This week, Apple (s aapl) deviated from their usual biweekly update schedule and released yet another installment of the iPhone OS 3.0 beta. As of last week, the beta has been accompanied by an iTunes 8.2 pre-release build, and an updated version of that accompanies the beta firmware and the SDK. Aside from the single-week interval, the beta is also unusual in that it was released on a Wednesday night, instead of a Tuesday, when Apple has usually released new iterations in the past.
There are a few different reasons Apple might be stepping up the release schedule. First, WWDC is coming up very soon, and they might be speeding up the development schedule in order to get a stable product out the door come early June. They might also have picked up on a nasty security vulnerability before anyone else did for once, and therefore a quick patch along with any bug fixes completed to date was required.
There’s a final reason for the early release, which seems to be best supported by the information available to date. It looks like Apple has tried to block MMS access entirely for Beta users by preventing people from being able to switch carrier .IPCC files via iTunes. With all earlier builds, it was possible to do a force restore to an edited version of the file, which users had managed to hack in order to enable tethering and MMS on their devices, which were not meant to be available to users until the full version of the OS is released. The update also hides MMS features in the iPhone’s GUI for U.S. users. The MMS functions have never been visible on my iPhone, which is Canadian.
Apple looks to have pushed out an early release specifically to stop users from fooling around with hacked .IPCC files, and given the odd timing of the release, probably at the insistence of AT&T (s att) and/or others of their carrier partners. It’s possible that the early iTunes build was introduced specifically to stop this, and that the first build either didn’t succeed or was introduced early just to allay suspicion as to its ultimate purpose. This also seems to indicated that the beta pool is large enough that unauthorized MMS and tethering usage was actually having a significant effect on carriers.
Either way, we’ll have to wait and see if developers come up with another workaround. If not, there’s only a month left before WWDC ’09, so users anxious to get MMS and tethering up and running won’t have long to wait.