At 10:00am today, Apple held an event to discuss the new features that will be packed into the recently announced iPhone OS 3.0. There have been the usual rumors and wish lists, much like when 2.0 was introduced, but i think this time you may be pleasantly surprised.
First up Scott Forstall, SVP of iPhone software, took the stage and announced, “This is a major update to the OS”, “It comes with incredible features for both developers and customers”. The update will be for both iPhones and all iPod Touch models. Scott started by explaining what’s new for developers. There will be 1,000 new API’s, and Apple will be introducing the opportunity for developers to incorporate an “In-App Purchase System”, meaning that, game developers will be able to sell new levels, or gameplay equipment “through” the app itself. The player will see a pop-up style notification asking if they wish to purchase extra content. It is all linked through iTunes, so if you hit the “buy” button, then you get the usual iTunes authentication panel. Free applications will obviously be exempt from the use of this feature.
Next on the agenda was “peer-to-peer connectivity”, which is particularly useful when it comes to gaming. The new API’s include tools to bring up nearby iPhones or IPT’s, it uses the bluetooth and automatically identifies running apps and creates an IP connection. It uses the existing Bonjour technology, no need for bluetooth pairing. Apple doesn’t see this as “just for gaming”, it will make sharing contacts easy as you don’t need to pair with the other device.
Next was accessories, with Scott stating that, with 3.0, developers will be able to create apps that can “talk” directly to certain hardware, the example used was an external speaker.
He then moved on to Maps on 3.0. Apple is still working very closely with Google. Apple discovered that developers wanted to use mapping in their own software, so they have now made the heart of the Maps app an API which can be embedded into third-party software. All the usual features will be supported, but they are now enabling core location API access for turn-by-turn directions, but developers have to bring their own maps, as licensing issues mean Apple can’t let them use the existing maps.
Now take a deep breath, make sure you are sat down. Next up was “Push” , that’s right, after admitting that they are late on this one, Scott went on to explain the reasons for the delay, the biggest being the influx of applications and the “unforeseen” ways in which they wanted to use push, so they had to redesign the server structure, however they are now “good to go”.
Background processes was next on the list, but don’t get excited, it’s not going to happen. Scott stated that “It’s bad for the customer”. They have apparently been testing it with a “popular AIM client”, leaving it running in the background, and standby time dropped by a whopping 80% or more. Meanwhile a third party push notification system only ate 20% of battery life in the background over the same period of time. So what they are doing is having running apps connect to a server, and syncing their latest status when you close them with Apple’s Push system listening for updates in the background. This means support for badge alerts, text alerts and audio alerts. So we won’t be getting backgrounding but at last, Push is on it’s way.
Apple recently contacted a handful of app developers and asked them to see what they could come up with in 14 days using the array of new features. These developers then went on to showcase these apps. These ranged from social networking apps to medical apps, and Smule, the team behind the vastly popular app Ocarina, unveiled their new app called “Leaf Trombone – World Stage” which is similar in UI to that of Guitar hero and allows users to play with people all over the world.
Scott Forstall then took the stage again to go deeper into the new features that will directly affect the end user. “Over 100 new features”, starting with COPY & PASTE!!! Finally it seems that Apple has unclogged it’s ears and started listening to the masses. They have spent a vast amount of time perfecting the UI for the cut, copy & paste functions. Demonstrating the new function, you double tap on the text and it auto-selects, then you get “grab points” which you can extend, and a cut/copy/paste bubble above, kind of like the existing magnifying glass. These functions happily work across all applications AND web content. If you copy a portion of text that contains a link, it will allow you to paste the text and it will preserve the formatting for the link. It also features a “shake to undo” which brings up an “undo” and “cancel” dialog, you can also “redo” in the same way.
A new action has been added to the Photo app which lets you choose multiple pictures to attach to a mail message. Another feature that has been longed for is landscape keyboard, well ta-da, it is also included in all the key apps, Mail, Notes and Text.
Ok, are you ready for another biggy? MMS support has been added and will include the ability to send files such as audio, location, contact cards, and the obvious images. No mention however, of video support. MMS will unfortunately ONLY be available to iPhone 3G users.
There was also a mention of voice memos and the ability to edit, crop and share them via E-mail or MMS. There will be changes to the Calendar App, with the addition of Exchange support, and two new types of calendar. The Stocks App has been overhauled, adding news stories and extra stock details.
Another addition is an expansion of the Search feature which will address all key apps. There will be a new homescreen called “Spotlight” to manage searches from, this will be accessible with a flick to the left from the normal homescreen. You will also be able to search through media content and web content, Apple is calling it “Universal Search”.
Notes now sync with iTunes on both Mac and PC, Shake-to-shuffle has now been added to the iPod app, and Auto-login for Wifi hotspots has also been mentioned.
Think it’s about time to get you out of your seat again. How about a bit of A2DP Stereo Bluetooth, yes? Well it’s there. Unfortunately, again this feature will only be available to iPhone 3G users. Safari has been given an Anti-Phishing tool and a password login manager, support for YouTube accounts and subscriptions. An increased number of languages are now supported. Parental controls have also been boosted for movies, TV shows and App Store content.
Well as you can see the list is quite extensive, and will only get bigger with the release which has been said will be this summer. iPhone OS 3.0 will be available as a free upgrade to iPhone 3G users, iPhone users can use it but not all features will be supported (MMS, A2DP). iPod Touch users will have to pay an upgrade fee of $9.95.
This update definitely seems like Apple has taken a step back, and thought long and hard about what users have been screaming for since the beginning. They have certainly delivered when it comes to the most important features and i for one am looking forward to the summer.