What's new and what's missing in iPhone OS 2.2

Apple released its much-anticipated iPhone OS 2.2 update late last week, roughly two months after dropping update 2.1. The update offers few surprises for anyone following the advance leaks and speculation: Enhancements to Maps include Google Street View, public transit and walking directions, address displays for dropped pins and location sharing via email, while enhancements to mail include the resolution of fetching schedule issues and improved wide HTML formatting. Apple also touts improved Safari stability and performance, improved sound quality of Visual Voicemail messages, a new Home screen shortcut and the flexibility to turn on or off auto-correction preferences in Keyboard Settings. Ars Technica also notes a series of App Store improvements like new sorting options--e.g., Top Paid, Top Free and Release Date--allowing for more granular user control, while a new slideshow feature offers application screenshots. iPhone OS 2.2 additionally encourages users to rate applications when removing them from the device.

The biggest surprises derive from what iPhone OS 2.2 does not include--most notably, an over-the-air iTunes retail application. A few weeks back, reports speculated that Apple would launch the iTunes app after leaked screenshots depicted an iPhone user downloading a podcast from iTunes via 3G connection. Pundits (myself included) theorized that it makes no practical sense to debut a free podcast service but not a premium music service, especially given that T-Mobile USA's Android-powered G1 arrived at retail with an Amazon MP3 digital music application preloaded...and yet OS 2.2 offers nothing of the sort, although the podcast feature did still make the cut.

Also MIA: The unified push notification service Apple promised all the way back at June's Worldwide Developer Conference. The push service--which alerts iPhone users running one application when fresh data is available for another application not in use--became necessary when Apple declined to include background applications in the iPhone SDK; many developers cited their concerns about such a limitation, arguing it could restrict the usefulness of applications like instant messaging. Speaking at WWDC, Apple senior vice president of iPhone software Scott Forstall told developers that work on the push service would be completed by September, but it failed to surface either in OS 2.1 or 2.2. iPhone OS 2.3 should appear in late January--perhaps the third time is the charm. -Jason