Things You Probably Don’t Know About iPhone 2.0 – Part One: Apps

July 12, 2008

I’m into my third day using the newly released and much-anticipated 2.0 firmware revision to the iPhone software. (I updated my existing iPhone early using an unsupported download from Apple.com that circulated the Internet on Thursday.  More that and its significance later.)  I started with a blog post to cover new features and hits across the whole spectrum, but quickly realized I was getting long-winded so I decided to divide this into several posts.  I’ll share my quick first impressions and some feature hints, many of which you WON’T find on other blogs and tech review sites:

The App Store works beautifully and efficiently, and is a model application for other iPhone developers.  You can install applications ranging in price from FREE to over $60 using the icon on your iPhone or the iTunes Music Store on you computer.  Discovering and installing apps right from your iPhone is so easy and quick that there’s really almost no reason to use iTunes.  

What others haven’t yet told you:
  • If you have iTunes setup to sync your apps, you may have trouble making them go away if you want to uninstall.  This is because if you delete (uninstall) an app from the iPhone, iTunes will reinstall it next time you sync.  Fix this by going to the Applications icon in the left pane of iTunes, selecting the icon of the app, and deleting it from iTunes also.
  • You can share purchased apps between iPhones if they use the same iTunes account.  My wife and I have our laptop and iPhones setup to use the same iTunes account, which already allows us to share music while paying only once.  Apps work the same way.  Just purchase the app on one of the iPhones or computers and install it.  Because Apple allows you to re-download apps and their updates for free, you simply install the same app from the other iPhone (or its sync computer).  A polite message will tell you that you’ve already purchased the app, and that clicking okay will install it again.  This means Super Monkey Ball on two phones for the price of one.  WOOT!  You can’t go crazy, though.  Remember that you can only authorize an iTunes account on five computers at a time and your iPod or iPhone gets its download authority from the computer it syncs with.  So this is really only useful for a small family like mine.
  • Messaging-type apps are somewhat handicapped until September.  Apps such as Twitterriffic and AIM work really well, but they don’t run at all in the background.  This is by design, as Apple has insisted from the beginning that the iPhone remain a stable platform.  One of the most bulletproof ways of ensuring this is to disallow third party apps from running at the same time and allowing them to be “minimized” like on a desktop computer.  Apple engineers are not being mean, they just want to be sure that your iPhone doesn’t gag trying to field a phone call because Super Monkey Ball, Facebook, MySpace, Texas Hold ‘Em, and WeatherBug are all competing for attention in the background.  The impact on you today is that if you exit an app such as AIM to check your e-mail, AIM actually quits.  You won’t get “buzzed” if someone sends you another instant message whilst you’re reading that Viagra spam.  The GOOD NEWS is that Apple will release an update targeted for September that will resolve some of this.  According to Apple, one centralized background notification service will run on the iPhone at all times, and can be used by any program that needs it.  This will work much like the SMS and Mail apps today, in that you’ll be notified by badges (the little red dot in the corner of the Mail app that tells you how many unread messages you have waiting) and/or alert notifiers (the little messages that appear in a translucent box to tell you about new SMS messages and battery drain).  This feature will really complete several apps and make them several times more useful.  
I’ll have more goodies soon.  
-JSW
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