Bridging the Apple Community and Keeping Tabs on the Rumor Mill.

Feature: 48 Hours With iPhone Software 2.1

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Roughly 48 hours ago, Apple released a massive software update for all iPhone users. My initial reaction was great, and the general buzz has been very positive. Two days later, I couldn't be happier with iPhone Software 2.1. My iPhone feels like itself again, and Apple definitely delivered as promised.

iPhone Software Update 2.1

When Apple made the extremely over-ambitious decision to release the iPhone 3G, the App Store, and Mobile Me on the same day, it's safe to say a few things didn't go as planned. iTunes activation servers went down leaving people with bricked iPhones, Mobile Me blatantly wasn't working, people couldn't access the App Store, and the community was aggravated. In response, Apple uncharacteristically setup a Mobile Me blog and gave users 60 free days of service, publicly apologized for the blunders and tried to keep things pointed in the right direction. With the recent release of iPhone Software Update 2.1, Apple has clearly been listening to its customers. The update addresses a majority of the issues iPhone users have been having, delivering a massive wave of increased stability and usability.

So what did Apple promise the update would bring, and what was delivered? The bold sentences below are straight from Apple's description of the 2.1 update. My experience in the first 48 hours of using 2.1 is below each one.

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Decrease in call set-up failures and dropped calls

An increase in call stability is definitely noticeable. Audio clarity is roughly the same, but a significantly less amount of dropped calls happen during a normal day. AT&T's 3G network plays a big part in the iPhone's call stability. The network itself is not the greatest, so no matter how massive the software update, certain aspects of the iPhone 3G will remain the same.

I would not say reception is significantly better with 2.1. But it definitely seems as though calls (when you have reception), have less noise in the background, and don't get dropped as easily.

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Significantly better battery life for most users

Many users complain about the horrendous battery life iPhone 3G has. It's true that by altering settings on your device, battery life can be dramatically increased, but not everyone wants to deal with the hassle. For example, setting my mail to fetch hourly, dimming my screen brightness, and manually turning off 3G when I don't need it, gives me pretty good battery life already.

With a full battery over 48 hours ago, I have not charged my phone once this weekend, and I have a little less than half battery left. This leads me to believe that standby time has been increased, though based on your usage habits, its difficult to say you'll notice a difference. At least not until some official tests are released.

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Dramatically reduced time to backup to iTunes

This may be one of the biggest issues that software update 2.1 has solved. Previous to this update, Gizmodo posted a video of an eight hour sync between iPhone and Macbook. With 2.1, my initial update took about 10 minutes, and my first sync to get my Genius feature to work took about 15-20 minutes. A major change from how long it was taking to sync or backup your device prior to the 2.1 software update. The "Dramatically" in the title of this fix, is fitting.

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Improved email reliability, notably fetching email from POP and Exchange accounts

Prior to this update, my iPhone 3G would get "stuck" while downloading a large amount of emails from the mail server. Often times when I was checking email and the device would switch between 3G/EDGE, it would get stuck at the "This message has not been downloaded from the server" message. Although this has happened randomly in the past 48 hours. My overall fetching, email reliability and POP seems much more stable. Emails are no longer getting stuck, and I am able to download a lot of messages at once without any noticeable issues.

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Faster installation of 3rd party applications

Another huge issue solved. On Wednesday night I downloaded 6 applications straight to my iPhone, the biggest being Real Soccer 2009. On Thursday, no matter what combination of restart, restore, reinstall I did, 5 out of my 6 new applications simply would NOT launch. Friday morning, after installing software update 2.1, they all launch and run flawlessly. Bugginess within an individual application is not always Apple's fault, so if you notice anything funny going on with any applications (after you've installed 2.1), read the reviews to see if it's happening elsewhere, or if its been addressed by the applications' developers.

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Fixed bugs causing hangs and crashes for users with lots of third party applications

I can say that I am one of those users with "lots of third party applications," and I have definitely noticed an increased level of usability and responsiveness in the iPhone's operating system. The interface is snappy and responds to input, the home button actually takes me to the home screen, and I don't need to wait at least 5 seconds after pressing the sleep/wake button to get a response.

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Improved performance in text messaging - (Video of SMS Bug, Keyboard Lag Bug)

First of all, most or all noticeable keyboard lag is gone. That was a horrendous bug that forced a manual restart to get rid of, and prevented users from being able to type on the iPhone at all.

With 2.1, the increased stability in the overall operating system has clearly reached the keyboard as well. The SMS application isn't getting stuck anymore on very long conversations and the keyboard feels light, fast and snappy once again.

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Faster loading and searching of contacts

I have about 650 contacts in my iPhone, and while this still isn't as much as most corporate users, my contacts have been loading much faster than previous to the 2.1 software update. Friends of mine that have upwards of 1,000+ contacts haven't noticed a big increase in loading and searching speed. If this remains an issue, as it most likely will in the corporate/enterprise world, Apple will need to address it.

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Improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display

This specific fix addresses the "display" of the signal strength bars in the top left corner of your iPhone's screen. It does not address actual "cellular reception", nor does it claim to improve reception. So what's being said with this title is, "prior to this update, you may have had reception, but not known it because the signal strength display had a bug." If you notice two or three more bars in areas where you had none previous to this update, chances are the signal strength display is more accurate, not the actual level of reception.

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Repeat alert up to two additional times for incoming text messages

Prior to this update, some users (including myself) were experiencing repeat notifications of incoming text messages. In other words, you'd get one beep (or buzz), then another, then another, for the same message. With my experience with software update 2.1 in the last 48 hours, this hasn't happened once.

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Option to wipe data after ten failed passcode attempts

Unless you work in an extremely secure environment, the amount of accessible sensitive data on the iPhone, is reason enough for everyone to use the iPhone's passcode lock. Apple has included an option for users, that will wipe your iPhone's data after ten failed passcode attempts. This is definitely a welcome security enhancement.

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Genius playlist creation

Along with iTunes 8, Apple has added Genius Playlists to the iPhone with software update 2.1. Before you are able to get Genius Playlists working on the iPhone, you need to turn on Genius in iTunes 8 and sync your device. Although it can take some time for the iTunes Genius to learn your musical taste, and the iPhone Genius can be pretty inaccurate, both features are a great way to discover new music, and rediscover music from your own library.

If you currently own an iPhone, or know anyone who does, I strongly urge you to upgrade to Software Version 2.1, and tell them to do it as well. This is the software update that we've all been waiting for.

You can find more information on Apple's website.

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