The iPhone 3G Guided Tour Under a Microscope

by Aayush Arya Jul 04, 2008


Furthering a trend that has been going on for well over a year now, Apple released the iPhone 3G Guided Tour to give us a fairly detailed sneak peak into what the new version of the iPhone is going to bring to the table.

Already having watched the original iPhone Guided Tour and being the owner of one (yes, an unlocked iPhone running on Bharati Airtel in India), I could have made do with downloading just the “What’s New” video. However, I went ahead and downloaded the whole 318MB Guided Tour and watched it all over again just so that I can spot something new that I didn’t know existed (they don’t call me a fanboy for nothing).

Most of the features it demonstrates are already in the realm of known quantities but there are a few tiny little mentions here and there that we’d previously had no knowledge about. Those, and some other features that we did know about but are awesome enough to deserve a mention anyway, form the crux of this article. It’s divided into three parts—what’s new, what’s changed on the outside and what’s still missing. Let’s begin, shall we?

What’s New?

Frankly, not much. Although the guided tour did shed some light on a tiny featurette or two here and there, most of whatever is new has already been publicized by Apple and is probably already known to you. However, even these little additions can be quite the blessing for potential users.

The first major revelation for me was that when you download an application from the App Store (after having bought it if it’s paid), the Store itself quits and a grayed out icon of the application appears on the Home screen, much like adding a WebClip in the current iPhone. A progress bar on the icon indicates how much of the download is complete and once it’s entirely downloaded, it changes to it’s vibrantly colored self.

This is dissimilar to downloading songs off the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, however, and that’s what bugs me about it. Not only is it counter-intuitive to have two different methods for depicting what is essentially the same process for two very similar applications performing similar tasks, the App Store method can also be potentially annoying if you ever plan to go on a downloading spree. Imagine having to launch the App Store thirteen times to grab as many applications!

Of course, it’s possible to simultaneously and uninterruptedly download as many applications as you want using iTunes on your Mac and then “side-load” (to borrow a term from El Jobso himself) them onto your iPhone, but I would’ve much preferred a downloading process similar to the one the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store employs on the iPhone itself. In fact, even, the hacker community’s gateway to the iPhone, is capable of queuing up all the applications you’re interested in and downloading them automatically one-by-one without requiring any interaction.

Uninstalling applications from the iPhone is exactly similar to getting rid of a WebClip icon from the Home screen—just tap and hold on any icon for a second or two and click on the corresponding cross on any installed third party application to send it scurrying off your iPhone. In case you want it back, you can always select it in iTunes and have it synched back to your iPhone. That’s all I’ve been able to glean about the App Store from the Guided Tour video.

One of the other little additions I spotted is the ability to directly be taken to the top of any list on the iPhone by tapping on the status bar, be it your email inbox or the huge list of text conversations you have accumulated over the past year. Right now, you can only do this in Safari. This is something that has been on my feature request list ever since I bought the iPhone. Every once in a while, I would scroll down a lengthy list somewhere on the phone and then instinctively hit the status bar, only to realize that it didn’t work. I’m glad to see Apple has fixed this.

Other new features include the ability to turn Wi-Fi on in Airplane mode, which is very useful if there happens to be an inflight Wi-Fi network, and the inclusion of the Bcc field when composing/replying to an email. There’s also a new setting for fetching new data by Push or the traditional pull technology in And the last tiny little change that I noted, and is not a feature per se, is that Apple has changed the animation when adding a new favorite contact—it looks just a tad cooler now.

What’s Changed On the Outside?

The one big hardware change on the iPhone 3G is the swapping of the anodized aluminum back for a shiny plastic one. Although it does look very glamorous in all those promo shots of the device and is supposed to help improve the iPhone’s reception, I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot more prone to scratches and general damage than its metallic counterpart. Furthermore, going from aluminum to plastic seems like a step backward, specially when compared to the Mac lineup which, for the most part, has been upgraded from plastic to aluminum.

Also of note is the fact that the bottom of the iPhone now has a couple of very visible screws on both sides of the thirty-pin dock connector. This change owes its requirement to the new plastic back too. Since clasping or gluing the plastic cover to the device would mean not being able to remove it easily and risking damage to it while doing so, Apple has switched to the more traditional option of screwing it in place. Although this might make it easier for third parties to offer battery replacement solutions now, and even for you to do it yourself, it definitely takes away from the aesthetics of the device.

Another change to the bottom of the device are the new speaker grilles. These are just plain classy. The silver meshes embedded into the plastic on either side of the dock connector (and those screws) do look a lot better than the simple little set of holes on the bottom of the original iPhone. Apple is also emphasizing that the speakers are of better quality now, although there are no official specifications or anything of the sort for us to gauge exactly how much better they’re going to be, if at all.

What’s Still Missing?

Although a tad shorter now, the list of missing features on the iPhone remains a lengthy one. There’s no copy and paste, voice dialing, video recording, note synchronization or the ability to set any song in your iTunes library as a ringtone (free of charge).

The SMS application remains woefully underpowered—you cannot forward messages or move to the next conversation without having to keep returning to the inbox and the iPhone doesn’t inform you during typing if you cross the limit of 160 characters.

Bluetooth is still pretty useless on the iPhone, except when used in conjunction with a Bluetooth headset (and Apple’s own offering is uncharacteristically poor). There is no way to transfer a photograph to another person’s Bluetooth capable phone from the iPhone, no A2DP profile for streaming your music to Bluetooth stereo headsets and no way to use your phone as a modem from your Mac.

Deleting several contacts is a pain on the iPhone, involving a lot of back and forth between the contacts list and the individual details of each contact that needs to be deleted. Adding songs to the On-The-Go playlist is such a convoluted process that it’s practically unusable. The email app still does not feature a universal inbox for all your configured accounts. And although Apple has simplified the process of getting to the top of any list on the iPhone, getting to the bottom of a list with five hundred rows is still a test of patience.

All in all, although the iPhone 3G is a giant leap forward for those of us who cannot do without the much faster constant connectivity and want a GPS unit in our pockets, it doesn’t really boast of much else in terms of correcting the flaws of the first iPhone. Hopefully, the next version of the iPhone, or a future software upgrade, will address a lot of these issues, but until then, I don’t think current iPhone users are losing out on much if 3G and GPS aren’t crucial requirements for them.



  • Nice writeup! Now I don’t have to waste bandwidth on downloading the guide.

    As for the missing features I just don’t understand why Apple doesn’t man up to the situation and let us have them! Its not like it requires some advanced coding to add stuff like Video recording, note syncing, and whatever else you have mentioned above.

    As for playlists, I seriously don’t understand why Apple doesn’t allow creating playlists on the go. That is, permanent playlists. We do after all have a nice keyboard to type the names, rearrange the songs and do whatever else to it, so that it can finally sync back to the Mac.

    And while I understand they don’t want you to share music via bluetooth, what’s wrong with Photo sharing? I hope they at least open it up for game developers to have some multiplayer action going on…

    goobimama had this to say on Jul 05, 2008 Posts: 9
  • I think you missed something.  I noticed in the video that you can now click edit on lists and click to the left of items to delete more than one item on a list.  That seems to be across applications now.

    rahrens had this to say on Jul 05, 2008 Posts: 18
  • Yeah, but that’s an advertised feature. It was mentioned in the WWDC keynote and I didn’t want to add those to an already lengthy article. smile

    Aayush Arya had this to say on Jul 06, 2008 Posts: 36
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