In keeping with my promise from last week to report on new products and software coming out of Macworld only after I’ve had a chance to use them myself (rather than gushing effusively using second-hand and press-release information), here’s a report on the latest software upgrade for Apple’s revolutionary iPhone, which was available mere moments after the keynote address ended.
This iPhone upgrade is probably the last before the iPhone is opened up to third-party developers sometime next month, and it packs some very nice new features.
The first is a major overhaul of Maps, an application developed jointly with Google (of Google Maps and Google Earth fame). Earlier versions of Maps on the iPhone were great at pinpointing and providing a map or satellite photo of a given location, either manually entered or right from your address book. However, in order to gain a map overlay or written directions to that location, you had to tell your iPhone where you were.
No more. Then new Maps application sports a button that shows you where you are on a map. How do it do it? GPS? Nope. Apple eschewed GPS in the iPhone because it takes a heavy toll on battery life and phone size. Instead, the iPhone uses two new technologies. The first is from a company called Skyhook Wireless. Skyhook has collected a database of over 23 million WiFi hotspots which they use to plot your position. They claim accuracy to 20 meters. The second is from Google. Google uses information broadcast from mobile towers near you to approximate your current location on the map, and they claim an accuracy of 1000 meters (around a half-mile).
So I did a test. Using my home WiFi (the Skyhook method), accuracy was within half a Bath city block. Pretty good. Turning off the WiFi and using the AT&T mobile tower (Google) method, accuracy was within the 1000 meters claimed. Actually, AT&T thought I lived under the Leeman Highway overpass, which is plenty close enough if I’m just trying to get some driving directions.
Another nice Map feature is Drop Pins (like a Placemark if you’re familiar with Google Earth). Say I’m driving into a big, unfamiliar city (like Lewiston-Auburn) and encounter a location I want to bookmark on my phone to find again like the location of the big-city garage where I parked my car, for example. I can drop a pin on its location on the map and create a Bookmark and get directions back to it later.
When using Maps, I can view a location either on a traditional map, a “God’s-eye-view” satellite image, or in a hybrid view (like Google Maps/Earth).
In preparation for the coming flood of third-party applications, the iPhone now supports up to nine Home screens, which contain the software buttons you touch to do stuff. You can also now change the layout of the buttons to meet your needs/wishes.
For your frequented web sites, you can now create Web Clips, which are simply bookmarks to sites in the form of buttons (which either display the icon of the represented site or look like the site’s Home Page) that you can place on your multiple Home screens.
iPhone can now send an SMS text message to more than one recipient.Now that Apple is in the movie rental business (which we’ll discuss in more detail in this space in the next few weeks), the latest iPhone upgrade delivers support for playing rented movies, as well as the ability to move around the movie by chapters, like you can with a DVD.
|© 2008 Peter F. Zimowski|