Good and Bad iPhone News

A few items from last week caught my iPhone-centric eye. I figured you were all jonesing for iPhone stuff, so here they come.

Push Notification
I think by now, everyone with an iPhone running 2.0 firmware and a few apps understands why apps should run in the background. Seriously, how useful is AIM if you have to run it in the foreground all the time? What if I had to run the phone app to send/receive calls?

I remember the objections Apple presented against background processing apps, e.g. too much battery consumption, hidden CPU consumption, bandwidth consumption for Interwebs apps. From what I hear, the 3G battery life is pretty short, and 2G has never been a power miser either. So, this makes some sense.

Anyway, last week, Apple began seeding an alpha version of push notifications to selected developers. Push notifications work around the lack of background processing by allowing the app to collect updates from a server, similar to what integrated apps like Mail and Phone do now. Updates show as red badges overlaying the app icon.

So for example, AIM would show you when you had messages, rather than running in the background and pinging you in real time when messages arrived. Apparently, the 2.1 firmware update may include push notifications, which Apple committed to providing by September. If they make this date, apps would probably be updated in by the Fall/Winter.

This is an improvement, but some apps, like Pandora, would be left out in the cold. Pandora should function like the iPod app, i.e. it continues to play in the background when you navigate away to do other things. Since the iPod app does this, we know it’s possible. Maybe Apple will reconsider when they review the download statistics for popular apps like Pandora.

Assuming the only concern Apple has is for the user’s battery/bandwidth/CPU, why not open the capabilty and force the user to understand the “risks” before enabling it.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that unlocked iPhones have had background apps since last year. I’d like to hear what they have to say about the toll they take on battery/bandwidth/CPU.

For months, Rich has been saying he’d break down and buy a 3G iPhone as soon as it could be tethered to his laptop. For those unfamiliar, many 3G phones can share their bandwidth with a computer, called tethering. Typically, you have to agree to this with your service provide, who in turn gleefully charges you a lot of money.

The benefits are worth it though because you can enjoy broadband-comparable speeds from anywhere your phone can get a 3G signal. Think mobile broadband without the additional card to carry.

Ever since Apple announced the 3G iPhone, it’s been clear that AT&T would not allow this option for iPhones on their service plan. So, last week, the appearance of Nullriver’s NetShare app in the App Store set off a buzz.

For only $9.99, the app allows you to tether your 3G iPhone (or 2G EDGE iPhone). The app quickly disappeared, but not before Rich snagged it. Then it quietly reappeared the following day, but today, it’s gone again, prompting more speculation.

The whole thing seems very odd. Obviously, using the app violates AT&T’s terms, but not necessarily the terms of other carriers. Also, since it uses SOCKS, Nullriver says NetShare doesn’t violate the App Story SDK restrictions. Bit of a dodge, but legit.

Now that it’s in the wild, how can its use be monitored?

I have a feeling that people with “unlimited” data plans may get an unpleasant surprise when they use NetShare. Seems like AT&T could call off all bets if you tether your 3G connection and dump a boatload of fees and penalties on you.

As with everything good, jailbroken and unlocked iPhones have had tethering for months. Tethering an EDGE connection, although slow, would be a useful tool in a pinch. However, since tethering violates the terms of use, AT&T could charge huge fees and overage penalties.

This will be an intersting story to monitor, and since Rich did finally break down, we’ll have a firsthand account.

3G iPhone Burns
This one seems like a stretch, but if you believe it, the 3G iPhone can burn your leg through your pocket. Maybe it only applies if you’re asleep.

Strange as it may sound, I can attest to the heat factor that the 2G iPhone puts out when you’ve been talking on it for any extended period of time, e.g. an hour or more. That sucker gets pretty hot, making it uncomfortable to put up against your ear.

The 3G uses more power, as evidenced by its much shorter battery life. So, maybe this is legit.

Do you have any iPhone tidbits to share? Maybe stuff you’ve noticed or heard? Find the comments.




  1. I too downloaded the NetShare app while it was available. Its only supported with the Mac, but I found some instructions for getting it to work with XP. Using Firefox and FoxyProxy I could get them to connect and I could surf for about a minute, then it would stop working.

  2. Rich just pinged me telling me he's got FF working now. Maybe his workaround is different. I found several sites yesterday when I was writing this post. There's no shortage of iPhone hackery out on the Intertubes.

    Oh, and XP? Really?

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