iPhone 2.0, Impression 2.0: Redemption
No 3G iPhone yet, but I've had the iPhone 2.0 software for about a day and after getting past the installation hurdles of the previous post, it really is fantastic.
This is an exciting platform. It's not just that there are 3rd party apps, but that they are actually usable. As we've already seen with mobile Safari and browsing the real web, while full frontal touchscreen takes a little getting used to for texting and emailing and isn't necessarily the ideal platform for dialing a phone, it's a great interface for a ton of mobile computing tasks. I've never seen a platform with apps that just flow like the best of these do.
On the surface, a lot of the stuff that I've seen could be (and has been) done in mobile Safari, but there are a lot of nice touches thrown in. Loopt integrates mapping and location services into an application that seems poised to realize the promise envisioned by Alex and Dennis of Dodgeball before device technology was mature enough to provide this sort of live interface to the data. I'm excited to see how this one plays out over time in the real world.
Yelp is another natural candidate for location and mapping and integrates them into a fine front-end to their extensive dataset. I used the standard Yelp quite a bit in mobile Safari and while it tended to be worth the effort, it was an effort. No more. I like having this one in the pocket.
The Mac/web crossover RSS reader NetNewsWire was another of my mobile Safari favorites. At first glance, not much has changed, but a closer look reveals a huge improvement — the feeds are actually synced to a persistent store on the phone. Particularly for someone in NYC this is very important. A regular annoyance over my last year or so of iPhonage has been going down into the subway knowing that I have hundreds of articles to read, and not being able to access them without a live signal. No more. It would be even better if it preloaded images as well (currently you see only text when offline), but this is still a great start. It also brings to mind the need for a good general-purpose document storage system for offline reading on the iPhone (i.e. eBook reader). There is one available, but it only works with a certain proprietary format. The odd thing is that everything to view the data exists in mobile Safari (good PDF rendering and all), and the phone has a filesystem — we just can't access and combine the two in order to achieve the obvious. I can perhaps understand why Apple doesn't ship the phone with a shell terminal, but would a Finder-like interface into an accessible directory of the 8GB that I paid for be too much to ask?
Twitteriffic is a very polished interface into the social networking, messaging, microblogging, call-it-what-you-will app, Twitter. Camera integration is quite nice here, and this is my favorite Twitter interface on any platform to date. Location integration is nice, but I'm not a big fan of Twitter broadcasting this information to the world at large with no privacy controls. That's no fault of Twitteriffic's though. Plug your ears AT&T, but it might be time to downgrade that SMS plan. Twitter has found a new home on this iPhone.
Bloomberg has a nice financial app with some sexy, albeit a little unstable, light on black stretching and scrolling graphs. I wish it were dumping more data in as I zoom in though, or even image layers, as it replaces a smooth wide-scale zoom with a few coarse scale settings and zoom within your chosen data scale. Landscaping the graph is really nice though and it's overall a slick first offering.
Moving on to an application that could have (and has been) done pre-iPhone 2.0 brings us to my simple favorite at the moment, iTunes Remote. It's nothing more than a well executed remote interface to any iTunes installation running on your local network. This actually fills a need I created by ripping all of my CDs uncompressed to the desktop in my office, which is connected to the receiver in the living room which drives speakers in both zones. Before I had been toying around with DLNA servers, which my PS3 or receiver could control (sometimes), but that always turned out to be a lot of trouble, and it seemed absurd to have a 50" plasma idling just so I can have a UI to browse my music. This is a huge improvement. Now how about some coverflow?