Sunday, July 13, 2008

iPhone 3G and Firmware 2.0

.... or, in the ever confusing parlance of computers, firmware 1.2.0.

I am one of a minority in this world when it comes to the 3g: I did not get one for the 3g bit. I wanted the real GPS and flush headphone jack and mostly the 16GB of flash storage. My 8GB unit was always stuffed and actually the 16 GB of the 3G will be no different.

I had a few hopes for the unit that have not really panned out.

1) I had hoped with the 3g feature turned off (which it has been since two hours after I bought the unit: As soon as I could stop playing with it enough to search out the setting to turn off 3G and revert to EDGE) that the battery life would be better. Nope. If anything it is worse. I will probably never leave the house without the Lenmar rechargeable auxiliary battery. With 3G on it is horrific to watch the battery drop.

2) I had hoped with the plastic back on the 3G case replacing the metal back of the first generation iPhone that wifi and edge reception would improve. It didn't get worse but it is not noticeably better either.

One other quibble, and this is not limited to Apple: why is this called a 16GB when it has 14.6 GB? Even if I play the stupid marketing game that they play on counting memory... where marketing says there is 1000 per GB where computers are 1024 per GB (and dropping some zeros) . 16 times 1000 and divided by 1024 is 15.6 GB. There is a missing GB.

I assume that the OS and control data structures are using that space but I wish it would report it!

My daughter ended up with my "old" iPhone, and she put 2.0 on it, so I had a chance to compare a 3G to a first gen unit, both running the same OS. As you might expect location based stuff is way better on the 3G, thanks to the real GPS chip. In fact, so far, location based stuff is not working very well on her unit.

Her unit was Jailbroken originally when I had it, but we looked at the App Store and she decided that it had everything she wanted, and brought hers up to 2.0.

Similarly, while there is a Jailbreak for the 3G / 2.0 out, I am going to wait a few weeks before I decided to jailbreak mine. This is not the same thing as "unlock" mind you. I am not trying to hook up to a different GSM carrier than AT&T. I am not unhappy with their service other than the basic concept of lock-in itself. I am an adult, and I walked into it with open eyes: I agreed to two years of lock-in for the less expensive up-front price. Always the devils bargain.

Jailbreaking pre-2.0 for me was about getting the iPhone to do and be more than Apple was letting it be at the time. The platform has so much more potential than was being used! Besides, I had to have Solitaire.

The App Store brings about 80 or 90% of what the open stuff brought to the table... and then adds in a whole pile of news things the Jailbreak apps never had: Tons of games and location based apps.

What is missing for me so far are all the themers and BSD subsystem based things like file managers and one of my personal favorites "sysinfo". I like to be able to look at the iPhone as the computer that it is, and see what apps are using all the CPU and memory, and kill things that I want gone. It was also a handy way to reboot the entire phone.

If these things *stay* missing, then back to the Jailbreak. If nothing else the free version of Solitaire was much cleaner looking and had better controls!

The App Store is a terrific thing: Do not get me wrong when I say I *might* jailbreak mine. I love some of the new things like the news widgets, and I have purchased a test Solitaire game that is not too bad.

Some App Store sourced stuff is not ready yet: One called 'Where' has yet to load up. Several other apps have caused the iPhone to crash and burn, which is odd because I thought part of the point of having the whole SDK was to keep everything in the box and far enough away from the OS to keep that from happening.

In the comments of my last post, Akshun J provided a link to an article:

In that Article, titled "Hacking is No Solution" Sascha Segan of PC Magazine takes serious issue with the whole idea of Jailbreaking. Here is one quote:

"Here's the rub. You can bet that all of these apps will appear for jailbreaked iPhones. Instead of kicking Apple's butt and speaking out against the artificial deficiencies created by the restrictive license terms, geeks will just jailbreak their phones and use the apps anyway. Mainstream users won't get StyleTap or TomTom or Firefox."

I think this is missing the point of what happened. The App Store now exists! It has tons of stuff the mainstream users will love, and it is going to have way way more things. It has free things too, despite what many feared was going to be the case. There are all sorts of things that one used to have Jailbreak a phone to get that are now in the App Store and free: things like the "Flashlight" app from Erica Sadun for example. I have used the heck out of that little thing, and I *still* have it, now on my unhacked iPhone.

The App Store exists *because* the geeks jailbroke their phones. In the never ending tug of war between the hackers and Apple, Apple decided to join them (to a degree). It is not Open Source mind you, but the SDK *is* free. My wife has a copy. She can write apps for the iPhone if she wants to.

If I end up Jailbreaking my iPhone again to get to Sysinfo or other apps not in the App store, I am pretty sure that what I am after will *not* be mainstream. How many people really want to watch the processes running on their iPhone? Really? How geeky is that?

No matter how geeky it is, if it is popular, I bet it will show up in the App Store sooner or later. The Mainstream and the Geeks will be happy.

And finally, to the point of my last main post, the Blackberry has been seriously left in the dust now. I know they are working on a device to try and compete, but it is hard to imagine catching up if Apple keeps the peddle down like this. Shoot: The next iPhone might even have decent battery life!

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