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Is There Any Benefit To Going iPhone 4.0 Before It’s Released?

After seeing all the cool new goodness in the iPhone OS 4.0 that’s due to be released this summer, I decided I wanted to try it. Short of paying $100 to be in Apple’s developer’s program, there are ways to get your phone’s UDID attached to a developer so you can try out officially released beta firmware. I did it through My iPhone Activation. It was a fairly quick and painless process to get into the program.

Getting your iPhone to 4.0 is a less than pleasant process. The My iPhone Activation folks document the steps you’ll take but the process: namely the restore process, is slow. In fact, I had to restart it a few times. It was also taking so long to install apps and copy content that I left it overnight to finish. It did crash during one application install, too.

Now my iPhone is running the 4.0 beta 1 code. What benefits do you really get from this? Is the pain of upgrading worth it?

Multitasking

****One of the biggest features in the iPhone 4.0 is a feature that I’ve had on my Nokia smartphones forever: the ability to run multiple third party applications simultaneously. Even in this release, Apple still doesn’t allow full-on multitasking, but they do provide ways for applications to do certain tasks in the background–namely play music, handle VoIP calls, or use the GPS. They also support a task switcher (double-click on the home button), allowing you to switch between recently launched applications.

Along with a sort of “suspend and restore” for applications (when you switch out of an application, it “suspends” and then when you switch back it “restores” to the previous state), you get a lot of the benefits of multitasking without a lot of the overhead associated with it. I give Apple points for extreme cleverness, but–and herein lies the rub–the applications needs to be specifically written to support this.

Today, the only apps that properly support the multitasking and “suspend and restore” type functionality are the built-in native apps. No third party apps support this. This means you really don’t get any benefit from this feature. Even without multitasking, the task switcher is still nice because it provides a convenient way to relaunch recently launched applications.

Bluetooth Keyboard

There are times when I want to do some heavy-duty text input but don’t want to drag around a full computer to do it. A bluetooth keyboard would be a nice compromise for those situations. Unfortunately, Apple did not previously permit Bluetooth Keyboards to be used with the iPhone.

Until now. This was a feature mentioned for the iPad, so it makes sense that iPhone 4.0 has this as well. Once I figured out how to get my Think Outside Keyboard into pairing mode, I was able to use it with the iPhone. When you’re paired with the Bluetooth Keyboard, the onscreen keyboard does not come up when you touch on the screen in a text area.

This feature alone almost makes it worth the trouble. Almost.

Other Miscellaneous Things

Some other things I’ve noticed include:

  • App Folders: Haven’t used this yet, but I can see how I would use this to reduce the visual clutter in my home screens.
  • Disable Cellular Data ( In Settings > General > Network): Nice feature if you’re not on an unlimited plan
  • Wallpapers: You can actually set a wallpaper for your home screen and not just your lock screen. They can be the same image or different images.
  • Backups: For whatever reason, backups are disabled when you try and sync your iPhone. Just be aware of that.
  • Stability: I haven’t noticed any serious stability issues, but I’ve had audio stutter a little on playback of MP3s.
  • Battery Life: I’ve had an inordinate number of phone calls over the past 24 hours, so getting a general sense of battery life has been difficult. My general sense is the battery life is worse, but I’ll have to confirm that over the weekend.
  • Can create playlists in the iPod App: Nuff said.
  • New Mail app: I only have one mailbox, and it’s GMail over IMAP. I haven’t seen any difference in the app so far, though it was one of the major things they supposedly updated in this release.

Conclusion

Since the ecosystem necessary to support all the new features isn’t there yet (i.e. the apps), the only thing you get by upgrading is some minor usability enhancements and a slightly less refined user experience in some areas (i.e. other areas where they have made some minor changes but haven’t tied down the user experience). I would argue that for most people, you’re better off waiting until iPhone 4.0 is released rather than going through the pain of upgrading. What do you think?

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Parent, Writer, Podcaster, Coffee Achiever, VoIP/Telco Curious, C-List Information Security Celebrity, and Mobile Phone Connoisseur residing in Gig Harbor WA US. Sometimes NSFW, always a 49ers fan.