At a press event in Cupertino, Apple previewed its forthcoming iPhone 3.0 operating system, outlining a wealth of new capabilities for developers as well as a slate of new features that are sure to make iPhone users happy—including cut, copy, and paste, MMS support, push notifications, and a device-wide search (named Spotlight) that makes finding everything from apps to music to email a one-step process. However, Apple had no news on when (or if) Adobe Flash technology might make it to the iPhone.
The new iPhone 3.0 operating system will feature several new features for everyday iPhone users. First on many wishlists for iPhone 3.0 was support for copy and paste, and Apple did not disappoint, demonstrating an elegant interface for cutting, copying, and pasting information within and between iPhone applications. The implementation takes advantage of the iPhone’s capabilities—for instance, users can shake the device to undo or redo changes, and double-tapping text selects text and displays a cut/copy/paste bubble that indicates where the action will start and stop. The feature supports HTML and even photos, and will be available to all iPhone applications, not just Apple’s in-house programs.
Apple also announced iPhone 3.0 will support push notifications—meaning, the device can automatically notify people if they receive a new email message, instant message, or other important notification. The feature was originally slated to be in iPhone 2.0, but Apple was forced to backpedal following the stumbling launch of MobileMe. However, Apple’s support for push notifications does not extend to enabling background applications on the iPhone: if users want to receive push notifications of instant messages, they’ll need to leave their instant messaging application running. According to Apple, background processes create a poor user experience and eat both processor cycles and battery power. Apple’s push notifications will support three types of notices—badges, audio alerts, and text alerts.
iPhone 3.0 will also add support for MMS messages, include a new application for voice memos, and feature a new Spotlight search function that not only enables users to find apps installed on their phone, but can also perform a phone-wide content search including email, instant messages, media, photos, and more.
Apple’s preview of the iPhone 3.0 software was primarily focused on developers, and the company wasted no time highlighting some 1,000 new APIs and features designed to sustain and expand the company’s wildly successful App Store. For instance, any application will be able to tap into Google Maps, and turn-by-turn directions will also be available, effectively turning the devices into standalone GPS units—the only catch being that developers will have to supply their own maps for turn-by-turn directions.
Commercial iPhone applications will also be able to support in-application purchases, so game developers could sell additional levels or add-ons, magazine publishers could offer in-app subscriptions, and ebook publishers could sell content within their applications. The terms of in-app purchases match those of the App Store (developers get 70 percent of the revenue). Only paid-for applications can use in-app sales; the service won’t be available to free applications.
Apple also announced Bluetooth-based ad-hoc peer-to-peer networking that could be leveraged for multiplayer games and sharing media, along with APIs that will enable developers to communicate with accessories (like docks, speakers, tuners, etc.) via the Dock connector. The iPhone 3.0 software will also support HTTP media streaming that can successfully negotiate firewalls, and offer application access to the internal iPod library (so a game could, for example, play a user’s stored music).
The developer beta of iPhone 3.0 is available today to members of the iPhone developer program. Apple anticipates iPhone 3.0 will roll out to consumers this summer; it will be free for iPhone owners, while iPod touch owners will be able to update for $9.95.
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