Apple has released a new version of its iPhone software that has patched 12 flaws on the smartphone and also offers users the chance to access Google's Street View.

According to Apple, the addition of the Google mapping feature to the iPhone 2.2 means it now includes sports street-level views, where available, as well as walking and public transit directions, and location sharing via email.

Other changes to the iPhone's software included reliability and stability fixes for Mail and Safari, sound quality improvements for voicemail playback, and, in a terse notice, changes aimed at a "decrease in call setup failures and dropped calls".

In September, Apple first responded to months of complaints by iPhone 3G owners of weak signal strength, slow download speeds and frequently dropped calls by issuing iPhone 2.0.1.

The update also added the ability to download podcasts directly to the iPhone, a move made notable because Apple two months ago rejected a third-party application that did the same thing, then blocked the developer's attempt to sidestep the App Store.

Alex Sokirynsky then took his Podcaster application to the hacked-iPhone market. Apple's podcast addition lets users download podcasts via iTunes either over the phone's data network or using Wi-Fi.

Also included in the iPhone 2.2 update are patches for 12 vulnerabilities, four of which Apple tagged with its usual "arbitrary code execution" line, a phrase that essentially means the bug is critical and could be used to compromise the phone.

Three of the patches address flaws in the iPhone's password protection, a feature that was broken after Apple forgot to fix it in iPhone 2.0 last summer, even though it had quashed the bug in a January 2008 update.

The fixes restrict emergency numbers - which are the only numbers designed to be accessible when someone doesn't know the password to unlock the phone - to actual emergency numbers, and prevent people without the password from viewing text messages.

Other fixes secure the phone from attacks using TIFF images, patch three vulnerabilities in Safari and plug a hole that could be exploited by hackers to trick users into visiting a malicious website. One of the TIFF flaws - there are actually two - could be used to reboot the iPhone simply by getting the user to view a malformed image.

The 12 patches also all apply to the iPod Touch, which received its own 2.2 update Friday as well.

iPhone owners can upgrade their device to Version 2.2 by connecting to their Mac or Windows PC and launching iTunes. The updates is approximately 245MB.