In case you were hiding in a cave for the last week, you probably were like most of us iPhone users, excited about the new iPhone 3.0 software. While I wasn’t invited in Cupertino for the event (what a surprise!), I followed several live coverages at the same time to make sure I wasn’t missing a single thing of what was going on.
In-app purchase, peer-to-peer connectivity, accessories, embeddable maps, push notifications, cut/copy/paste/undo, landscape keyboarding, MMS, new app (Voice Memos), CalDAV / ICS subs, stock enhancements, search and Spotlight… just a few of the more than 100 new features and 1000 new APIs that make up iPhone 3.0.
Let’s have a look at what has been said today.
The conference started with a good old “we’re the shit” kind of introduction showing how great Apple is and how amazing and simple it is to develop applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Not surprisingly, the controversy about the app approval wasn’t part of the presentation…
The App Store is seeing some enhancements and will now be able to support different business models: subscriptions, additional levels, and new content. Magazines will soon be able to sell subscriptions, iPhone developers will be able to sell new levels for their games, and publishers can sell ebooks. This new model is called “in-app purchase”.
While in the game/app, a pop up will ask you if you’d like to purchase more levels (or more accessories. For example, you can buy a new gun for a shooting game). If you say yes, the new levels will download automatically onto the app and into the phone. Everything will be tied to the App Store, and you will obviously be billed for these purchases.
It looks very interesting to me and it completely makes sense. My main concern here is that if I buy a game from the App Store, it’s understood that I get the updates to this game (new levels) for free. Well, it’s not anymore. Yet another way to get a little more money from you.
A new “peer to peer” feature will be available in firmware 3.0. For example, you’re playing a car racing game, a popover panel will show all other iPhones and iPods in the area. Really cool!
iPhone 3.0 will also allow developers to create accessories that talk right to the iPhone. For example, you can give the iPhone an equalizer to a speaker system. Here’s another example: FM transmitter, which would find the optimal broadcast channel and play your music.
This is a BIG one. Apple is now letting developers use Core Location as the basis for turn-by-turn directions. Devs will however have to use their own maps because Apple can’t license Google’s Maps for turn-by-turn directions.
Apple admits that it’s late on this one. They say that it can’t let apps process in the background because it will drain your battery too fast. Instead, they will be offering unified push notification. For example, you’re on Facebook, you quit the app, but it will keep constant connection to Apple’s push service and will push to you 3 types of notifications: badges, audio alerts, and text alerts. This way, you are notified of new activity without draining your battery.
After this presentation, a bunch of iPhone developers went on stage to talk about how they integrated these new features in their new applications. The star here is of course notification. My favorite is the ESPN app which sends you a notification to let you know the latest scores. Pretty neat! A few other apps were demoed as well, such as a medical application that shows a glucose meter communicating to your iPhone app. After this presentation of cool new iPhone apps using the latest firmware 3.0, back on track with more features coming up…
Copy/paste is finally here. It only took Apple a year and a half for this super basic feature and apparently, they’ve been working really hard on it. How hard can that be? If indie developers can do it (Clippy, hClipBoard), why an army of Apple devs can’t? Mystery. Anyways. They demoed the copy/cut/paste feature. Double-tap and it selects the text. There’s a cut/copy/paste bubble. Tap on what you want to do. Grab point shows up, take the drag point, drag it down and select the block of text.
Copy/paste works across all apps. The cool thing is that you can also copy web content. Holding your finger on text grabs a block of text and gives you a copy prompt.
Landscape mode is now available across all apps, including emails, notes and SMS. Yeah! Finally!
A fantastic enhancement made to the SMS app. You can now delete and forward individual text messages. Basic and simple, but it’s good to have it now…
The long awaited MMS support is now available too. You can send and receive photos directly from the SMS app. When you receive a vCard, it can automatically add it to your contacts. If you receive an audio file, it will play it back! You can even send and receive locations over MMS right from maps. It’s all added directly to the existing app.
Apple has created a new application called Voice Memos. Like the name suggests, it lets you record voice notes with the internal mic or with an external microphone. The recordings are editable and shareable. That’s great but I don’t know why Apple developed such an application when there are already plenty of them in the App Store…
The Calendar applications has been improved too and now supports 2 calendar types: CalDAV (supported by Yahoo, Google, etc..) and subscriptions (ICS).
Apple has added the search feature to all its applications, including notes, emails, SMS, iPod. It didn’t stop here and created what I think is a QuickGold killer. They created a new home screen where you can search across all apps, and they call it Spotlight. Like in QuickGold (the jailbreak app that does just this) , simply start typing something in Spotlight and it will return all available information and let you know what type of search result it is (ie. contact, email, etc…).
All these are only a few of the hundred new features in iPhone 3.0. Stereo Bluetooth, A2DP, auto-fill, WiFi auto-login, YouTube accounts, iTunes account creation, encrypted profiles.
The new SDK will be available for everyone in the iPhone developer program as of today. But you, as an iPhone user, will have to wait until this summer to download firmware 3.0. I honestly don’t know if I can wait that long…
Apple enabled 3.0 to work on the original iPhone. The hardware’s changed though: MMS and A2DP won’t be available on the original iPhone. If you’re an iPod Touch user, it will cost you $10 to upgrade (greedy bastards!).
Unfortunately, no announcement was made regarding a new iPhone…
After the presentation, it was time of a Q&A session. I’m gonna write some of the most intersting questions below:
Q: Why did it take so long to get copy and paste on the iPhone?
A: There were a lot of pieces there we cared about, we wanted to spend time on it instead of putting out something that didn’t work right.
Q: Video is a black hole: Flash support?
A: No announcements on Flash. If people use HTML5 with video tags, it’s supported. Certain encodings are already supported, like h.264. We’re adding HTTP streaming for audio and video, codecs and chunking support.
Q: Can users trade files via P2P?
A: It’s possible to stream media across apps.
Q: Where do you stand on data tethering?
A: There are two pieces needed: client-side, where the client needs that support; and carrier-support. We’re supporting tethering in 3.0 — and we’re working with carriers around the world. We don’t have announcements on the when and where, but we’re building it into 3.0.
Q: New iPhone? Netbooks?
A: Nothing to announce today. Nothing to announce today. (Laughter)
Q: Bluetooth on the iPod touch?
A: Bluetooth is a capability we can “unlock” on the latest-gen iPod touch.
Q: App Store applications are still a little mysterious, will you guys be more clear on that?
There are some things we need to check for technically. That it won’t crash, etc., and there are other things we check for, like profanity, pornography, violations of privacy. With over 25k apps and 800m apps, we have a great solution that’s working.
That’s it! Well, that was a lot. Needless to say I’m a little disappointed they didn’t talk about a new iPhone but maybe they will in the next fea months. A big thank you toRyan Block at Gdgt for this fantastic live coverage. Note that all pictures used here were from Gdgt.
So, what do you guys think? Excited? Let us know in the comments!