Your next iPhone: iPhone 3.0 update or iPhone 3G S?

Between Apple's free OS upgrade, the new next-generation handset, and the heavily discounted 3G, it's decision-time for both devotees and holdouts

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The aforementioned Safari browser got a great deal of love in iPhone 3.0. Insanely aggressive development of the underlying WebKit browser engine in the run-up to iPhone 3.0's release gifted mobile Safari with a turbocharged JavaScript interpreter, embedded streaming video and audio support, and a 97 out of 100 score on the Acid3 browser compatibility test, making iPhone the premier device for mobile Web applications. The new Safari also has optional auto-fill of HTML forms and stronger parental (or corporate) controls. The browser is one place where the new landscape keyboard really comes in handy. Plus, I find that typing accuracy and the quality of word completion guesses are much improved overall in iPhone 3.0.

What else is new in iPhone 3.0? Almost too much. A2DP Bluetooth headphones and wireless speakers are supported in iPhone 3.0, and they sound fantastic. You can buy and rent movies from the iTunes Music Store from your phone (downloading requires Wi-Fi), and iTunes U has been integrated into iPhone's iPod app. Apple's notification service lets developers wire asynchronous pop-ups into their apps that will appear on your device's screen even when the app isn't running. Instant messages, update notices, wake-up calls, you name it -- if you're a need-to-know-now kind of person, iPhone's got you covered, and without the overhead of running an app in the background just to listen for notifications.

iPhone hide and seek

One feature of iPhone 3.0 not discussed prior to WWDC '09 is Find My iPhone, a service that drives home my assertion that all individual iPhone buyers should factor the $99 yearly cost of a MobileMe subscription into their purchase. Find My iPhone does what it says: It shows you, on a map, where your (or your kid's) iPhone is. You can enter a "please return me" message that will appear on the phone's display, or you can issue a remote blanking command that will erase your personal data. A nice loud tone plays, too, even if you have the phone in silent mode, so you can figure out which sofa cushion or bag pocket is concealing your iPhone 3G.

Finding your misplaced iPhone is one thing. Finding misplaced data on your iPhone is a job for Spotlight. Just sweep the Spotlight interface onto the Home screen, start typing, and global search results fill in as you type. Just like on a Mac, you can tap a match to open the appropriate app. A Snow Leopard-inspired feature extends iPhone Spotlight searches to include data on an Exchange Server host, including messages that you haven't yet downloaded to your phone.

What'll really grab you about the new iPhone OS is the deluge of new and improved App Store software that is the result of Apple's brilliant embrace of developers. Apple claims its App Store now has 50,000 applications. Once iPhone 3.0 is delivered, that number will easily double by the end of the year. Expect an absolute explosion in hardware accessories that use the docking connector as well. TomTom used this to create the to-die-for car kit accompanying its turn-by-turn navigation software. If a game pad doesn't show up within a month of iPhone 3.0's release, that's my ticket to riches.

The AT&T way

You'll love that Voice Notes is now a standard app in iPhone 3.0, and that you can send and receive audio or pictures via MMS if your wireless operator permits it. If you're in the United States, your wireless operator (AT&T) does not permit MMS on iPhone, but no matter. In the United States, when you hit the Share button in Voice Notes or Camera, you'll be invited to e-mail your media. iPhone connectivity to various media sharing services is easy to come by in App Store.

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