updated 09:35 pm EDT, Tue March 17, 2009
iPhone 3 OS details
Apple's preview of the upcoming operating system for the iPhone and iPod touch, version 3.0, was aimed at both developers and end-users, with claims of over 100 new features and over 1000 new APIs. The company has finally integrated a number of long-awaited functions, notably copy-and-paste. Users will be able to copy text, blocks of HTML and even images, with support to migrate content between apps. Developers also will be able to integrate the function into third-party apps.
The App Store's inflexible pricing policies have drawn criticism for limiting potential profits and restricting content providers from utilizing subscription-based business models for ongoing revenue streams. Apple addressed several concerns by allowing subscriptions and enabling purchases from within the app. The system would work using existing iTunes accounts and the credential panel for verification.
The shift might prove attractive to companies such as magazine publishers seeking profit from updated content. Gamers could potentially buy additional levels or features without ever leaving the interface. Instead of offering a different app for each book, e-book developers could provide a bookstore form within the app or even allow readers to purchase physical copies. The in-app purchases will not be permitted with free apps, however.
Peer-to-peer connectivity is also coming to the operating system. The API will allow the devices to communicate with each other via Bluetooth, with automatic discovery and no pairing. The function likely will be used for multiplayer games or sharing information such as contacts.
The presentation included good news for third-party accessory makers as well. With the upcoming OS, applications will be able to communicate directly with the accessories. Apple suggested the functionality provides opportunity for medical applications, such as blood pressure tracking, along with speaker equalization or automatic frequency optimization when using FM transmitters.
Core Location will be opened for developers to create navigation apps with turn-by-turn directions. Due to licensing issues, Apple will not allow the turn-by-turn capabilities when using built-in map tiles, although developers can integrate their own maps. Google Maps can still be embedded into an application, however, with support for CocoaTouch controls, satellite views, Wi-Fi location and geocoding.
Push notification is finally confirmed after a long wait, with three different types including badges, audio alerts and text alerts. The company blamed the delays on the initial volume of applications, requiring the technology to be reworked. The system is now scalable to accommodate high demand.
Other new APIs include in-app e-mail, proximity sensor data, shake, data detectors and in-game voice. Apps can also access the built-in iPod library or stream audio and video. Landscape view has been extended to all of the key applications, and MMS support is finally on its way.
Background processes will not be supported with the upcoming operating system. Several issues could not be resolved, including an 80 percent reduction in standby time and unacceptable usage of CPU cycles. Push notifications are claimed to permit faster performance of foreground apps, while only dropping standby time by around 23 percent.
Apple brushed aside criticisms of its App Store submission policies, claiming that 96 percent of apps are approved and 98 percent make it through the process in seven days or less. The company has been accused of leaving apps in the review process for months, without ever notifying the developers of specific issues or problems.
During the question-and-answer session following the preview, Greg Joswiak suggested the second-generation iPod touch may gain Bluetooth compatibility. Although the device is thought to already included the necessary components, the company has not yet enabled the functionality. iPhone 3.0 will also support tethering, enabling the iPhone to be used as a cellular modem. The services will be negotiated separately with each carrier.
The iPhone 3.0 operating system will be available sometime this summer. The download will be free for iPhone owners, while the iPod touch upgrade will cost $10. Apple typically blames accounting laws on the upgrade charge. Developers can download the OS beta and SDK beta starting today.