And by “fixed” I mean “undid the disastrous firmware upgrade from a couple of months back that made iPhones almost completely unusable.” “They” being Apple, obviously.
Now actually usable (again)
Those of you who jumped on the iPhone bandwagon before the 3G version arrived know exactly what I mean; the old (well, “old”) phone was a slick and generally pretty great phone-slash-Internet-device with a few notable shortcomings but a nice enough interface (and seamless enough Mac compatibility, for those whom it concerns) that the little annoyances like EDGE transmission speeds and a lack of SMS weren’t critical. But then the revision 2.0 firmware arrived alongside the 3G phones and suddenly the old phones became, well, broken. As in, it often took ten seconds or more to pull up a text message or contact list, and once you looked them up you were likely as not to crash. My initial thought was that it was some asinine Apple scheme to nudge existing iPhone owners into upgrading to a 3G by making the old model suddenly worthless, but then I learned that the 3G phones were just as broken. So, it wasn’t a conspiracy, merely all-around incompetence. So that made things easier to swallow, perhaps because eight years of the Bush administration has acclimated me to accepting “incompetence, not conspiracy” as an explanation for most large-scale foul-ups.
Surprisingly, today’s upgrade actually does what is advertised, which is to say it makes the phone functional again. The list of improvements in the Read Me for firmware 2.1 was pretty lengthy, and I feel like Apple could have saved itself some time by simply writing, “Makes your phone stop sucking.” The interface is back to being as fast as it used to be, and the data download speeds have actually improved, somehow. The Internet generally speculated that the “improved reception” simply meant that the phone would show more bars available but not actually improve reception, but shockingly I found I was able to get online in the dead zone by UCSF Pacific Medical Center, a five-block gauntlet of cellular silence on my ride to and from work. No phone I have owned in the past three and a half years has been capable of piercing the veil of silence around UCSF, but lo! The new firmware actually works where no other phone has worked before. I’m impressed.
Of course, I’d be even more impressed if this functional upgrade had come without a drop into utter awfulness. This seems to be Apple’s new approach, the Paula Abdul Method of two steps forward, two steps back. So I would like to offer the company a catchy new corporate slogan. “Apple: we’re awesome…eventually.” Mr. Jobs, I give you this motto free of charge.