A little after 5pm local time, 10am in Cupertino, California, Apple began their preview of the features coming to the iPhone 3.0 software. Steve Jobs wasn’t there but in his place was Apple COO, Steve Cook.

Some of the figures thrown about:
13.7 million iPhones sold;
30 million devices running the ‘platform’ (iPod and iPhones);
800,000 SDK downloads;
50,000 companies in the developer programme;
800 million application downloads.

After all the figures and the chest beating, Scott Forstall, SVP of iPhone Software, came on to present the preview of the iPhone 3.0 software.

The new software will allow developers to implement alternative and additional income streams such as through subscriptions, additional content and add-ons, rather than a single up front payment for an app. These methods will be achievable from within applications and is being called in-app purchase. Some of the examples given were being able to buy extra levels, in-game weapons and clothing for your virtual pets.

Peer to peer functionality will be available to developers opening up the ability for iPhones to detect other iPhones nearby, potentially to transfer messages, information, play games and collaborate. This will only work over Bluetooth but does not require handsets to be paired. In a hint to any developers looking for an idea, Scott proposes: “Let’s say you’re a sales person and you want to send someone a contact: your company can build an app to share that contact instantly, and you walk away.”

The feature set of new iPhone accessories will get a major boost with the possibility of using the iPhone as a part of that accessory. Add-ons will be able to talk directly to the handset. The example given here is using the iPhone as an equalizer for a speaker dock, with the equalizer displayed and controllable on the handset’s display. Also an FM transmitter would work with the iPhone to find the ideal broadcast frequency and play the music. Applications on the iPhone can talk to accessories via Bluetooth of through the dock connector with the possibility of writing specific protocols to meet the developer’s own requirement.

Developers will be able to use another app and roll it into their own app. In this case, to use the Maps app on the iPhone and its features in third party developer apps without direct access to the maps and code (as I understand it). Using mobile cell-tower triangulation and or GPS, developers will be able to use Core Location for turn-by turn navigation or similar but with the caveat that there will be no Google Maps for this usage as they haven’t been licensed.

Push notification will be enabled so allowing you to run a supported messaging application, drop back to the standby/menu screen and leave the data connection open and still receive messages.  There will be three types of push notification: visual, sound alerts and text alerts. Messages will be relayed via the Apple push notification service.

Meebo demonstrated their messaging application which until now hasn’t existed on the iPhone as it required push notification for it to be useful. There was a Sims 3 demo showing in-game micro transactions allowing the purchase of, in this example, a hi-fi system which can play music from the user’s music library on the handset. Oracle demonstrated their app which incorporates the push notifications, in this case a low inventory warning. ESPN also demonstrated push notification to send out score updates for events and their video streaming app.

To demonstrate the medical usage side of things, Anita Methew of Lifescan (who make blood glucose monitors) presented a demo of how a glucose meter can send its readings to the iPhone where the app can track meals taken, glucose levels and insulin needs.

ngmoco demonstrated micro-transactions and what looked like using the p2p technology to allow virtual dogs to date eachother.

Smule demonstrated a musical game that allows for people to play together. Leaf Trombone lets users play a leaf trombone by blowing into the microphone on the iPhone. The two players are connected over the P2P functionality over Bluetooth, administered by the Bonjour service.

Something basic which should have been there from the start…CUT COPY AND PASTE! Yes, cut, copy and paste capability will be present in iPhone software 3.0. The excuse in the Q&A at the end for the delay in implementing the feature was that “…there are a lot of things like security and interface design to consider.” The ability to cut, copy and paste extends to other applications and is invoked by double tapping on text and then dragging when the menu appears to select your text. In a browser or presumably anywhere with static un-editable text, holding a finger on the screen brings up the copy option. Tapping pastes your text/items. Copy/paste also works with pictures. What has Apple brought to this common and standard-everywhere-else feature? The undo paste function!! To undo a pasting, shake the iPhone, thats it! Excellent, just don’t drop it, Nintendo Wiimote strap anyone?

Not one to be outdone for too long, Apple also announced MMS support. No longer will European iPhone users have to open the link in text messages to go online just to view an MMS message. Yes, MMSs can be sent too, just to clarify, you never know what might be missing. New mails, notes and messages can be composed in landscape with the landscape keyboard.

As the iPhone and almost every other phone out there has a microphone and some user accessible storage, a welcome feature is Voice Memos. Record a message and save it or share it.

The iPhone will also support two new calendar formats, CalDAV and ICS subscriptions. Start gathering the URLs of you favourite Google calendars!

iPhone 2.0 saw the introduction of Contact search, now in iPhone 3.0 the search ability has been extended and centralised. Named Spotlight, users will be able to search Mail, Calendar, Contacts, iPod and Notes from the home screen.

Another hotly requested feature, probably to the dismay of some companies selling the dongles, is A2DP or stereo audio over Bluetooth.

Whilst MMS and A2DP won’t be available for the iPhone 2g/1st generation, the iPod Touch can utilise the A2DP feature but will cost US users $9.95. Put a £ sign in front and you can’t go far wrong for a UK price. The update is free for iPhone 3g owners. Attendees to the preview were told to wait until June, so there’s your potential release or announcement time frame.

There was also a Question and Answer session so check out live.gdgt.com for that.


Thanks to live.gdgt.com, Engadget and Gizmodo for the live blogs.
Apple Press

By Viran

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