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compassYou’re a busy dealmaker. You don’t have time to figure out Apple’s product naming. iPhone 3G? iPhone 3.0? iPhone 3G S-in-a-little-square? Too many 3’s and not enough visible differences make the new lineup of iPhones confusing. Here’s the executive summary:

1. Splurge on the S model. S is for Speed. The extra $100 over the base iPhone 3G model is easily worth it. It’s addictively faster, Gizmodo reports, “the single biggest reason you would upgrade” from the previous iPhone 3G. Walt Mossberg also observed better battery life than his older models. Also, the S has a magnetometer in it that enables new applications like the compass shown above.

2. Learn the new input features. You’ve probably trained yourself not to try to cut and paste text, or to swing the keyboard from portrait to landscape mode.  Practice some cutting and pasting. Flip the phone sidewise and try texting with the wider keyboard.  It puts the keys further apart, which may make typing easier for you. We can only fantasize about what software snafu prevented these features from being built into the very first models two years ago.

searchmail3. Learn the search tools. The 3.0 software includes a search-everything-on-my-phone tool called Spotlight. The results autocomplete quickly as you type.  But for email, there’s a dedicated search tool.

It’s hard to find: Open your inbox, so you’re looking at the list of messages. Pull down on the list. The list will drag a hidden search tool into view. (Remember on Lost when the counter went past zero? It’s like that.) This search panel has email-specific options – From, To, Subject, and All – plus it offers after searching to Continue Search on Server to find messages not on your phone.

4. Get a Mobile Me account. Apple’s sync service will cost you another $99 per year, but it’s another no-brainer on ROI. Mobile Me will keep your data synced — and hence backed up. When you inevitably misplace your iPhone around the house, you can login and order the phone to beep, even if it’s in silent mode. And if your phone gets stolen, you can order it to erase your data the next time it connects to a network.

5. There is no Number Five. This should be an entry on how you can use your iPhone as a cellular modem for your laptop. The technology is there. It works in many other countries. But in the U.S., AT&T hasn’t enabled the feature, and has avoided making any statements on if or when tethering, as it’s called, will be supported. There will likely be a fairly steep monthly charge for it. So yeah, 4 out of 5 for the new iPhones.

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