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The iPhone 3G: What you need to know

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Is battery life better on the iPhone 3G?

It’s unclear if the iPhone 3G’s battery is different from the one in the original iPhone. Apple says the iPhone 3G should get up to 5 hours talk time on 3G and up to 10 hours on 2G; up to 300 hours of standby time; up to 5 hours of Internet usage on 3G and up to 6 hours on Wi-Fi; up to 7 hours of video playback; and up to 24 hours of audio playback. You’ll be able to switch between 3G and 2G to save battery life.

The original iPhone was rated for up to 8 hours of talk time; up to 250 hours of standby; up to 6 hours of Internet use; and the same audio and video playback times as the iPhone 3G. However, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber reports that the battery life of original iPhones will be improved by the iPhone 2.0 software update.

Do I need to buy an iPhone 3G to install third-party apps on my iPhone?

No, the iPhone 2.0 update, which will allow third-party software, will be free for current iPhone users in early July; the update comes pre-installed on the iPhone 3G. (If you’ve got an iPod touch, you can upgrade to the 2.0 software as well, but it will cost you $9.95—Apple charges a fee for the touch because of the way it accounts for the device.)

The updated iPhone software may be free, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay for individual programs. Some developers are offering apps for free; others charge a fee, with $9.99 seemingly a common price for premium applications based on what we saw at WWDC.

So how will the App Store work?

Apple offers a sneak peak at the App Store in its guided tour of the iPhone 3G.

We’ll be able to answer this one more definitively when the store opens for business, but Apple’s video tour of the iPhone 3G offers some clues.

First, there’s now an App Store icon on the iPhone’s home screen (located next to the iTunes Wi-Fi Store icon by default, though you can continue to customize what icons appear where on the screen). Once inside the App Store, the icons on the bottom of the screen let you access featured applications, search for programs by category, and view the 25 most popular apps. (These options are very similar to what you’ll find in the iTunes Wi-Fi Store.) A fourth button lets you check your current applications to see if new versions are available.

Selecting a program from the App Store takes you to a screen with a description of the app, a screenshot, and any reviews. Tap the price of the app (or the Free icon, if the program is available for free), and a Buy Now button appears; tap that to download the app. (Apple says you may be prompted to type in your iTunes account password.)

Once you buy an app, its icon will appear on your home screen, along with a progress bar showing the status of the download. You can download apps over the wireless cellular network, though Apple says that larger apps may require you to download via Wi-Fi.

Any other changes I should expect with this iPhone?

Well, the iPhone 2.0 software—which is available for current iPhones as well as preinstalled on the new 3G models—will introduce some new capabilities.

Some of these, like the ability to delete multiple e-mails at once, have already been well-publicized. (Though Apple demonstrates how this will work in its iPhone 3G video: In the Mail app, tap edit and circles will appear next to each e-mail. Tap the circle for each message you want to select—you can then tap a button to delete those messages or move them into another folder.) Other new iPhone 2.0 features you may have already heard about include a fast-input Japanese keyboard, handwriting character recognition for simplified and traditional Chinese, and multicolored calendar items. (That last feature is related to Apple’s soon-to-launch MobileMe service, which will sync calendars between your iPhone and computer.)

A change in the 2.0 software that you might not have heard about is the refined Airplane Mode setting. As before, you can switch the phone in and out of Airplane Mode with the touch of a finger. But now, if you happen to be on a flight that offers Wi-Fi connectivity, you’ll be able to turn Wi-Fi back on without turning on the phone’s cellular radio.

Do I need anything special to use the iPhone’s Exchange/ActiveSync functionality?

Yes, AT&T told us that those corporate e-mail features are intended for business users, which we took to mean you’ll need to pay the extra $15 a month for the corporate data plan over the regular data plan. Consumers have the option of getting similar functionality using Apple’s MobileMe.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. PT to clarify a passage on taking phone calls while surfing the Web with the 3G iPhone and to add information on iPhone plans in Italy.

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