iPhone 3G upgraded to iOS4

iPhone 4

Because I live in Belgium and we are usually the last country to receive updated products from the House of Apple I was fretting slightly about the upcoming iPhone4 launch and the fact that I would be forced to wait. I began plotting and scheming to either travel to France where they sell unlocked phones or to the UK when I heard that they are also offering unlocked versions. I was prepared to do anything to get one quickly. Anyone who read my previous rants about my iPhone might have noticed that I implied that I would never buy another Apple product. Yeah, I didn’t believe me either…

In the meantime, before iPhone4 launched, iOS4 was made available for download. This is the latest operating system for all of Apple’s mobile platforms, the various iPhones and the iPad and it can be installed on my old 3G. In the past I might have been found loitering around the Apple website poised to click on download the second the shiny new OS became available. However, this time I didn’t bother as I know from previous experience that the Apple website usually slows to a crawl or crashes during those first few hours as all the other (more dedicated than me) fanboys suck up all the bandwidth. Instead I stayed in bed.

In the morning, when it had been available for a few hours and was already installed on hundreds of thousands of iPhones around the world I got up a little early hoping to do the install before going to work. I downloaded the file in a few seconds via iTunes, plugged in my iPhone and clicked “Yes, I would like a shiny new operating system please” or words to the same effect… There was a warning message that this might take up to an hour but I hoped it would be quicker. Anyway, I left it running and went to take a shower and get ready for work expecting that it would at least be substantially done by the time I was ready.

You can see where this is going can’t you. Yep, it wasn’t. Not even close. It’s not the installation that takes time, it’s the damn full back-up that it insists on doing before it will begin the installation, something I don’t understand given that the iPhone is supposedly backed up every time you synchronise it with your PC. The little green indicator had barely moved and a quick mental extrapolation based on time passed vs back-up quantity achieved indicated that it would be finished at 8:32pm sometime in September 2012. I didn’t think work would appreciate me being quite that late so I cancelled it. Thwarted.

After suffering through a day at work knowing that I was currently one of the have-nots, I rushed home and began again. Again, the back-up began at a glacial pace. Empires have been built and overthrown in less time than this back-up was taking. And staring at the little green bar didn’t appear to be making it go any faster. I took a deep breath and decided to watch a movie to pass the time. I forget which movie it was as I was too busy checking the status of the excruciatingly slow-moving green bar over my shoulder.

Graphical representation of eternity

After about an hour, when the aforementioned green bar representing the back-up status reached half-way, the back-up was complete. Wait, what? Ahhh now I understand. Apple have employed the same technology in their green back-up status indicator that was in the fuel gauge of my 1980 Datsun Sunny. That would also move slowly through a smooth, confidence-inspiring arc from Full to Half Full as you drove along, at which point it would pause for a few miles before flicking straight to Empty accompanied by a coughing, spluttering sound from the engine as the car ran out of fuel… again. Clever.

With the back-up complete my iPhone began a complicated process of installing, rebooting, installing some more, and rebooting again until suddenly (magically if you believe Steve Jobs) it was finished. With trembling hands and a degree of trepidation I swiped to unlock and see what had become of my 3G with it’s new soul. If I’m honest, at that point, other than a new graphic under the lowest row of apps, it didn’t look any different. No wait, the calculator app has a redesigned icon! Woohoo!

Now I knew not to expect a huge difference as I’d already read that, although the 3G would get iOS4, some of the features would be disabled because it doesn’t have the processing power of the 3GS or the iPhone4. So no multi-tasking unfortunately. Having more than one application running at the same time on a 3G would make it too slow says Apple. It’s a pity as the lack of multi-tasking is my biggest bugbear on the 3G and the main reason I want to upgrade to the iPhone4. Hang on…

The other missing feature that is bundled into the multitasking functionality is the screen orientation lock, a very useful feature that I covet. This simple little feature locks the screen in portrait orientation so that if you are reading something lying on your side the screen doesn’t keep switching to landscape mode. Handy but also absent.

My iPhone

I’d been reading on various technology blogs how people were finding the performance of iOS4 on the 3G and it was a mixed bag. Some people complained that their 3G slowed to a crawl, others noted no difference either way, whilst some reported a slight increase in performance. I am happy to report that I fell into the latter camp and my 3G did in fact feel a little snappier in its transitions between screens and when opening applications. Still far slower than a 3GS but certainly no worse than it was before. And I am now able to arrange my apps into folders, a very convenient feature that reduces the number of screens I have to flick through to find my apps. I spent many happy hours organising and reorganising until everything was just so.

So you might think this is it, my 3G has been upgraded to iOS4 with no noticeable blunting of performance, and I have an extra couple of features that His Jobsness deems suitable for my out-of-date iPhone. I should be happy. And for a week, I was. But then yesterday I was reading Gizmodo, my favourite tech blog and I discovered a new jailbreak that enables multitasking on the 3G running iOS4! I scanned the comments to see how other people were finding this hack and there didn’t seem to be any horror stories. My confidence was buoyed by the fact that A, my 3G seems to perform quite well with iOS4 and B, I can always restore it back to factory if it all goes to hell.

So I downloaded the patch, followed the instructions (which incidentally require a level of button-pressing coordination that I usually only possess on Wednesdays), and installed “redsn0w 0.9.5 beta”. This went smoothly and took far less time than installing iOS4. And voila, my 3G now has multitasking and no, it has not become particularly laggy or slow. Swiping through the screens is still snappy and not at all like dragging my finger through treacle. Some screen transitions are maybe not quite as smooth as they were before but everything still works smartly even with 4 or 5 apps open at once and while listening to music. This really emphasises the over-controlling nature of Apple when it comes to product releases. I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t have released iOS4 for all iPhones with the proviso that performance on the 3G could be compromised and then allowed the users to choose if they wished to enable multitasking or not. Instead they simply deny us choice and force us to go for a black-market solution or jailbreak.

It is worth noting that at this point in time not all apps are properly enabled for multitasking, an issue that even iPhone4 owners will experience. Some like the Mail app, Safari, and Twitter are fully iOS4 compatible and when you switch away from them and then back again they are open immediately and exactly where you left them. Others, such as Facebook seem to need to reload each time even though they remain in the quick access multitasking window. I assume that more and more apps will be updated to be compatible with multitasking over the coming weeks.

Anyway, as I mentioned at the beginning of this missive, I was hankering after the new iPhone4. I don’t think I am in such a rush anymore. I still want it because I know it will be faster than mine and it has yet more features such as video recording and a superior camera. But my 3G no longer feels like it is missing essential features and I am more content. There have also been reports of significant issues with the iPhone4 such as reception problems, yellow spots or bands on screens, and the fact that they seem to shatter very easily if you drop them. Not that surprising given that they are made of glass I guess. I haven’t dropped my 3G in the 18 months I’ve owned it so that doesn’t worry me too much but I would like to wait and see what happens with the other issues before I cough up another 600€+.

And of course I should really be resisting such rampant consumerism for the sake of the planet. So for now, I’m happy with my illegitimately enhanced iPhone 3G. Let’s see how long that lasts….

His Jobsness

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: