All eyes were once again on Apple today as they unveiled the latest version of the iPhone OS, version 3.0. The changes to the SDK and the OS itself addressed most of the things people considered missing from the 1.0 and 2.0 OS versions. The latest version adds a few things people hadn't expected. All in all it was a really impressive showing from Apple. They needed to really bring it and they did. The stock market seemed to like it too as the stock was up over 4% at the close of the market today.
Apple did not announce any new hardware today. It is expected that we will see new hardware announced at WWDC this summer to coincide with the public launch of the 3.0 OS. The iPhone OS 3.0 version adds over 1,000 new APIs for developers and over 100 new consumer features. And that's just what was announced today. I'm guessing we'll see a few more consumer features announced in the summer when the OS is announced and a new device is released.
This announcement covers both the iPhone and iPod Touch though some features are not available on all models due to hardware differences. This OS upgrade will be available for all 4 devices and be a free upgrade for iPhone users. Much like the 2.0 OS upgrade, iPod Touch users will need to pay $10 to get it.
Let's start off with some of the statistics that Apple announced today. One of the most interesting, and something that I don't think we knew before, is exactly how many iPhone OS devices there are. Apple has kept everyone up to date on the number of iPhone sold, and as of the end of 2008, there have been over 17 million sold, but we never knew how many iPod Touch devices had been sold. Doing the hard math, we now know that there have been over 13 million iPod Touch devices sold as there are a total of over 30 million devices sold that run the iPhone OS as of the end of 2008.
The iPhone is now available in over 80 countries and 77 of those countries have App Stores (up from 62). There are over 50,000 registered iPhone developers and 60% of those developers have never developed for mobile platforms before. The big number is that there have been over 800 million app downloads from the iTunes App Store thus far. At this rate we should hit 1 billion downloads at the end of April or early May.
Consumer / UI Updates and Features
Apple touts 100 new features for the 3.0 iPhone OS. And while all of them were not detailed today, here are some of the biggest ones.
Cut, Copy, and Paste - The biggest UI change in the new OS has to be the feature that everyone has been whining about since the iPhone first came out. Well, it's finally here, and most will never use it. It's cut, copy, and paste. Apple took so long to develop this feature because they needed to find a way to implement an easy to use and understand interface. Cut, copy, and paste works across all applications as long as they use the standard Cocoa Touch controls.
We got a chance to try it and the process for copy and paste does turn out to be a fairly intuitive one. Touch on a word and a controls come up that allow you to set the start and end of the selection and then cut/copy. Additional features are also there to allow it to work more intuitively with what is selected. One of the interesting features is that if you paste something where you don't want to, you just shake the device to undo. We'll need to explore this more to come up with a full opinion on it.
Spotlight Search - Search comes to the iPhone OS. This is implemented by putting a 10th sheet in the Springboard to the left of the Home screen. You navigate to it by swiping to it from the Home screen. From there you have the ability to search for apps and data in all of the default apps. Not everything is searched, here are a few more details:
- All default apps will have a search bar built in.
- You can search for apps -- if you have lots of apps you can search for them and go directly to them from the search results.
- Mail - to/from/subject searched, body not searched. Can also continue search on the server if message not found locally.
SMS Becomes Messages - The SMS app has undergone some changes and because of that the app name has changed to Messages. For one you can now delete individual messages. Previously you could only delete the whole conversation (all messages from that number). You also have the ability to forward messages, select either a single message or select multiple messages to forward. But the big new Messages feature is that the iPhone will finally have MMS (on the 3G only). This allows you to send files, images, contacts, locations, and more over the cell providers network to another phone user.
Tethering Supported - Tethering, the practice of using the phone as your data service for a computer, will be supported in OS 3.0. But it will be up to the cell providers to implement it and allow it to work.
Landscape Support in Default Apps - All default apps will now have landscape support. This means you can finally read and compose EMail in landscape mode. Also works in Messages, Notes, etc.
New Voice Recorder App - There will be a new default app, a voice recording app called Voice Memos. This has all the features would would expect and works with the internal mic on the iPhone or an external one. You have the ability to edit the start/end of your recordings after they have finished and send the recordings over MMS or email.
A2DP Support the iPhone 3G will now have support for stereo Bluetooth headsets. Might also be available in the iPod Touch 2G as it has Bluetooth hardware that can be turned on in software. No details known yet though. Will not work the original iPhone as it lacks the proper Bluetooth chip.
Built-in / Default App Changes - A host of new features and enhancements were announced for some of the other default apps.
- Stocks - Getting updated including bigger charts in landscape and news stories
- iPod - getting shake to shuffle and search
- Calendar - support for CalDAV and calendar subscription (.ics) files - no mention of 2 way sync though. Creation of meeting requests.
- Notes - now syncs via iTunes on Mac and PC
- Safari - now has anti-phishing controls and some ability to save login credentials
- YouTube - now allows you to login to your YouTube account and share, save favorites, and subscribe to channels.
- Photos - allows you to select multiple photos and email them all at once.
Parental Controls Changes - Parental controls are being expanded to include control over Movies, TV Shows, and third party Apps. This is an interesting change and may allow Apple to free up the restrictions on apps at some point in the future. If you can use parental controls to lock your kids out of apps, there's one less reason to restrict the content of third party apps.
Other Features - Apple also flashed up on the screen an image that showed other features, many were not discussed. These features included:
- Encrypted Profiles
- VPN on demand
- Media Scrubber
- Call Log
- EAP SIM
- Wi-Fi Auto Login
- Proxy Support
- Audio/Video Tags
- Live Streaming
- QTA Profiles
- Revoke Certs
- EAS Policies
iPhone OS 3.0 SDK API Features
Lets get into the new features for developers form the new 3.0 SDK which is available today if you can login to the slammed servers. All 50,000 developers are probably trying to download right now.
In-App Purchase - The biggest new feature for developers has to be in-app purchase. This allows developers to sell virtual goods, magazine subscriptions, ebooks, etc. directly from within the application. All purchases can be done from within the app, no need to leave, the user enters their iTunes password and are charged for the purchase. Apple takes their 30%, developers get 70% - same as the app purchases. The pricing levels seem to be the same as the app store -- so the minimum price will be $0.99. No micro-payment system coming it would seem. In-app purchases are apparently only available in paid applications, free apps can't use this. So you can't implement this in a way that would make your app a demo and unlockable with a purchase -- too bad there.
Not sure how the case will be handled where a paid app is changed to free. We'll see.
This will be interesting to see how developers adopt these new pricing models. There is huge potential here. But with the huge potential comes a possibility to over do it and make the app experience too interruptive / expensive for the user. There's a chance here for developers to increase revenue, lets hope it's done right. We will be watching this closely.
GameKit - Next big feature is peer to peer connectivity that's part of what Apple is calling GameKit. From the description this will be Bluetooth based and using Bonjour for communication. So it will allow easy discovery and a way for the apps to find other phones running the same application. This will obviously be great for games as a quick networking protocol. A connection to another network (not even WiFi) is not required. No mention was made if this can be used to connect to a desktop/laptop computer for transfer or data though. In addition, other features of GameKit seem to allow synchronization of events between devices -- not a simple process.
Push Notification Service - The long missing Push Notification server was again announced today. This will finally be ready for the 3.0 release this summer. Apple cited the unanticipated volume as the reason they had to withdraw the original notification service from the beta SDK and totally re-architect the system. No new features over what was originally announced are known yet. Still 3 types of notification: visual badges (like email unread count), audio alerts (sound/vibration only), and popup dialogs that allow you receive a text notification dialog with the option to launch into the app from a button. These notifications will be sent through Apples servers to the cell providers then to the phone itself.
Accessory Control and Communication - A huge new feature for accessory developers is be the ability to communicate with hardware both via Bluetooth and via the dock connector. This will allow hardware developers to better control the devices from the iPhone and will lead to a whole new generation of great accessories. Imagine updating one of the many iPhone-based hardware alarm clocks to allow all of the controls to be handled through the iPhone interface. Or controlling an FM tuner stashed in the glove box via the iPhone display. On top of that we will see a whole new class of accessory devices for the iPhone. One demonstrated at the press conference today was a glucose meter connected to an iPhone.
Other interesting new SDK features exposed to apps include:
- Maps API -- allows you to plot courses, get better location data, even turn by turn directions. But due to the licensing details with Google, you'll have to provide your own map tiles.
- New EMail sheet -- allows the user to send email from apps without leaving the application.
- iPod Library Access -- this is a great feature with huge potential to developers. You now have access to media metadata and can control the iPod from third party apps.
- Updated streaming protocols -- allows you to adjust the stream based on your connection speed
- Text Selection - no details give but would assume this has something to do with copy and paste manipulation and auto selection
In addition, the following were flashed up on the screen, but no details were given. Let your imagination roam on these - well at least until details from people using the 3.0 SDK start to leak.
- Core Data
- Built-in VOIP APIs
- In Game Voice
- Shake API
- Audio Recorder
- UI Scroll View
- Data Detectors
- Proximity Sensors
- Cell Styles
- UI Action Sheet
- UI Alert View
- Open URL
- Battery API
While what was presented was a very impressive list, there were a few anticipated features that weren't mentioned.
Video Recording - Video recording has long been anticipated. It's possible to do as there are multiple jailbreak apps that do it. Though this feature might debut with a new device, there was no mention of allowing users to record video on their iPhones.
Springboard Changes - While we may still see this before the final OS is shipped, it's doubtful. The current iPhone OS is limited to 9 pages of 16 apps and 4 in the tray. 3.0 is the same. (BTW, that adds up to 148, hence our name). Some people were looking for better ways to organize their apps and maybe a way to categorize or even add stacks similar to the Mac OSX desktop. Looks like the Spotlight search for apps is going to be all we get.
Voice Dialing - Nothing was mentioned about voice dialing. There are a few third party apps that do this, but users want a built in version.
Flash Support - During the Q&A a question was asked about Flash. The answer was a non-committal "We have no announcement on Flash today". Leaves the door open to support Flash I guess. Let's hope not.
Bluetooth Support - Bluetooth support has been greatly expanded, but we don't know the extent of that yet. Will external keyboards be supported? What about Bluetooth based syncing?
All in all a fantastic announcement. Apple did wonders for the perception that the current iPhone OS wasn't feature filled enough for some users. They did leave a couple features unanswered though. Maybe we'll see them in time for the 3.0 launch -- maybe we won't.
What new features are you looking forward to most? Have any others that you wish Apple would announce? Hit us up on Twitter or in the comments below and let us know.