Bring on the Apps
Of course, not all new features are specific to the iPhone 3G. The iPhone 2.0 firmware update also released Friday adds a variety of features to first-generation iPhones. The biggest is support for third-party applications via the App Store, which exists as both a stand-alone application on the iPhone itself and as a segment of the iTunes Store, allowing users to browse, purchase and download applications from the device itself or via their computers.
With more than 550 applications of many different types already available -- we're talking about everything from games to foreign language phrase books to dedicated social networking tools -- the App Store is a boon for any iPhone user. With about a quarter of the applications available for free, there's no reason for any iPhone owner to not be excited. Even the paid applications are inexpensive -- generally $9.99 or less.
Although it took Apple a year to bring officially supported third-party apps to the iPhone, the results are worth the care and planning that went into the process. The App Store is easy to navigate, either with the iPhone or through iTunes, and it offers one-stop shopping. Users can even post reviews and comments to help guide would-be app users. Unlike other mobile platforms, with the iPhone you don't have to search for or browse various Web sites to buy an app -- eliminating the confusion many novice users associate with finding applications for their devices. Nor are there any concerns about installation: simply buy or download the application and it installs itself, either directly when downloaded from the App Store to the iPhone or during a sync when downloaded through iTunes. And those applications are backed during the syncing process.
Equally obvious, given the range of features included in many applications, is that Apple wanted developers to take advantage of many of the iPhone's innovative technologies. Location-based services, the ability to use the iPhone's touch screen, direct access to the built-in camera and the ability to track movement of the iPhone using its directional sensors permeate the third-party apps now available. The directional controls used in many of the games add a whole new dimension to mobile gaming and, in combination with the graphics and touch-screen capabilities, turn the iPhone into a mobile gaming as well as computing and communications platform.
I can't possibly review all of the individual applications available, but I will say that whether you're considering a new iPhone 3G or simply installing the iPhone 2.0 update on an older one, you have got to explore the App Store. Given the quality of the applications and the temptation to buy, you could spend a lot of money in the App Store.