iPhone OS 3.0 Apple Event

/ 17 March 2009

Today at 10:00 AM PT Apple held a press event to preview the next major release of the iPhone OS, v3.0. In the extended body of this blog post I give literally all the details that were let loose this morning at the event, giving them in as close to the exact order as I can. Enjoy, Alex.

A year ago the iPhone was just in a handful of countries, now it’s in 80 countries worldwide. Apple had set a public goal to sell 10 million iPhones by 2008 and actually sold 13.7 million (17 million iPhones have been sold total so far). 30 million iPhone OS devices have been sold (that includes the iPod Touch). They’ve had over 800,000 downloads of the OS since last year when the first developer beta was sent out. Over 50,000 individuals and companies have singed up with the iPhone OS Developer’s Program since its announcement, over 60% of these developers have never developed for a mobile platform before. Currently there are over 25,000 applications in the App Store. Given that curiosity has surfaced about the App Store’s submission process there was a clarification that 98% of apps have been approved in seven days or less. Apple formally thanked developers for giving customers a reason to want on iPhone and iPod Touch.

Now on to the iPhone OS v3.0. First they noted that there are now 1,000 new APIs available. They’re aware that some developers would like more business models than just free or paid, things like subscriptions, additional level charges, and new content for apps. Now the App Store is supporting all these additional business models. There is now an API to let, for example, a game be designed to have the user purchase higher levels from right within the game. They also used the example of a city guide, a developer could release a generic app and then sell city packs from within the generic app. All of the newer models are still tied to the iTunes Store, the app asking for your password to proceed with the transaction. For these models, the same cut that goes to Apple is taken. Free apps will be able to remain free.

Second is Peer to Peer connectivity. The example that was used is kids in a car playing a game with one another. The system is bluetooth-based, so that cuts out the need for WiFi. No pairing is needed, either! Bonjour-powered, and not just for games, though games are an obvious implementation.

Third is accessory support. The device is able to talk directly with an attached accessory through the dock connector. An iPhone can directly control a speaker’s EQ. Another perfect implementation would be FM transmitters. Though obviously the implications of this feature are vast. Some of this is also enabled over bluetooth for iPhones. They support all the standard protocols in the OS as well as the ability for developers to add their own.

Fourth: Maps. They’ve taken the core of the application and turned it into an API so developers can embed the maps into their own apps. You can do all the standard gestures within the embedded map, change view, ad custom notes, and use the triangulation. You can even do reverse geocoding. Developers are now enabled to use the Core Location API as the basis for turn-by-turn apps! Due to licensing developers can’t use the Maps app titles.

Fifth: Push Notifications (finally this shows up!). Within two months of launching the App Store Apple had over 1,000 apps and over 100,000,000 downloads. They had to completely re-architect the server for Push Notifications (that’s their excuse for this feature taking so long). Background applications drain the battery dramatically, so Push Notifications are Apple’s alternative to provide the user with essentially the same experience. Apple has already been working with developers to test this. The Push Notifications workflow is as follows: Developer’s server->iTunes Server->User’s device. You can push sounds and text alerts. The data goes over HTTP, so it will get through firewalls.

Sixth: Some other useful APIs of note. There is now a revamped and unified email sheet so apps don’t need to quit in order to allow users to email something, as well as a revamped and unified media player. Proximity sensors, iPod media library access, and data detectors (any user of a 10.5-based Mac knows what data detectors are).

Seventh: Copy and Paste! Double-tap on a word and you get a cut, copy, paste popup. Two draggable icons appear to allow you to customize the selection. Double-tap in an empty space to bring up a bubble and paste. Double-taps again to select again, selects entire block of text and pastes again. This works across all apps. Also, shake to undo. That brings up a confirmation dialog. They say that the feature took so long to debut because of how hard it is to navigate security issues and nail a simple UI.

Eighth: Landscape mode. This potentially useful viewing mode is now implemented across all of Apple’s apps.

Ninth: Messages app. There is no more SMS app, just a Messages app. You can now forward and delete individual messages. But the biggest thing is MMS support. You can now send and receive files like contact cards, audio, and locations.

Tenth(!): Voice Memos app. You can now record voice memos for yourself. It utilizes either the built in microphone or you can attach an external one. You can edit, trim, and share memos over email and Messages app.

Eleventh: Added features to Calendar app. They touted the support for Exchange which already exists. But now there’s two more calendar sync methods. The first is CalDAV. The second is calendar subscriptions. Use the .ics format to subscribe to different calendars, there was no mention of syncing those though.

Twelfth: Stocks app additions. It gains new stories, and more details about stocks.

Thirteenth: Search. They’re adding search to all key applications, starting with Mail. Calendar gets search, so does iPod. Notes app gets search. Oh, and that’s not all! Us Mac users know about and probably use this little menu bar item called Spotlight every so often, am I right? Well, if you move the leftmost (first) screen of home screen icons to the right you find yourself at Spotlight on the iPhone OS! This search field searches across all supported applications.

Fourteenth: Notes synchronization! Finally the Notes app on the iPhone OS will sync with Mac (Mail.app) and PC (?.exe) when you sync in iTunes.

Fifteenth; Shake to shuffle in iPod app.

Sixteenth: WiFi auto-login for hotspots.

Seventeenth: Stereo Bluetooth is now supported.

Eighteenth: Anti-phishing support is added to Mobile Safari. Oh, and Mobile Safari will also memorize login credentials for you!

Nineteenth: Parental Controls have been extended to movies, TV shows, and App Store apps.

Twentieth; Support for more languages, and improved keyboard support for those languages as well.

Twenty-first: The YouTube app can now log into a YouTube account to save favorite videos, subscribe to channels, etc.

Twenty-second: Tethering! They didn’t say much, only that they’re working with carriers worldwide to support it.

Now for a few closing notes on this upcoming iPhone OS upgrade: 100 new features and 1,000 new developer APIs. The developer beat is available today on the ADC website, it is available to all developers in the beta program. They’re encouraging developers to start testing as soon as they can. The OS will become available to the public this summer. It is free for all iPhone users, though some features aren’t supported on the iPhone 2G. The upgrade will cost $9.95 for all iPod Touch users. The OS is supported on all iPod Touch models. Apple reiterated that they have no announcements yet about Flash. Apple made it very clear that there is no hardware to announce (however, we may see that happening in a week). The consistent uptime for the Push Notification service isn’t anything that can currently be promised by Apple. They made sure to note that general performance and security issues are certainly being dealt with in the upgrade, as Apple takes those aspects very seriously.