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Summary:

Tuesday marked the official day of reveal for the upcoming iPhone 3.0 firmware and SDK update. Those of you without iPhones probably aren’t quite as interested as those of us who do have them, but there are enough changes to make at least a few converts, I’m guessing. And while the changes are just generally cool, they provide some really solid web working benefits as well. As an Apple Developer Program member, I recently got my hands on the OS 3.0 beta (it won’t be released to the public until the summer); I can already tell it’ll significantly affect how I go about doing my work.

iphone3Tuesday marked the official day of reveal for the upcoming iPhone 3.0 firmware and SDK update. Those of you without iPhones probably aren’t quite as interested as those of us who do have them, but there are enough changes to make at least a few converts, I’m guessing. And while the changes are just generally cool, they provide some really solid web working benefits as well. As an Apple Developer Program member, I recently got my hands on the OS 3.0 beta (it won’t be released to the public until the summer); I can already tell it’ll significantly affect how I go about doing my work.

First, I want to look briefly at the possibilities the new APIs available to developers allow. I won’t go into too much detail, because at this point it’s mainly speculation, but the possibilities are exciting. I’m especially looking forward to what push notification will allow for GTD and task management apps, and the possibilities surrounding hardware-specific app communication, which might finally allow full-size keyboard interaction and give me a more portable mobile work solution than even my Asus Eee PC currently provides.

Setting aside fantasies that may never come to pass, let’s take a look at what the concrete feature additions built-in to the OS itself bring to the table.

Cut, Copy and Paste

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I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I was genuinely excited when Apple announced this. It’s not something that Apple deserves applause for, since they should have included it from the release of the original iPhone. Even so, the benefits it brings for web working on the go are worth cheering for.

Being able to copy and paste from Tweetie, email and Safari, all the while preserving HTML markup, is a huge help when I’m writing email or quickly editing blog posts on my iPhone while traveling or away from a computer. Plus, you can copy and paste multiple images for inclusion in an email, which is great for when I take screenshots with my iPhone and need to send them to myself to include in a post.

Spotlight (System-wide Search)

Building on the Contacts search feature introduced in a previous update, Apple has now extended search functions to all of the iPhone’s default apps.photo-2

Just by swiping left from the home screen, you can access Spotlight, which searches notes, emails, contacts and your apps (just the names of the apps, not the data they hold) to return results. Now, when people ask me to refer back to an email they sent or that I sent them, I can just quickly look it up and launch directly from the results instead of scrolling through and trying to manually find the message in question.

Landscape Keyboard in All Default Apps

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Another big boost for my productive potential with the iPhone. I used to use my Palm Tungsten E with an IR keyboard all the time, so I’m used to doing word processing on a small screen if it’s convenient. I definitely lost my taste for typing on a portable platform when I tried fumbling with the iPhone’s portrait keyboard, the only available option for Notes and email originally.

After only a day of using Notes with the new landscape keyboard, I make far fewer mistakes, and find the overall experience far less frustrating. I won’t be composing the next great American novel on my iPhone any time soon, but I also won’t be so terse in my email correspondence when I have to prepare a proper reply and the only tool available is my phone.

MMS

It’s not so much the picture messaging I care about from a web working perspective, but the new ability to send contact and map information via text message. Contacts can be exchanged in the standard .vcf format, which eliminates the need for a lot of ridiculously priced third party apps that do the same thing, only less efficiently. And .vcf format means BlackBerry users will have no trouble accessing the information either.

The ability to send map links means that if I have a meeting, or want to give directions, the process becomes very simple. No more “take a left, then take a right” nonsense. At least, as long as it works. I’m not yet sure if BlackBerry or Android users can interpret the links sent by the iPhone.

Long story short, this latest update slides the scales a little more in favor of my iPhone, and a little away from my netbook, which is a good thing since I like to travel as light as possible. Depending on what app developers end up doing with the new power Apple’s put in their hands, it could replace the Eee altogether, and I’m genuinely hoping it does.

What do you think of the iPhone OS 3.0 update?

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  1. I think most of these are long-awaited updates. I’ve heard different rumors about they some of the features WILL NOT be available on the original iPhone. Doesn’t anyone know about this? Additionally, does anyone one of a way to “swap” the original iPhone for a 3G?

  2. MMS and stereo bluetooth won’t be available on the original iPhone (they’re 3G only features due to hardware differences), but the vast majority of other updates will. I don’t think Apple or the mobile providers are offering an upgrade path right now, which is a shame, really!

    System-wide search and cut, copy & paste are both welcome features, but I think the best is yet to come via the new APIs they’ve opened up to developers: push notification in particular will be invaluable to remote workers who need to keep in touch.

  3. Nick…I think the developer path is great for hardcore developers, but do you have any resources you could point to that can help non-developers like me, get into some basics to develop iPhone apps? Appreciate it. Thanks.

  4. I’m really looking forward to the update, but I have to say, I could care less about MMS … and you should too.

    Why use MMS to send a text message when you’ve got email on your phone? If you’re attaching maps and vCards and images, then chances are you’re sending to somebody with a smartphone who also has email.

    You said it yourself: “I’m not yet sure if BlackBerry or Android users can interpret the links sent by the iPhone.”

    They can, if you send the message by email.

  5. Looks like they covered the two biggest problems I had, now with the landscape keyboard and better picture messaging.

  6. I’m actually really quite excited about the OS update. The landscape keyboard is definitely a feature that I’ve waited for a while. With each update, I get new features and more entertainment from my iPhone.

  7. Simon Mackie Friday, March 20, 2009

    @HeyStephanie landscape keyboard is definitely the best feature for me, too. Copy and paste will be cool too.

    @Mike I don’t often need to send contact details but the lack of MMS used to be *really* annoying. With no copy/paste sending a phone number to someone else used to be a chore. Now (I’m assuming) it’s just a tap or two away.

  8. @Kevin Cooper — Check out Craig Hockenberry’s excellent article titled “Bootstrap”, which he wrote for people starting out.

    @Mike — I agree that MMS is an interim measure, but know a lot of people who can’t or don’t check email on their phones. As such, MMS is a pretty good option until they catch up.

  9. iPhone OS 3.0 Update Available Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    [...] If you’re wondering about the benefits of updating, check out Darrell’s WWD post “Apple iPhone OS 3.0: A Web Working Perspective.” As Darrell’s an Apple Developer Program member, he had a chance to play the with the [...]

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