First Look: Apple's iPhone 2.2 Software Hits The Street (And Street View)

It has also added new podcast availability and e-mail functions in iPhone 2.2. All work right away without a lot to have to learn and without having to sit through a long download and installation process.

Even before Apple first launched the iPhone in 2007, the company said that it would continue to roll out significant software upgrades to the hardware devices, free of charge, over time. With the iPhone 2.0 launch last summer, Apple first made geo-triangulation available even in phones without GPS as well as other features like its App Store for third-party iPhone applications.

The inclusion of mass transit and walking directions, as well as street view functionality, to the iPhone's Google maps application builds on what was already a solid feature on the device. They are among several features that continue to make Apple's device more valuable with each update, and come on a day when rival Research in Motion was hoping for big headlines with the launch of its BlackBerry Storm.

Unlike the iPhone 2.0 launch, there were barely any reports of glitches with the download and installation of this update -- which took, all told, about seven minutes on a first-generation device. While the new features are valuable, the complexity is held to a minimum.

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For example, when using Google Maps on the iPhone, one needs only to click an icon in the shape of a red man to flip to Street View -- a ground-level, 360-degree visual of a specific location coming straight from Google's database. (T-Mobile's new Android-based phone, released several weeks ago, was the first to offer Google Maps Street View.)

Apple is also providing a major boost to podcasters, providing the capability to download podcasts directly over a WiFi connection to the iPhone -- giving wireless availability to both video and audio podcasts via the on-device iTunes store. In addition, iPhone users now have the ability, with a couple of clicks, to e-mail their precise location to someone else they may be trying to reach or meet. (Or say, a teenager letting their parent know their current location.)

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said the iPhone 2.2 upgrade also provides greater stability to the Safari Web browser on its device.

The bottom line: in an up-and-down year, Apple is heading into the holiday season giving those in the market for a new smartphone one more reason to walk into an Apple Store or AT&T store and make the commitment.