Apple Tuesday released the second beta version of its iOS 4.1 firmware update. Developers are under NDA on many details but early online reports suggest that dropped calls due to flakey proximity sensors may be fixed, and HSUPA data uploads are faster. But iPhone 3G owners are still waiting for good news.
This beta release of the iOS 4.1 software development kit, available at Apple's iPhone Dev Center, comes about two weeks after the first one. Developers are under non-disclosure agreements so details are sparse. There's been Internet speculation that the 4.1 software will fix some glitches for the iPhone 4 proximity sensors and introduce Apple's promised Game Center social service.
The Cult of Mac blog reports the proximity sensor issue seems to have been fixed. "Previously, the iPhone was plagued with proximity sensor issues," writes Jose Gutierrez. "It would constantly hang up calls when I held the phone next to my cheek. But after installing the iOS 4.1 beta 2 update this afternoon, I couldn't force the iPhone to hang up calls when lifting it up to my face, no matter how hard I tried."
He also says the new beta release includes a baseband update, "which seems to fix HSUPA upload speed issues, which slowed video and photo uploads to a crawl."
But those most eagerly awaiting 4.1 may be iPhone 3G owners who upgraded to the 4.0 version of iOS and have run into a storm of problems. Users at Apple's online forums are complaining about how much slower their phone are running with the latest software.
UK user GeorgeStark wrote on July 23: "My iPhone 8Gb 3G is soooo slow after 'upgrading' to OS4. Unlocking the phone sometimes takes 5-10 seconds and the home screen icons literally stop converging halfway through and then 2 seconds later, finish off. Other things are ridiculously slow, such as opening and replying to texts. Good one Apple, maybe you want us all to upgrade to the iPhone 4 so that OS4 actually runs at a manageable speed?"
Dropping battery life is another issue. This week, another user, BudGreen, wrote: "My battery gets eaten alive with this upgrade, so I downgraded to 3.1.3. The battery still gets eaten alive. I try to get support on here and I get told I have to pay for it. Gee, thanks, Apple, ya ******. I sense an Android if I do not get help with this....I'm going to feed this phone to someone soon."
User Jlo concurred: "I had the same issue with the battery draining like water being poured out of a glass! After a couple of charge cycles it seems to have slowed back down."
Chris Rawson, a New Zealand iPhone user writing part time for The Unofficial Apple Webblog (TUAW), posted on a litany of problems he's run into after downloading 4.0 to his iPhone 3G.
"I've tried all of the fixes being offered on Apple's forums. I tried re-applying the iOS 4 update, because some people said that worked for them. I tried a double "hard reset" (hold the home and sleep buttons until the iPhone reboots, twice). I tried going into Settings > General > Reset and selected both "Reset All Settings" and "Reset Network Settings". All of these suggested fixes resolved the issue... temporarily."
According to several online accounts, the newest beta still does not support the iPad touch tablet. The iPad is running an earlier version of iOS.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for "Network World."
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