iOS4 on the 3GS: First Impressions

Like most tech fans, every software update is an adventure. And like with every adventure, it's only reasonable to leave room for errors, miscalculated risks and glitches of all sorts. Not so with Apple. Or at least, with their latest iPhone OS now dubbed as the iOS4. Ever since this update was announced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, everyone but the caveman waited in eager anticipation of its worldwide release -- it is after all a major update. The fact that it includes well over a hundred new features is nothing short of 'major'. Tonight (technically, morning, that is -- June 22 at 0110H PHT), I along with most Apple fanboys and fangirls excitedly counted down the time until its release. According to my internet world time, it reached my desktop at 1010H Cupertino and took me more or less 80 minutes to download and install. And in the next paragraph, I will tell you why it's well worth the wait.

iOS4 is the iPhone 3G S on Steroids

If you thought the 3G S (then running OS 3.1.3) was fast, wait 'til you pump it up with iOS4. It is very fast. It makes you wonder how fast and beautiful the iPhone 4 must be -- which will then result in either of the two: 1) You become so impressed and contented with its speed that you'd feel no need to buy an iPhone 4 or; 2) The thought of how fast the iPhone 4 must be will intrigue you enough to get yourself one. Either way, you will be happy.

A Thing of Beauty

Jobs, and by extension, Apple is widely known as creators of "beautiful" things. And this "beauty" goes beyond the aesthetics. We all know that they make gorgeous designs that you wonder just how many ways something "white" can be redesigned to look better and better each time, adding features without distorting its original essence. iOS4 on the 3G S makes something beautiful more powerful and efficient -- beauty and power coexisting in perfect harmony -- each one working in its optimum performance without sacrificing one for the other. You hold your phone in your hand and know that it's the same phone -- only better. When it comes to beauty, the iOS4 is no "window dressing" -- it is the designer manning the store.

You're a Multitasker. So Should Your Phone Be.

The iOS4's most loved and anticipated feature which has been persistently requested by users is multitasking. Debate has been going on as to whether it's capable of true multitasking or if it's merely 'fast app-switching'. I've put this to a test using my favorite 'background' apps (and by 'background' I mean those apps I would usually prefer running in the back ground while I am doing other tasks like surfing the web (Safari or Opera) or reading my email. The result: Cannot run third-party music apps like Boombox Pro ( app) or the Smule Glee App and Radio Philippines in the background similar to the way you can listen to your iPod music while using the iPhone. The Yahoo Music app crashes. I think the Pandora demo proves that it does work with Pandora. Too bad Pandora and apps are not available in the Philippines. However, fast app-switching works seamlessly. Double-pressing the Home key will bring up your active apps/processes to select which one you want to use. If you're through with the app, touch and hold the icon and wait for it to wiggle and display a minus (-) sign. Click on that and that app will be removed from the background.

Organizing with Folders

This works great, just as advertised. And it looks great too. The smart naming of folders based on app category is extremely helpful. You can always rename it as you please, so that's awesome.

Unified Inbox

You will never miss an email ever again. With the unified inbox, you have the option to read all your unread messages in one go, in one folder or to check each email account separately. It has become easier to skim through your email and prioritize as needed. And another good thing about it is that you don't even have to lift a finger to configure this. If you've already added/configured a few of your email accounts previously, the iOS4 will sort it out for you automatically after update.

The Verdict

It's an update every iPhone owner MUST install. Choosing not to is choosing to run your iPhone underpowered and inefficient -- and nobody likes that. :) There may be some features that may not deliver as demo'ed but probably only because certain apps aren't available here in the Philippines. Otherwise, it's a wonderful update packed with big-time and subtle changes to the iPhone's capability. Some of these features are readily seen and some perform quietly in the background, each contributing to make the iPhone work like it's supposed to because gadgets are meant to aid us in our chores and satisfy our needs. And Apple, with the recent software update far exceeds that expectation. (Note: Gotta get some shuteye for the moment. Will be editing this post in a few hours after I get some rest and the energy to play with the iOS4. Will add more feature reviews. Check back later for updates.)

What does it mean to be free?

One hundred and twelve years ago today, our forefathers proudly waved the Philippine flag to an equally proud and jubilant crowd in Kawit, Cavite. No other day before that seemed more important. It's Independence Day. Nothing can possibly top that. One hundred and twelve years after, not much has changed. Of course, people would harp on achieved 'independence', freedom, democracy -- you know, all the big words. But apart from the obvious -- our sovereignty, not much has been achieved in that area. Which begs the question -- what does it really mean to be free? We've heard the rhetorics and seen the parade many times. It's the same 'celebration' every year anyway. But when it comes to a deeper understanding of the essence of freedom and why it's such a big deal, most people would rather not give it a thought. If only more people understood what freedom is and how much sacrifice it took from high and low profile Filipinos of that time such a luxury entailed, maybe they'd care enough to spare it some minutes of contemplation and gratefulness. But like a spoiled child who's been given eveything he wants without a fight, negotiation or even a second thought, we've taken freedom for granted as if it were 'free' to begin with -- as if it were our birthright to enjoy and squander at will. Contrary to what most people think, freedom -- whose root word is 'free' -- is not something we were born with. It is not as free as the air we breathe. It is, like I always say, a luxury that comes at a steep price -- a price we have the pleasure of only writing or talking about now simply because our brothers and sisters that have come before us did the 'paying' for us. It is a debt we owe to our forebears and a gift that we are expected to pass along to our descendants. We are lucky to be bearers of such a sacred entity, borne of much suffering and patriotism. And compared to our great greats, our job is supposedly much easier. But look around you. Look harder and weep. There is not much to bequeath. As the vessel of freedom has been passed on from generation to generation, much of its essence has been lost in translation. Today, we have commercialized freedom and sold it as commodities. We claim that we are sovereign and yet we allow ourselves to be 'short-changed' by economic giants who dictate how they run their business on our shores when it's supposed to be the other way around. We let them mine our resources (natural and human) dry and even praise them for giving us 'jobs' and 'investments'. As a new administration is sworn in, jobs are promised in the form of 'increased foreign investments'. We are more invested in pulling-in foreign investors instead of say, empowering the SMEs ( small to medium enterprises) and micro businesses with access to affordable financing schemes, fast and reliable government support through specialized agencies and improved taxation to encourage businesses to register and use auditable receipts. That is just one concrete example of freedom in action, of freedom as it relates to real life. The days of fighting with bolos may be over. But every year, the fight for a modern yet simplistic form of freedom remains a struggle. It is heartwarming to see flag-waving ceremonies here and there but beyond the symbolic, there is a pressing battle we must win. The fight for freedom is a never-ending struggle. The battle gears may change, the strategy may be different, the soldiers may not be marchig to a similar tune -- yet the goal remains the same: to win our freedom over and over again. Because 'to never rest' -- that is what it means to be free. And that is what it means to be Filipino. Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan!