What may have been the biggest flaw in the iPhone has been corrected. A few weeks ago, as quietly as a thief in the night, Apple gave a new iPhone update. A new, purple icon appeared on our screens: iTunes. The company made downloadable music on-the-go available, something that competing phones had for years. It is a solid, reliable service, but there are a few caveats.
First, purchasing is truly on the go ?provided you happen have access to a Wi-Fi hotspot. AT&T's maple syrup EDGE network isn't up to the task of downloading 5 MB songs and, frankly, Apple probably protected our sanity by not providing the EDGE option. Instead, you'll have to stay in Wi-Fi range.
Getting on Wi-Fi can be a bit tricky, at least if you miss the one opportunity the iPhone gives you from time to time. Go to a Wi-Fi spot, turn on the iPhone and go to the Internet browser. The iPhone will give a list of all the Wi-Fi networks in range. Click on your favorite one.
However, a problem occurs if you are in a hurry ?say, looking up the foodie Web site Yelp for restaurant recommendations in the vicinity ?and the (now annoying) iPhone Wi-Fi list pops up as you start the Safari browser. You're probably going to cancel the list.
The iPhone, assuming you don't want Wi-Fi anytime soon, won't show the list again until a) you shut down the phone, b) you significantly change locations and hit other Wi-Fi opportunities (the iPhone goes crazy in Manhattan), or c) an indeterminate, usually long period of time passes and the iPhone decides you're ready for the Wi-Fi list again.
Instead, get Wi-Fied when you want to: From the Start screen, click on Settings. Wi-Fi will be second on the list, right under Airplane Mode. The Wi-Fi button will say "Not Connected." (If it is connected, it will tell the name of the network it is connected to, like "Nora's Home Wireless" or "Linksys81". You can switch Wi-Fi networks by doing these same steps.)
Press the Wi-Fi button and the familiar list of networks will appear: Click on your favorite network and, if necessary, type in the password to join. The iPhone will now default to the chosen network whenever it is in range.
Once Wi-Fi is in order, there is a second caveat to the portable Apple Music Store: it isn't the whole store. The music selection seems on par with the regular one, but there are no audiobooks or no movies to download.
As EDGE would be too slow for music downloading, the iPhone's Wi-Fi is probably not fast enough for comfortably download hundreds of megabytes required for video or auidobooks. More importantly, the user would have to stay in one place as it downloaded from a specific Wi-Fi network (unless the iPhone learned to do some fancy footwork, hopping from Wi-Fi network to Wi-Fi network).
Third, purchases only seem available through the account the iPhone is linked to. In other words, you can't use a buddy's iPhone to download music and transfer it to your iTunes later. In fact, the iPhone iTunes will ask you to confirm the account password when purchasing.
Those challenges aside, Apple has created a solid portable Apple Music Store. The iPhone can list music four ways: Featured, Top Tens, Search and Downloads.
Most impressive is the Search function: it literally mirrors the full Apple Music Store version, down to filling in artists as you type them in. As mentioned earlier, the selection is equal to the original, and wonderfully obscure groups were available at the touch of a few buttons.
Find a song you like? Press the title and the store will give you a 30-second preview. Next to the title is the single price or, for the whole album, scroll to the top for the CD price. (Retail prices seem exactly the same as the regular Apple Music Store.) iTunes Plus music, or songs available at a higher quality, have a plus symbol by the price.
Press a price and the button will switch to "BUY NOW". Press it again and the iPhone will ask for the iTunes account password. Type it in and the music will begin downloading: A small number will appear on the Downloads icon.
From Downloads you can monitor how much longer a song has to load, view the file size and temporarily pause the download. The download speed was slower than the traditional Apple Music Store, which was probably more representative of the iPhone's power than the store itself.
Fortunately, just like big brother, the portable Apple Music Store tracks what has been purchased. You can re-download any song if Wi-Fi gets disconnected. The music will appear under its respective genre after it is successfully downloaded.
Plug in the iPhone to the computer after your first portable Apple Music Store purchase and iTunes will create a new folder, "Purchased on iPhone." It will automatically become part of your library, even after the iPhone is disconnected.
This article was first published on PDAStreet.