Each time Apple releases a new software update for the iPhone, geeks everywhere shout for joy. It heralds the dawning of a new age, the beginning of a new chapter in the iPhone’s history, and reinvigorates the hope that maybe, just maybe, Apple has answered their prayers and added their desired functionality. The 2.2 Software Update certainly isn’t the Holy Grail — it doesn't add functions to the iPhone that users have pined for since the handset's original launch in 2007. Nevertheless, it fixes some bugs and makes the device more usable.
Apple seems to have focused on improving Maps in the 2.2 Software Update, making several aesthetic and functionality changes for a better overall experience. Most obvious is the addition of Street View, Google’s street-level panorama view of major cities. This has been implemented on the iPhone through drop pins, which also display the full address of their location as part of the update. Once the Street View icon is pressed, Maps will automatically shift into landscape mode, allowing users to navigate the panorama in the same fashion they would using its desktop counterpart. The performance largely depends on connection speed; the Wi-Fi access point we used for testing was quite slow in downloading images, but the iPhone was able to render them quickly.
The other big boost to Maps is the addition of public transport and walking directions. In directions mode, users can now switch between car, public transport and walking mode, with transport suggestions and timetables available for some public transport routes. Australian users don't have full access to this yet; some users have claimed they can access the functionality in Western Australia, but it doesn’t seem to have made its way to other states.
To the joy of many, Apple has added over-the-air podcast downloads to the 2.2 Software Update. The addition comes after Apple knocked back a third-party app that was able to do this. Podcast downloads are available through the iTunes Wi-Fi Store. Though other store items are only available for download using Wi-Fi, podcasts can be downloaded over 3G radio as well. Apple has placed the same 10MB cap on them that App Store downloads have — a severe restriction for vodcasts, but a reasonable decision. Otherwise, podcasts can be streamed or downloaded, with the latter added to the iPod’s podcast section.
Bug fixes are a key part of 2.2, with Apple patching Safari, Mail and the phone software itself. Mail has been patched to fix problems with its scheduled fetch capability. Apple has allegedly managed to reduce the number of dropped calls as well as call setup failures, though we weren’t able to confirm whether this is the case. Considering similar claims from Apple in the past haven’t lived up to expectations, we can’t help but treat the claim with suspicion.
The App Store has undergone some minor cosmetic changes. Each category now has a general icon, making them easy to select for people with large fingers. Application filters have also been introduced to the categories section, allowing users to sort applications into “Top Free”, “Top Paid” and “Release Date” sections, similar to the Top 25 section. Perhaps most useful is the addition of multiple screenshots for each individual application, giving users greater insight into an application’s purpose and function. Though these changes are relatively minor, they do make the App Store easier to navigate and use.