As an avid iPhone user, I anxiously await each and every new firmware update Apple offers for it. It does sound quite geeky to say that, but Apple always throws in a bunch of goodies with each update that make the iPhone either easier to use or more fun. Sometimes both.
By no means are these updates perfect, and I have personal opinions on certain features the iPhone lacks (*cough* cut and paste *cough*) and Apple refuses to include them for some reason.
This past Friday we witnessed the release of iPhone firmware 2.2. Eagerly, I immediately downloaded it and installed it on my iPhone. While I originally anticipated little change or improvement to my iPhone, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. And it didn’t disappoint.
My goal in this review is to cover the new features and how they’ve impacted my iPhone use.
Google Street View in iPhone 2.2
Google’s Street View feature is the defining addition to the 2.2 iPhone firmware update. When I first heard that Street View was coming to the iPhone, my thought was “Apple certainly has some interesting priorities.” I figured it would be a mini version of the Street View you can find on the main maps site. Sad to admit, I was wrong.
First, the Street View is fluid and easy to use. On the internet, Street View has arrows to help you adjust the direction of view, ie. if you want to look to the right, click the right arrow. But the iPhone is simpler and smoother. If you want to look to the right, just swipe your finger to the left. The views run together panoramic style and thus there is no interruption in the images. Use multitouch to zoom in and out; double-tap on the street arrows to move further down the street.
Let me share why Street View adds significantly to the iPhone’s map application. Let’s say you are looking for directions to a friend’s house that you’ve never been to. After following the step-by-step directions, now it’s time to find the exact address. If you’re like me, this typically entails driving down the street at 10 mph looking at each individual house to see if it matches the house number you’re looking for. Now just tap on the pin on the map, find the Street View icon, and the map will magically turn into a picture of the house you’re looking for. Still can’t find it? Adjust the viewpoint so you can see what side of the road it’s on and which houses are next to it.
In the image above, the orange circle with the little guy inside to the left of the restaurant is the Street View icon.
This wasn’t the only improvement to the maps. Now you can get walking directions and bus routes as well.
2.2 App Store Changes
A couple important changes occurred in the App Store. Prior to 2.2, when looking through the categories you could only look at one list for each category. The paid and free apps were lumped together and it was a bit difficult to filter through the rapidly growing list. Happily, the 2.2 firmware update changed all that by adding 3 filters within each category: top paid, top free, and release date.
The other change occurs when downloading app updates. With iPhone firmware 2.0, any app (whether on the main page or the last page) would reappear on the front page when a update was downloaded. In 2.1 that hassle was rectified, but the icon would still appear on the front page during the download, and when the download was complete the icon would go back to its original position. Firmware 2.2 tweaks it a little by having the download occur in its original spot.
Podcast Downloading in iPhone 2.2
This change to the iPhone has been my absolute favorite. In the iTunes app on the iPhone, you now can download podcasts directly to the phone, without downloading it to your computer first. You also can stream the podcast without actually downloading it to your iPhone, thus saving space.
Honestly, before 2.2 came out I didn’t pay much mind to podcasts in general. I felt it was inconvenient and time-consuming to download to the computer and then sync to the iPhone. Nor did I want to take up crucial space with podcasts. I simply didn’t see the value. But I started streaming podcasts while I worked on my computer and a whole new world opened up to me.
The entire stream gets buffered really quickly, so you don’t have to constantly be in range of WiFi or 3G once it’s buffered. I was able to wander down my street with 3G turned off and listened to a hour-long podcast without any interruption.
One particular change to the iPhone 2.2 firmware update is small but definitely clever. I have 6 menu screens and find it a hassle to keep swiping my finger across the screen to get back to the main menu screen. But on 2.2, all you have to do is hit the menu button once (no matter which menu you’re looking at) and presto! It moves you back to the main screen.
Other Changes in the 2.2 Update:
When you delete any app from your iPhone, a pop up box appears asking you to rate the application. You can choose from 1-5 stars, or just hit “no thanks” and it will disappear. In my personal opinion, this may skew app reviews a bit, because generally I’m only deleting apps that I don’t like or I don’t use, which makes for negative ratings.
The firmware update also claims to improve visual voicemail sound quality and reception. I haven’t tested either of these out too much yet. But if you have noticed any difference, please leave a comment for us and let us know!
So the iPhone 2.2 update was a lot more useful than I had originally expected. I found the Street View and podcast downloads to be exciting, easy and convenient to use, and I feel that I am getting more out of my iPhone as a result.
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