Apple has released a free upgrade to the iPhone’s software that will bring in – among other things – accurate location services in Google maps, customisable home screen screens and text messaging to multiple recipients.
The niftily-entitled Apple iPhone update 1.1.3 is available immediately via an automatic update through iTunes. But one key feature of the upgrade, downloadable iTunes movie rentals that can viewed on the handset, will not be available in the UK or Europe until late 2008.
“iPhone doesn’t stand still — we’re making it better and better all the time”, Apple’s chief executive Steve Jobs said in his keynote address to the Macworld conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
“We’ve delighted millions of users with this revolutionary and magical product and it’s great to share these improvements with them”.
Perhaps the most immediate benefit of the upgrade is the addition of GPS-style functionality that allows the upgraded Maps application to automatically indicate where you are on the map.
The iPhone doesn’t have a GPS receiver, instead it calculates its position based on reception from local wifi hotspots and mobile phone antennae. The resulting triangulation isn’t as accurate as GPS but should still be close enough to make Maps directions much more useful.
Other features in the upgrade include:
- Web Clips – these are essentially browser shortcuts that you can choose to have appear as icons on your home screen. The iPhone even automatically creates an antialiased and round-cornered icon based on the page you bookmarked.
- Cutomisable home screens – you can rearrange the icons on the home screen and the main shortcuts at the bottom of the screen. You can have up to 9 separate home screens – you scroll between them by swiping horizontally
- Multiple SMS recipients – the iPhone finally has a feature that every other mobile phone has had for years. A bug fix rather than an upgrade and there’s still no MMS or video functionality
- iTunes lyrics – but no movie rentals. Be still my beating heart
On a positive note, the move paves the way for the iPhone to officially support third-party applications – Apple is due to release a software development kit (SDK) soon to allow programmers to create fully-fledged programs which can be downloaded onto the iPhone.
Previously the iPhone could only run browser-based apps – unless it was ‘cracked’ by an unauthorised – and potentially harmful – unlocking code. The lates word is that this SDK and upgrade should be available in February 2008.