iPhone OS 3.0: Some Things You Knew, and Some You Didn’t

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A lot of this will not be news to those of you who’ve either experienced the iPhone OS 3.0 beta first-hand, or who’ve read about it here on TheAppleBlog or elsewhere, but the official announcement of what features will be coming via the final release version of 3.0 (dropping June 17) came today via the WWDC keynote address, so here’s a quick recap and breakdown, in case you’ve forgotten or have been hiding your head in the sand. We’ll also look at the 3G S-only features that are coming with the new handset, which Apple is also releasing next week (June 19).


It’s here, it’s universal, it should work in all apps since it’s built right into the iPhone’s Cocoa Touch controls. This is big news for a lot of people who’ve been waiting for this ever since the release of the original iPhone two years ago, but BlackBerry users are probably snickering at all of us right now. All I know is, thank goodness I can finally text message complicated URLs instead of telling people what keyword to Google and what number link to click on in the results.

Shake to Undo

Maybe it’s the lack of a physical keyboard, but I’m always doing the wrong thing with my iPhone and iPod touch. There used to be no easy way to retrace my steps, but now all it takes is a little wrist action to set things right again. Command + Z is the way of the world, and I predict its presence in iPhone 3.0 will be much appreciated. Now, there’s the little matter of Redo. I humbly propose Spin to Redo. Or blow into the iPhone mic. Both would be very stupid-looking.

Landscape Everywhere

Portraits are nice, but sprawling landscapes are sometimes more pleasing to the eye. With 3.0, Apple has enabled landscape mode for all of its official apps, which is great for heavy Mail and Notes users. Maybe this will act as a cue to Twitter app devs?

MMS Available (Selectively)

Your iPhone is no longer preventing you from having MMS capabilities, though your service provider might. Twenty-nine of Apple’s telco partners will have full MMS support available for iPhone users when OS 3.0 goes live in a week, but some will be left out in the cold, including AT&T users, until a later (summer, in AT&T’s case) date. Here in Canada, we may be slaves to terrible three-year contracts, but at least we’ll have MMS — for a price.


Search your whole phone, not just parts of it. That means music, contacts, email, notes, the works. As someone who’s been using the beta since its release, I can say for sure that this is a great feature. Especially if you’re an app glutton or have a large address book/iTunes library. Just swipe right or double tap from the home screen to access it.

iTunes: Movie/TV Show/Audiobook/iTunes U Direct Downloads

Buy, download, and view all iTunes video content directly on your device, using Wi-Fi or 3G. Not only that, if you like to read with your ears, audiobooks are now also available directly from the iPhone, as is iTunes U content for those students out there. One step closer to cutting the cord. Now where’s that Bluetooth syncing?

Tethering (Also Selective)

Twenty-seven carriers are backing tethering via the iPhone, including Rogers in my homeland. Guess who’s not? I’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with “Haiti and Tea.” Not exactly clear on whether that situation is temporary or not.

HTML 5, HTTP Streaming A/V, Autofill, Javascript Improvements

Safari is getting a whole whack of improvements which should make the iPhone mobile browsing experience much smoother. HTML 5.0 standards support, 3X faster Javascript rendering, intelligent HTTP audio and video streaming that picks bitrate and data quality based on your connection speed, and autofill for forms and logins are all included in the 3.0 update.

Over 30 Languages Supported

Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Korean and Thai are among the new languages supported in 3.0, extending the iPhone’s international appeal.

Parental Controls

Just as suspected, you’ll be able to control iPhone content via a settings pane and age group ratings. Good for parents who are spoiling their kids with iPhones, but don’t want to go so far as to let them ogle bikini babes.

Find My Phone

A “30 Rock” clip featuring Tina Fey as Liz Lemon having lost her iPhone was used to demo the new Find My Phone feature, which has been an option in the beta, but didn’t actually do anything until now. It allows you to track the location of your phone via MobileMe’s web interface, and even send it a message with a phone number for a kind stranger to call if they’re feeling benevolent and want to return your device.

Remote Wipe

If you’re worried that the person who finds your lost phone might not be so benevolent, you can always initiate a remote wipe, which will erase all your data permanently. Nice security feature.

In-App Media Library Access

Get at your iTunes library from within games and other apps. The demo used Gameloft’s Asphalt 5, which now allows you to access your music and playlists via your in-game car’s radio. Pretty cool, and something a lot of games will probably end up taking advantage of. Much cheaper than licensing music for use.

Device Access

Hardware peripherals can now access iPhone software via the dock connector so that third-party companies can develop apps to accompany their iPhone and iPod touch accessories. The tech demo today involved a nifty science experiment, and guitars. Lots of cool stuff possible here, though I predict a lot of buggy stuff coming to market first. Tom Tom showed off a GPS augmentation dock that could be pretty neat with its turn-by-turn software.

Push Notification

Text, audio, and icon badging are all supported as forms of push notification in iPhone OS 3.0. Apple didn’t kid around with the tech demo for this at WWDC, which featured a medical app that can update a doctor in real time of a patient’s status. It rightly awed the crowd.

In-App Purchasing

Let the flood of DLC begin. Level packs, magazine subscriptions, book purchases, cute hats for your in-game avatars, anything you can imagine will be made available by someone. Can’t wait for fart noise add-on packs.

3-Megapixel Autofocus Still/Video Camera (3GS Only)

At least in the controlled environment of the keynote presentation, the new camera looks loads better than the existing 3G’s. Lots of neat “tap to focus” options, better saturation/exposure control, and video capture. Videos can also be instantly edited on the device, as many predicted. The implementation of video functions looks very slick. There is also developer API access to the still and video camera.

Voice Control (3G S Only)

I’m not entirely sure why this is limited to the 3G S, since the iPhone 3G has a mic and software, so it should be able to handle a little voice recognition. I guess it looks cool, though, especially with universal iPod commands (“Play my playlist” and “Play songs like this” to activate Genius) and audio track information just like the iPod Shuffle.

Nike+ Support (3G S Only)

It was supposed to happen, and it did. Not very surprising, but a nice addition. Definitely ups my interest.

Battery Life Improvements (3G S Only)

Nine hours on Wi-Fi, 30 hours audio playback, 10 hours video, 12 hours 2G talk, and five hours 3G. Again, Apple estimates, so likely exaggerated, but should beat the existing iPhone pretty handily. On a more muscular device, too.

Digital Compass (3G S Only)

Just as speculated, the magnetometer made it in. It allows Google Maps to know your orientation, among other things. Developer API access is also included.

It’s a long list, it’s a good list, it’s an incomplete list. iPhone OS 3.0 brings 100+ new features, many of which won’t be immediately apparent. These are the ones that will likely matter to you on a day-to-day basis, and that’s why they’re here. If there’s anything I’ve missed, feel free to comment below.

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