Upon first unveiling the iPhone, Apple CEO Steve Jobs proclaimed that the company was five years ahead of the competition. And while that is debatable — although I think he had a point — the latest iPhone software update, and those than came before it, prove one thing for sure.
However far ahead the iPhone was when it first launched, Apple isn’t resting on its laurels, with the company continually improving the phone’s software at a pace that the competition can’t keep up with. This is in no small part due to Apple’s unique relationship with its partner carriers, which enable both incremental improvements and major new features to be delivered direct to customers without the networks getting in the way.
Nokia, for example, regularly releases firmware upgrades for its line of S60-based handsets, and on the most recent phones these can be delivered ‘over the air’. The problem, however, is the anarchic way in which the carriers create custom firmware versions for the handsets they carry, so that any juicy new software update from Nokia can’t be applied to a carrier-branded and locked version of the phone. My beloved Nokia e71 recently had a firmware update made available by Nokia, but as I understand it, I’ll have to wait until my mobile carrier “3” gets around to issuing their own version, if indeed they ever do. Owners of Apple’s iPhone have the luxury of cutting out the middle person.
The latest iPhone 2.2 update provides a few bug fixes, along with a number of completely new features including a new version of Google Maps with Street View, and public transit and walking directions, along with enhancements to Mail, and my favorite, a podcast client that can update ‘over the air’ (no more ‘side loading’ just to grab the latest podcast episode). See Macrumors for the full rundown.