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Apple's iPhone 3GS: A Next Step, Not A Next Generation

I don't want to call Apple's iPhone old, but it is maturing. The new iPhone 3GS just doesn't bring the kind of groundbreaking improvements delivered by its predecessors--the original iPhone's gesture-driven touch screen, auto-correcting onscreen keyboard and Safari Web browser, or the iPhone 3G's App Store and Global Positioning System self-awareness.

iphone_3gs.jpg

Today's review covers what I think is important about the 3GS--$199 to new and renewing AT&T Wireless customers in a 16-gigabyte version, $299 in a 32-GB version--and the iPhone OS 3.0 software inside it. I had a lot of ground to cover in that piece; please read it with a realization that what I deemed important may only reflect my own weird tastes. (For example, one of my favorite iPhone 3.0 features, the ability to sync notes to your computer, only merits a two-sentence mention on page 16 of Apple's reviewer's guide.)

Unsurprisingly, I had to leave out some details in the column. But that's what this blog is for!

Voice control:

I find computerized speech recognition fascinating, so I had to try the iPhone's version of it. And I was pleasantly surprised to see this device understand commands like "tell me what's playing?" in a noisy Metro station. It also recognized the names of some of the more pronunciation-defying artists in my collection (for instance, Meshell Ndegeocello), even ones it couldn't speak correctly when confirming my selection (Björk, which it pronounced as "Be-jark").

Of course, it served up some amusing mismatches, perhaps none more so than when it interpreted "play songs by Herbert von Karajan" as "play songs by Everclear." (Yes, I know he was a conductor, not a composer; it's not my fault iTunes can't keep its tags straight.)

Voice Control also suffers the problem of other command-line interfaces: You have to know the proper syntax upfront. So when I said "play music by Fugazi," it was confused (a failing that led me to Twitter incorrectly that it didn't know the pronunciation); when I instead said "play songs by Fugazi," the D.C. punk-rock band's "Waiting Room" was cranking through the headphones a moment later.

Video:

TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington made a good point when he wrote that the iPhone 3GS could quickly make cheap pocket camcorders like Pure Digital's Flip models obsolete. What's easier than having simple video-uploading software that runs when you plug the camera into a computer? Being able to run that software without needing a computer at all.

I should note here that iPhone 3G owners can enable a video mode on their devices by jailbreaking it to install an unauthorized video program. A co-worker of mine did that earlier this week and pronounced himself satisified with the results (as well as his newly-won ability to arrange add-on apps in folders).

Push notifications:

The iPhone (Apple's own core applications excepted) remains a mono-tasking device, but with the 3.0 software Apple added a way for third-party programs to hand off tasks to the operating system when they're closed. This "push notification" system won't help you listen to Pandora's Internet-radio program while you tap away at your e-mail (although you can listen to a Web-radio site's streaming audio link through Safari), but it does work well for programs that normally spend most of their time waiting for one input or another.

Like, for instance, instant messaging. I installed AOL's free AIM application, sent a test message to a friend and closed the program. A few minutes later, a beep and a small onscreen dialog notified me that the friend had replied; tapping that dialog brought AIM back up. It's not bad--but it's nowhere near as elegant as the Palm Pre's genuine multitasking.

Have other questions? I wouldn't be surprised. Post them, along with any other comments you might have about the iPhone 3GS, below. Or send them my way during my Web chat, starting at noon EDT today.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 26, 2009; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets  
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Comments

Rob

Sorry to post this here, but the WaPo will not allow this post under the article "The Death of Radical Islam," allegedly because it contains 'offensive content,' though NO ONE in the Virginia online office can tell me what that offensive content is.

Would you please ask the WaPo to somewhere post a list of 'offensive words,' for if IDEAS are offensive, a major 1st Amendment issue is present under the guise of COMMENTS.

The ombudsman was also copied with this.

Until now, Iran has offered the only relatively successful example of Islamist rule, but the bloody events there are strengthening the momentum against radicalism and theocracy in the Muslim world. If the regime hangs on, it will depend increasingly on the militia and other security forces and less on its religious stature.
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During the President Clinton's visit to China, where advocacy for the Dalai Lama and Tibet was encouraged, China's President pointed out that theocracy in the West has all but vanished over 300 years ago, so therefore WHY should it remain in Tibet under auspices of the Dalai Lama in exile?

BUT THERE IS A MAJOR DISTINCTION between peaceful theocracies and those of Radical Islam, as was made clear within the last week in Terran.

Being aware of this distinction, Terran is now electing to VIOLENTLY AND SADISTICALLY suppress opposition.

THOSE TAKEN INTO CUSTODY WILL FACE FAR WORSE INTERROGATION TECHNIQUES THAN WATERBOARDING, SUCH AS

THE BEATING OF THE SOLES OF THE FEET, WITH CRIPPLING EFFECT, ELECTRIC TORTURE TO SEXUAL ORGANS [THE WaPo censor is precluding posting for 'bad words'] HETERO & HOMO RAPE, MUTILATIONS, AND AMPUTATIONS TO MENTION ONLY A FEW TECHNIQUES.

ONLY A ++++ COMPLETE IDIOT ++++ WOULD COMPARE SUCH TECHNIQUES TO WATERBOARDING AND IT SEEMS, WITH ALL DUE RESPECT FOR OTHER POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES, THAT WE HAVE A NUMBER OF COMPLETE IDIOTS DICTATING HOW TO COMPETE AGAINST SUCH ASPECTS OF REAL TERROR AND REAL TORTURE.

IT SEEMS THAT AMERICA HAS IN RECENT YEARS BECOME A SISSIFIED NATION OF COMPLAINERS

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | June 28, 2009 3:29 AM | Report abuse

Rob

if the post just made was really offensive, your site would also have blocked it.

Over the last several days, a number of individuals commenting to stories dealing with Iran have noticed 'serious posting issues' in the comments sections.

What was above posted here, was blocked under the article itself initially due to 'content of an offensive nature' and when that was addressed, it was blocked again for posting multiple post within 3 minutes -- though the first post did not occur.

PLEASE CHECK THIS OUT SO THAT YOUR SECTION CAN BE FOR COMMENTS THAT ADDRESS YOUR ARTICLES.

THANKS

BRUCE

Please forgive the caps.

Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | June 28, 2009 3:35 AM | Report abuse

Rob

Result to next posting after posting above.

Your comment contains content that violates our discussion policy. Please edit and resubmit

Apparently reader comments about BLOCKING OF SOME POSTS IN STORIES DEALING WITH IRAN OVER THE LAST SEVERAL DAYS IS +++++++ CORRECT.
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SHAME ON THE WASHINGTON POST AND ITS DISTORTED VIEW OF THE FOURTH ESTATE.
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Posted by: brucerealtor@gmail.com | June 28, 2009 3:42 AM | Report abuse

Can Your iPhone Really Be Made Secure? Anyone in the security field will tell you that information security is affected and addressed at multiple layers within a solution. As part of the evaluation process for an enterprise business solution, particularly one that enables the transport of potentially sensitive data outside the corporate network, a risk analysis should be conducted.

http://information-security-resources.com/2009/06/25/can-your-iphone-really-be-made-secure/

Posted by: anthonymfreed | June 29, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Rob,

You may have solved my "7 and 9" problems. This piece on your live session Friday REALLY makes sense. Can you please enable me to email the sender or at least ask him what brand/model of signal preamp and what brand/model of splitter he used to work this miracle? His description of his amp and splitter doesn't fit anything I see as commercially available but the secret move by 7 and 9 to VHF at the death of analog does not make sense either.
Their advertisers must only like cable subscribers.

Thanks Rob,

Bill

(May I include my email for an answer which you can eliminate if you do post this? billwilliamson@gmail.com)

Here's what you showed (exciting and a .pdf of his diagram would be great):

Rob Pegoraro: FWIW, I just got an e-mail from a guy who lives in the Mt. Vernon area of Fairfax County, explaining how he got WJLA and WUSA to come in. He sent along a diagram that I can't post here, but I'll try to summarize it:

* Before, he had a wire going from his antenna to a signal preamp, with another wire going from the preamp to the converter box.

* This preamp had both VHF/UHF and VHF-only terminals. He put a splitter between the antenna and the preamp, which itself had separate VHF and UHF terminals. That let him run separate wires, from the splitter's UHF terminal to the preamp's VHF/UHF terminal and from the splitter's VHF terminal to the preamp's VHF-only terminal.

He writes: "I now get 7--9--24 and Baltimore 2,11, and 13."

Posted by: DrBill1 | June 30, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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