The iPhone 3G S and OS 3.0 introduce a raft of updates to the device, representing another leap ahead of the competition. We spoke to three App Store developers to find out what to expect in the coming weeks.
The new device, iPhone 3G S, stays with the form-factor of its predecessor but squeezes in more raw processing power, greater storage, and even a compass. The updated software, OS 3.0, introduces an array of new features, including in-app purchasing, push notification, and device access — meaning greater integration with third-party peripherals, such as Tom Tom’s GPS navigation dock.
With so much potential packed into the new device and OS, it’s important to find out which new features the app developers will be focusing on in the coming months, and what this will mean for iPhone users.
Tapping the iPhone’s Potential
With the iPhone 3G’s new $99 price-point, in-app commerce, and deeper access to the device’s inner-workings, Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous, believes that Apple’s user base will expand.
Decrem sees his company as a network and community builder rather than an app developer. “Apple has done a great job in managing the eco-system so it represents great value for consumers. I want the eco-system to thrive, because that means we’ll do well,” he said.
With the release of Tap Tap Revenge 3 in July, Tapulous plan to start making immediate use of OS 3.0’s new features. In particular, in-app commerce will let users purchase and download new content on the fly. “This is increasingly about putting out an app, selling subscriptions, additional levels and additional goods,” said Decrem.
Making Use of Maps
Matias Piipari is a Finnish Ph.D. student based in the UK. By day he’s a computational biologist, by night, together with his business partner, he’s one of an increasing number of part-time coders looking for success in the App Store.
They may be part-timers, but this is serious business for Piipari and his partner. The duo has already released a picture-based language app called Point Don’t Shout; plus, there are two further apps already in development — one of which will be making use of the OS 3.0’s integrated-map. “Having a map view inside Transit Magic, our journey-planning app, gives a great boost to user experience when planning transport. It’s a feature we’re going to make immediate use of.”
Just like Decrem, Piipari also sees in-app commerce as a real boon for developers: “The first app from us that will include in-app content purchasing is our picture dictionary app, Point Don’t Shout. We’re going to bring in additional languages, as well as specialized vocabulary and picture content as additional downloadable content.”
Pushing the iPhone’s Boundaries
Over on the more experimental side of app development is Smule. Specializing in apps that allow users to toy with sound and socialize in compelling new ways, the development studio was co-founded by Ge Wang, assistant professor at CCRMA, Stanford.
One of the iPhone 3G S features that Wang is interested in exploring is the device’s new video capabilities. According to Wang: “For us as developers, making interactive sonic but also social applications, I think video is an important component that we need to build in to our applications.”
Smule’s apps tend to focus on sound and play merged with global communities. Its most recent release, Leaf Trombone: World Stage, winner of TheAppleBlog’s Gold Award, even features “American Idol”-style live performance and judging.
With that in mind, Wang doesn’t see the iPhone 3G S’s integrated compass as simply a cute feature — it’s much more than that. “I think there’s some really interesting ramifications that you can use [with the compass] to actually build social, location-aware and also orientation-aware [apps],” he said.
Making Money Matters
Although these are three very different developers, the feature they all seem most enthused about is in-app commerce. It’s obvious that developers would be pleased about this — it’s a way for them to generate on-going revenue after the initial app purchase.
But for users, it means so much more than that — developers can now deliver new content direct to us, from within the app. There’s the opportunity for our app experiences to be richer, while catered more precisely to our individual needs.
As an iPhone user, I expect to see apps become more streamlined, growing with me, incorporating content and features that I really need — be it downloading new levels or characters in a game, or subscribing to a digital edition of a magazine, via their app.
Apple has, in its own way, handed over the reins to the developers. With integrated-maps, a built-in compass, greater processing power, video and in-app commerce, to name just a few new features, developers have been truly empowered to create the most compelling mobile apps yet.
The potential for innovation on the iPhone 3G S and OS 3.0, through compelling toys or useful tools, is bewildering. Beyond the developers, though, it’s the users who are really going to benefit from this update as we see a slew of new and exciting apps over the coming months.