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Living Can Kill You

Minor changes for big effect in iPhone 2.0

Sure, there are some new applications to download, but the big win with the iPhone 2.0 software is the subtle changes to the user experience, proving, once again, how attention to details can exponentially increase the perceived value of a product. (The other part, though, is making sure people can access that product.)

The four most appreciated improvements were:

  1. The call-forwarding option seemed to be more readily available and appears as the first option on the phone setting screen (it may have done that before, but I feel like I’m doing less finger flicks to get there).
  2. There is a new icon on the home screen for Contacts, meaning I don’t have to search around for it before remembering contacts are listed in the Phone application.
  3. When entering passwords, the last character stays unobscured for a few seconds, providing you a chance to confirm your fat fingers actually hit the right virtual key.
  4. In email fields the spacebar is replaced automatically with “@” key — which is brilliant, since email addresses can’t have spaces but do require the at sign.

As for those aforementioned apps: when you download them a progress bar is overlaid on the apps’ slightly transparent icon. Once it’s installed, the bar disappear and the icon becomes opaque.

Overall, the apps I’ve played with have all seemed well-executed, maintaining the good level of quality established by Apple’s original applications. Still, there are some that seem merely to be upgrades to the mobile Web experience (The New York Times application, Google, and a few others).

In many ways, the iPhone app experience as a whole reminds me of last year’s Facebook app rush and, to a lesser extent, the shareware environment a decade-and-a-half ago. Like those periods, I expect iPhone app developers will soon get comfortable with this environment and start building apps that truly make use of the Apple’s impressive mobile platform.

(Despite some wondering whether there’s a sustainable business model for app development, the market should be robust. People did spend tens of thousands of dollars on applications before the store was even officially selling them and Canadians are even lining-up to pay exorbitant prices for the iPhone alone.)