iOS 4 First Impressions

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I learned a few things while I was trying to record my first impressions of Apple’s new iOS 4 (as seen here on the iPhone 3GS). I decided to make the fandroids happy and used my HTC Evo 4G to capture the excitement. It disappointed me on so many levels. Not iOS 4, but the HTC Evo 4G’s default camera app and settings. If you would like to read my rant about this video’s quality, you can catch it on Facebook. Let’s get on with the iOS 4 chatter!

Overall, my impressions of the iOS 4 are (surprise, surprise) positive. This was an incremental upgrade. Apple seemingly left out a few finer details, but it didn’t completely take away from the experience. If you’re already an iPhone user, you’ll love what you see here. Some of these features have been long overdue. I don’t care if you had them four years ago – it’s today, and now we all have them (making your history, in this respect, moot).

The largest update, of course, is the ability for third-party apps to multitask. You don’t have to terminate one in order to do another thing any longer. People have been clamoring for this since the original iPhone launched. Apple’s own apps could already do this, but now third parties can make use of a limited set of multitask capabilities. You’ll be able to listen to streaming music in the background while doing other things on your phone. You can carry on a VoIP call (such as with Skype) while surfing the web and even let your GPS run in the background. Notice the common theme here? This isn’t “true” multitasking as you’re used to with a desktop. However, you don’t have to quit one app in order to use another any longer.

The ability to create folders on the home screen is a pretty big deal to most of us. You can group all of your apps based on genre, personal preferences, or whatever criteria you choose. Simply drag one app onto the top of another, and you’ll be prompted to name your new folder. You can store up to twelve apps within each folder. For most users, this should be more than enough. However, some of the power users may wish that Apple would add folder nesting. If we bug them enough, perhaps we’ll see that in a future update.

There are a few changes you’ll see on (and around) your home screen. If you tap on the home button once, you’ll be taken back to your home screen (or the last folder you used). Tapping it twice brings up the multitasking app drawer to make it easy for you to find recently used apps. Apple has finally granted us the ability to change the home screen background. I know there are a lot of people searching for just the right look tonight.

Being able to lock the screen across the entire device is an excellent move. However, it only works in portrait mode. If you try to lock it in landscape mode, the iPhone will revert itself to portrait mode for you – whether you like it or not. That’s annoying, but I suppose beggars cannot be choosers. Due to the home screen changes, you can not assign the home button to a different app any longer. It was nice to quickly launch the camera or phone favorites. You’ll have to go into these apps the old-fashioned way now, unfortunately.

As we’ve discussed before, Mail got a nice overhaul. There are several new changes to the interface this time out. The largest difference is probably the addition of a “unified” inbox. You can see all of the emails from every email account in one convenient place. If you are chomping at the bit to access several different email addresses all at the same time (good luck not confusing yourself) then this change will make you pretty happy. Threading is a VERY welcome change to Mail. When you open an email, you can now read every other message in that particular “chain” in one easy place… much like with Gmail. You can turn off this feature easily if you aren’t interested in having your mail grouped this way for you.

The only real change to the iPod app is the ability to create and edit playlists. As mentioned before, the audio controls are now added to your multitasking drawer. The camera app has a few minor changes to it, as well. One nice addition is the ability to tap “focus” while recording a video, as you could before with the camera. You can make use of the 5x zoom function if you want, also.

You’ll find many other small surprises inside of iOS 4: The spell checker has been enhanced (thank god!) and isn’t quite as annoying as it was in previous iterations. Mobile Safari will offer search suggestions (like you find when you begin typing something into Google). You can bring your iBooks to the small screen. Oh… and… you can use Bing now on the iPhone if you choose. Google is still the default search engine with Bing added as another option.

Everything seems to be working okay so far. The updates were incremental, and the update was free. There’s a lot of spit-and-polish involved with iOS 4. I’m very much looking forward to getting my iPhone 4 which will be arriving at the end of the week!

What do YOU think the best new feature of iOS 4 is? Is there anything you aren’t happy with?

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