iPhone OS 3.0 First Impressions

At long last, version 3.0 of the Phone OS has landed. There are already some excellent in-depth reviews, such as the ones on iLounge and Ars Technica, so I won’t go into lengthy details here. Instead, here are some first impressions of the new OS, both good and bad…

Select, cut, copy and paste

A clipboard was one of my most wanted features, and it’s wonderful to finally see it in action. To start with I tried selecting a paragraph of text in Safari, at which point Safari bombed out and returned to the Home screen. Oops! Not a fantastic start. However I tried again with a different page and it was fine. It’s relatively easy to use, considering the constraints of a small touch-screen: tap and hold to bring up the magnifier, then release and choose Select, Select All, or Paste:

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You can also double-tap a word to select it, then choose Cut, Copy, or Paste:

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To change a selection, tap and drag its end markers:

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To delete selected text, tap the Delete key – nicer than having to tap and hold Delete, and makes replying to email messages inline much easier.

You can also copy links in Safari or Mail by tapping and holding (notice the new Open in New Page feature too):

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Cut, copy and paste also (mercifully) work in Safari’s address bar.

If you tap and hold a paragraph of Web text in Safari when zoomed out then it intelligently selects the whole block of text by default – very handy. I couldn’t find any way to copy an image from Safari to another app though – you have to save the image to your Camera Roll, then go find it and copy it from there.

I know a lot of folks weren’t bothered by the lack of a clipboard for the iPhone, and for many uses I agree it’s not necessary. However, for me it brings the iPhone that much closer to being a “proper” computer; it makes manipulating emails, to-dos, notes, and blog posts so much nicer.

AutoFill for Web forms

AutoFill was another feature I was really looking forward to; sadly it doesn’t work for me with Google AdSense (which is what I really wanted it for). It offers to remember the login details but, on returning to the login form later, the AutoFill button is greyed out and the username/password fields are empty. Oh well. Trying a WordPress login form seemed to work, so maybe this is just an AdSense issue.


iPhone OS 3.0 now lets you search globally across many of the built-in apps (Contacts, iPod, Notes, Mail, and Calendar). To do this, swipe right – or press the Home button – when you’re on the first Home screen.

Searching messages from within Mail is another welcome addition – the search box is above the first message in each mailbox (drag downwards to see it). However it doesn’t seem to let you search the bodies of email messages – merely the From, To, and Subject fields. A bit disappointing. It does let you search messages on your IMAP server though, which is great.

Better photo management

I like the improvements to the Photos app – you can now tap the bottom-left icon then tap multiple photos to select them, after which you can share them (via email or MMS), copy them, or delete them (handy for mass deletions). For some reason, you can only share up to 5 photos, but it’s easy to break this limit by tapping Copy instead, then pasting the photos into a new email message. (Another joy of copy and paste!)

Other stuff

Shake to Undo is surprisingly intuitive: shake the phone, tap a button, and your recent change (typing, text editing, and so on) is undone. Repeat the process to redo. Very slick design. Doesn’t work with things like deleting mail messages though, unfortunately!

I’m finding the landscape keyboard in Mail more useful than I thought I would – it really does speed up typing and reduce typos. Loving it. It’s also available in many other apps, such as notes and the messaging app (which can now handle MMS too).

Voice Memo is nice – there goes my 3rd party voice memo app – though it seems to record very quietly (you have to shout to make the VU meter go past -10!). You can trim memos, which is a nice touch, and it’s elegantly done too.

Also we finally have the ability to sync iPhone notes with the Mac – they’re synced with the notes in the Mail app. (If there’s a sync conflict with a note then the most recently edited version appears to win.) Not sure what happens on Windows – maybe it syncs with Outlook?

iPhone OS 3.0: Was it worth the wait?

Overall, while few of the iPhone OS 3.0 improvements are earth-shattering (and some should, frankly, have been there in 2.0!), many features are most welcome – particularly select/cut/copy/paste, landscape keyboards, and notes syncing. I expect I’ll get more out of the many new features over time.

I hope Apple manage to iron out a few of the bugs and omissions when they release iPhone OS v3.1, such as the shaky AutoFill feature and not being able to search email messages in full. We shall see!

What do you like – or not like – about the iPhone OS 3.0 update?

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11 Responses to “iPhone OS 3.0 First Impressions”

  1. Matt West Says:

    What I like about the new iPhone 3.0 is the fact that it is a good example of the way technology is contributing to the convergence of commerce and environmental interest. Like other digital devices the new iPhone 3.0 facilitates Greener communications. But beyond reducing the need for paper and ink what makes the iPhone Green is the abundance of environmentally helpful apps. And now with the launch of 3.0’s in-app purchasing feature there is even greater access to even more apps.

    For the entire article go to The Green Market

  2. f01re Says:

    This looks good I thought. So I tried to download it from itunes but it required itunes to be upgraded. The itunes upgrade didn’t like my copy of xp. After half an hour of fiddling around in the registry and re-installing itunes from scratch I got it to *understand*.

    So, eventually I upload the 3.0 software. The first thing I notice is that instead of two carefully positioned pages of apps on my iphone they’re now randomly spread over 5 pages.

    Fuck you Apple.

    Fuck you Microsoft.


  3. RC Says:

    A funny easter-egg type feature in the Voice Memo app is that when you tap the mic with your finger, the VU meter reacts 🙂

    Liking OS 3 so far. Seems even a bit faster in certain areas.

  4. Matt Says:

    @f01re: Bummer! I noticed some app rearrangement too – presumably because it wanted to squeeze that new Voice Memos app onto the first home page. Pesky!

    @RC: Yes I’d noticed that VU meter thing too! 🙂 And I’ve also noticed some speed improvements in certain apps (though it’s all a bit subjective!).

  5. JJ Says:

    Why no task sync with iCal? If they could add Notes sync, why no task sync? Surely task sync was more important than notes sync? I’ve used programs like Outlook and Apple Mail/ical for years, and I hardly use notes. Tasks are the heavy usage area. It makes me weep when Apple has these gross over-sights, and just stubbornly does not listen in spite of so much feedback. This is Steve Job’s personality embodied in Apple’s corporate stubbornness — thinking they are right every time, and not listening.

  6. Matt Says:

    @JJ: I agree – task sync (or, for that matter, tasks in general) is a fairly glaring omission on iPhone. Been banging on about this for ages: https://mac.elated.com/2007/07/04/iphone-wot-no-to-do-list/

  7. llsweetgeek Says:

    Cut/copy/paste, Bluetooth (which frankly should have been added from the beginning), landscape across apps, notifications, increased desktop screen allowance, and spotlighte-like search are totally welcome and helps to smooth out many usability stumbling blocks for me. My most wanted feature though–tacks sync for OL–disappointingly is not there with the new notes sync. this means my wait continues… I got this as a PDA replacement for work and still this fundamental capability keeps me from having a fully functionAl Pda, which means more time waisted on dealing with less than perfect (though decent enough) workarounds. All in all though upgrading to 3.0 was totally worth it for me.

  8. llsweetgeek Says:

    darn my thumbs did it again… I just saw all my typos!

  9. Matt Says:

    @JJ and @llsweetgeek: I know it’s not an ideal solution but have you looked at third-party to-do apps? I personally use Things (http://culturedcode.com/things/) which syncs nicely with the desktop version.

  10. BDD Says:

    I like 3.0 so far, except for some odd reason, landscape keyboard mode doesn’t work in Safari. It works with other apps, though. I wonder if this has something to do with my Touch being a 1st gen…

  11. Matt Says:

    @BDD: That’s odd. Have you tried restarting the touch? Might have been a glitch during the update?