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Software update gives new life to the first iPhone

We explain and review the iPhone 2.0 software updates, including exchange e-mail, the App Store, and the other new features.

It gets updated. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

Although Friday's launch of the iPhone 3G is grabbing all the headlines, there's no need to put the original iPhone out to pasture just yet.

With the iPhone 2.0 software update, the first iPhone is getting another day in the sun, and it's a nice toasty sunshine at that. Although Apple has yet to release the update officially--it should happen Friday as well--the software became available on Thursday through the magic of the Internet.

As we reported during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference last month, the 2.0 software update adds a number of important features to the original iPhone, including Microsoft Exchange server support and access to the App Store. After installing the new iTunes 7.7 (available for Windows and Mac) update on our PC, we downloaded the update and installed it on our phone. Here's what we found.

Download process
At the moment, the downloading process is a bit convoluted, though that experience will change, once Apple releases the software update officially. But once we started the process of installing it on our iPhone, it proceeded successfully without any hiccups.

The whole process took about 10 minutes from start to finish. Since the iPhone treats the update as a system restore, it will erase any saved information. Fortunately, iTunes creates a one-time media backup of your files. Although some users have reported that iTunes failed to create a backup file for them, we didn't have any problems.

Ready for your work e-mail.

Exchange server support
One of the most coveted additions is the full support for Microsoft Exchange server. Adding an account was ridiculously easy, once we had the correct settings from our IT department.

Once you've chosen to add a new e-mail account in the main Settings menu, you'll be taken to the standard list of available e-mail systems. "Microsoft Exchange" and "MobileMe" (we'll try that later) will appear at the top of the list just above the choice for Gmail. You'll then be prompted to enter the applicable e-mail address, domain/username, server, and password.

The authentication process took just a couple of minutes, and we were up and running fairly quickly. Installing CNET's security certificate posed a bit of a challenge--we ended up mailing it to ourselves through Yahoo--but we installed it eventually.

Once you're ready to go, it will sync your Outlook e-mail, contacts, and calendar. Be advised that the iPhone can sync only with one calendar or contacts list at a time. If you have a separate personal calendar, your work calendar will replace it, once you start the sync (you'll be notified before it happens).

As an alternative, though, you can sync e-mail without syncing your contacts and calendar. Also, you can keep work and personal e-mail accounts open at the same time. You'll just have to switch between the two.

When using Wi-Fi, the syncing was very quick most of the time. As new messages came in, the iPhone registered them almost immediately. It seemed to get bogged down when we received a large clump of messages at one time. In those cases, we had to update the phone manually.

By and large, those updates were quick, but there was at least one instance where it took a couple of minutes. In fact, it was so long that we thought that the phone had frozen. We also noticed that if the iPhone loses its Wi-Fi connection, the syncing is interrupted. But even with these caveats, the experience was satisfactory. Syncing via EDGE took a few seconds longer, but it wasn't too bothersome.

When we deleted a message on our phone, the same e-mail vanished on our PC just a couple of seconds later. Messages deleted on the PC took longer to disappear from the phone; typically, we had to do a manual update to see them gone. Messages deleted on the phone will show up in your PC's Recycle Bin and vice versa.

You can access all folders in your in-box and move messages from your in-box to a specific folder. You can't search for messages, but you can call a contact if they include their phone number in their e-mail. Opening attachments worked as promised, and we like how the software update now lets you save attached images directly to your photo gallery simply by tapping the image. To e-mail photos, you will need to do so in the traditional manner by opening the photo, selecting the e-mail option, and choosing which account you'd like to send from.

Though according to AT&T, using Exchange server support on the iPhone 3G will require the business data plan (the one that costs $45 per month), we received no notice on the original iPhone advising us of any data plan issues (not that we would). It will be interesting to see how AT&T enforces this policy on the iPhone 3G.

The iPhone Apps Store

Third-party applications
Once the software update installed, an icon for the App Store appeared on our iPhone's home screen. When selected, you're taken to the Apps Store main menu, which somewhat resembles the mobile iTunes store in design. You search applications by name and category and you can browse through the lists of Featured applications or the Top 25. There also is a feature for seeing if your purchased applications have any updates.

We purchased two applications from the iPhone: AP Mobile News and a currency rates application. Downloads over Wi-Fi were pretty quick; it took just about 10 seconds total. Though wireless iTunes song downloads are available only through a Wi-Fi connection, you can purchase applications over EDGE. Just keep in mind that downloads will take a lot longer.

We also purchased applications through the online iTunes (7.7) store. Though you could access the applications store only through a back-door method this morning, it's now prominently featured in the store. We downloaded Super Monkey Ball and then synced it to our phone--a new applications tab appears under the iPhone menu. The process was quick and painless. What's more, navigation through the online apps store is easy.

The home screen with the new Contacts icon and icons for some iPhone Apps.

What's most remarkable about the online applications store is the sheer breadth of titles available. As of this writing, there are 27 pages available in a staggering range of categories. If there is one thing about the software update that changes the original iPhone for the better, it's the Apps Store--even if not all the applications are keepers. Of course, before you get carried away, remember that some apps are free but others will cost you.

Contacts search
A search bar now appears above your contacts list. Typing in any portion of the same will take you immediately to that person. The software update also added a special Contacts to the home screen, which is something we weren't expecting.

iWork documents and PowerPoint
We haven't tried iWork documents just yet, but we were able to view PowerPoint e-mail attachments. The attachment was rather large (1.3MB) but it didn't take very long to download.

The new scientific calculator

Bulk delete and move
This works in your e-mail boxes only. In your in-box you'll see a small "edit" button at the top right-hand corner. When you press the button a small circle will appear next to each e-mail. Touch the circle to highlight as many messages as you like and then select the "delete" or "move" options.

Scientific calculator
As Steve Jobs said in his WWDC keynote, you'll now get a scientific calculator when you turn the phone on its side. You'll see a lot more buttons that will set a mathematician's heart aflutter. Jobs said a lot of people asked for this but again, I'd like to know who they are.

Parental controls
You now will find a "Restrictions" selection under the General tab of the main Settings menu. There you can restrict access to the Safari browser, explicit songs, YouTube, and the iTunes and iTunes Apps stores. You can select as many restrictions as you like.

Your choice of keyboards

Language support
The software update will brings language support and typing keyboards in French, Canadian French, UK English, German, Japanese (QWERTY and Kana), Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, and Polish. You can select as many languages you want by opening the "International" selection under the General tab of the main Settings menu. For Chinese you choose from Pinyin or a graffiti-style application for writing characters. As you enter characters, suggestions will appear to the right. To change between menus, choose from the small globe icon next to the space bar.

As the iPhone Atlas reports, the 2.0 software update also brings GPS tracking. We tested both while walking in downtown San Francisco and riding in a taxi. Considering that the tracking is relying solely on cellular towers and Wi-Fi hot spots, it was pleasantly accurate. When walking we could see the little bull's-eye moving along with us. Not surprisingly, the tracking was a bit off when we were in a car. The bull's-eye jumped block by block as we came to stoplights. On the whole it works well, but it's no replacement for a standalone GPS system. Also, remember that while you can get directions through Google Maps, the iPhone does not support real-time turn-by-turn directions.

What we didn't get
As we've told you already, the software update didn't give us a lot of things we were hoping for. But if you'd like to see the list again, Nicole Lee has the details.

That's it for now, but check back tomorrow as we divulge into more details on the software update and delve into our full review of the iPhone 3G.

Click here for CNET News' complete iPhone 3G coverage.