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Apple iPhone 3.0: one small step for phone kind

AppleThe first iPhone was revolutionary, the first smartphone that really worked. But this, the third release isn't nearly as interesting.

People who expect today's iPhone 3G S or this week's Apple iPhone OS 3.0 software upgrade to be equally exciting will be disappointed. Not because the product is bad, but because It's hard for any third release to be as dramatic as the first.

I purposefully avoided memorizing the new features of the iPhone 3.0 software, so I could experience the so-called "joy of discovery". So far, while my wife assures me that cut-and-paste is in there, I haven't found a need for it.

For me, the upgrade starts and ends with the ability to search. My Apple iPhone carries a great deal of information, but was previously crippled by the difficulty of finding something I knew was "in there" but also knew was buried. Now, a simple search will discover the three-day-old e-mail, buried 153 down in the stack.

Sure, I love the "Find My iPhone" application and have noticed pleasant changes to the audio player, like the ability to easily skip back 30 seconds or play a podcast at half or double-speed, if I like.

I know there is more baked into the iPhone 3.0 software and it seems like Safari now runs faster. However, many of the new features are things I won't notice now that they are in there - like automatic Wi-Fi login - but noticed previously because they weren't.

The ability to sync Notes, an odd omission in previous releases, might get me using a feature I've avoided in favor of synced note taking apps like Evernote.

And maybe I've run into the landscape keyboard, but it didn't make an impression.

That isn't to say I don't like the upgrade, it's tremendous, but it's evolutionary. Okay, now look at the iPhone 3.0 feature set and see if I've missed anything important.

Indeed, it's improved Exchange support that's escaped me, but since I no longer use Exchange, the omission is hardly surprising.

As for the iPhone 3GS hardware, for which links to predictably glowing reviews have started to appear, let me remind you that no one likely to say any serious bad words about an Apple product ever gets a prerelease review unit. Not that the products are bad, but the enthusiasm of the writers should usually be dialed back by at least half.

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What am I expecting when my 32GB iPhone 3GS arrives? Faster performance, lots more memory than my 8GB first-gen iPhone, and the ability to throw away the special narrow adaptors necessary to plug "normal" headphones into the first iPhone's special recessed earphone jack. (Which is a big deal to me).

I'll also avoid the need to soon send my old iPhone in for battery replacement, which in effect makes upgrading £100 less expensive. I'm not sure an iPhone 3G user needs to rush out and upgrade, but users of the first iPhone should seriously consider.

The compass will make maps easier to use, by keeping them oriented. The voice control is something I'll have to experiment with, and the improved camera will be welcome but may not replace the Flip video camera keep in my briefcase.

These are all nice things to have, but nothing will replace the joy of my first iPhone. That was revolution, this won't be. But, that's okay.

David Coursey tries to keep his enthusiasm in check, so he didn't get a review unit. He blogs for PCWorld.com, tweets as techinciter and can be e-mailed from www.coursey.com/contact.

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