Apple iPhone 3.0 Event: A Grab Bag of Much-Needed Additions

iphone_301Today was Apple’s iPhone 3.0 Software event, and iPhone users will now have to think up a bunch of other things to moan about in its wake. Among the laundry list of over 100 new feature additions are some of the most frequently talked about omissions, including Cut, Copy & Paste, MMS, landscape keyboard support for all main Apple applications, and push notification for third-party apps.

New iPhone SDK

But that’s just a taste of what was revealed at Cupertino today. Developers will probably be a very happy crowd, since the new developer’s SDK gives them access to over 1,000 new APIs.

Push Notification

That includes the above mentioned push notification API, which allows developers to provide audio, text or badge icon notifications for their apps. Just to be clear, the apps aren’t actually running in the background, which Apple says is too costly in terms of battery life. Instead, updates are pushed from the developers server using Apple’s own notification system.

Google Maps

Other highlights for developers include Google Maps integration, so that maps will open right in the apps, instead of redirecting users outside to the official app. Some apps have tried to get around this by using their own maps, or maps from Yahoo, but the result has been clumsy at best.

Peripheral Support

Also noteworthy is hardware-specific app integration, which allows apps to be designed to work with different peripherals, connected to the iPhone via either the proprietary dock connector or Bluetooth. Demos of how this might work included using the iPhone as an equalizer for a stereo dock, and as a blood glucose monitor with a blood-testing device for diabetics.

P2P

Bluetooth can also now be used for peer-to-peer support, allowing iPhones to communicate with each other for multiplayer gaming, and other applications. App developer Smule showed off using this to perform a musical duet with their new Leaf Trombone instrument application.

Turn-by-Turn Navigation

The iPhone will also be able to support turn-by-turn navigation when 3.0 is released, although developers will have to provide their own maps due to licensing issues. Still, expect to see Garmin or some of the other big names jump on this bandwagon early.

Business Models/Payment Schemes

Last but not least, apps will be able to offer paid content, upgrades, and subscriptions from within, sidestepping the App Store altogether. This means the doors are open to a whole host of new business models, which could decrease a lot of the current clutter with regards to different versions of apps depending on price, and the litany of stand-alone book and comic apps. EA demoed the Sims 3 to show how this system can be used in terms of additional downloadable content in games.

iPhone 3.0 for End-Users

Copy/Cut/Paste

Developers aside, iPhone end-users will be pleased to find that many of their prayers have been answered. A full, cross-app, platform-wide Copy/Paste solution is present in 3.0, and it works exactly like Kevin Rose described yesterday. HTML copy is supported, as is image cutting, copying, and pasting, and you can now paste multiple images into an email as attachments.

Landscape Typing

The landscape keyboard can now be used in Mail, Notes and the new Messaging app, which replaces SMS. Good news for the chubby-fingered, like myself. This is a huge plus, since it’ll decrease some app store clutter and free up some space on my home screen.

MMS and A2DP

Messaging now supports MMS (iPhone 3G only), including picture, audio, contact and location messages. A2DP stereo support is also now present for owners of the 3G model iPhone, so you can break out those neglected Bluetooth headphones and enjoy being wire-free.

Voice Memo

A new Voice Memo app takes the place of the many third-party recorder apps currently available, allowing you to record, save, and email audio files natively.

Spotlight

Also completely new is Spotlight, and iPhone version of the Mac’s integrated search. Accessible by swiping left from your home screen, it gives you one-stop searching across your phone. Search is now present in Mail, SMS and basically every default Apple application. Spotlight will also search the names of third-party apps, so you can use it as a launcher if you have lots of pages on your springboard.

Overall, iPhone 3.0 seems like a long overdue correction of a number of oversights, with some exciting development tools thrown in. Don’t get too excited yet, though, since most of us will still have to wait for summer to take advantage of the new features. Developers can get their hands on a development beta right now, though. When it does drop, the update will be free for iPhone users, but iPod touch owner (both generations) will have to pay $9.95 for the update.

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