone to an iPhone 3G, the above "one-time media backup" is not relevant. Instead, as noted in this Apple article, you will have resync your media to the new iPhone, as you would after any typical iPhone restore.

However, as I have now discovered, if you restore an iPhone running 2.0, it will download the 2.0 software from Apple (as expected) and do the "one-time" backup, even though you are not upgrading from 1.x. software.