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TKO In Tokyo: 3G iPhone Versus iOS 4

So given I have a second-generation 3G iPhone (the oldest supported handset for iOS 4), today was a crap-shoot of the highest magnitude. As a friend told me: “the last time they had an big update, my old phone didn’t work right for two weeks.” Great, just what I wanted to hear before rolling the dice. Part of me trusted the kids in Cupertino to make the magic happen – and the other 80% of me remembered back in the 90s when my client gave all their developers Pentium machines to build the latest release of the market-leading illustration software. A great feat of software engineering, but too bad their entire installed base was still on 386s and a little product called Adobe Illustrator got the break it needed to dominate. But I digress…

Since my phone has been acting crazy for the last three weeks, I took a medieval view of the upgrade. Why not pull a full restore and upgrade to iOS 4 at the same time? If I’m gonna screw the pooch, why not go 110%? To my amazement, it took less than 25 minutes to download, restore, install and reboot my lowly little 3G. And guess what, it popped-out the other end faster and better looking. But was it enough it stop me from the inertial pull to the Apple store in the next 2-3 weeks? Let’s see.

So why am I impressed? Here’s my Top Five:

1) Speed: The new OS is definitely faster in every respect. It opens apps faster, it loads my most important apps like SimplyTweet faster, it maps faster in apps like Zillow and Apple Maps, there’s absolutely zero lag when typing, and closing an app back to the home screen is snappy – complete with the new animation.

2) iPhoto Sync: As I reset all my apps from the ground-up, I ran across a hidden gem: I can now sync iPhoto events beyond just the last 20. Technically, this might be a feature of iTunes but when Apple owns the whole experience who’s really keeping track? I love that I can now sync all events in the last 6 or 12 months. I’m fine filling space with photos, and I absolutely prefer my iPhoto library to be organized by events (which never worked when setting custom timeframes in the previous version).

3) AutoCorrect + Spell-Check: I’ll eat crow when I deserve it: these two together create a fearless typing environment – the likes of which I’ve never seen on a smartphone. It easily improved my typing speed by 1.5x immediately.

4) Folders: Between a kill-the-bloat view of my apps during reinstall and the new folders feature, I cut six screens down to two. Not that I’ve gone crazy with folders, but there are certain apps I tend to accumulate – Twitter clients and Utilities. So being able to group those up (especially my secondary Twitter clients like Tweetie, TweetDeck, Twitterena and about three others) and put them on page two keeps them out of my way except when I need them.

5) Unified Inbox: I keep an absurd amount of email addresses connected to my Apple Mail (nine accounts) and to my iPhone (four accounts), so a unified inbox was a big deal for me. While it’s nice to not have to drill up and down through the mailbox structure, it’s not exactly perfect yet. I’m still searching for a way to visually delineate my messages based on which inbox they’re delivered to. Anyone have tips?

So the real question is how do I feel about my old-school rig with the latest software? And what if a more efficient OS positively impacts my battery life? (Which it seems to be in very early testing, but I’m not prepared to commit to that one quite yet.) Big news: it’s doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. I’m buying an iPhone 4 when I can comfortably walk into retail and score me a black 16GB. I didn’t blow off the 3GS for no reason. Better cameras, a slammin’ processor and multitasking are all good enough reasons for me to re-up my contract with AT&T. Wait, did I say that out loud?

The good news is my wife will also catch an upgrade to iOS 4 when she gets my 3G and her 2G goes into the ‘classics’ drawer that has 5-6 Razrs, a couple Blackberrys and a Samsung flip phone or two. Thankfully, I’m the resident gadget geek in our house so at least I don’t have to buy two upfront – at least until she sees her first FaceTime session.

Nicely played Apple.

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