After reading all the wish lists for the next major release if iPhone software — and checking some of my own — it appears that Apple has surprisingly exceeded most everyone’s expectations, with one notable exception that I’ll mention shortly. Indeed, as Tuesday morning’s session with the media progressed at Apple’s corporate campus, the stock price actually edged upward. That’s a rarity!
Starting with the long-awaited cut, copy and paste, the actual implementation appears to come close to that suggested in early reports, but only for the first part of the operation. Double tap to select a word, which brings up a pair of icons that allow you to extend your selection in either direction. A double tap in another location in the same app or another places the selected text in the location you choose. To Undo — and get this — just shake the iPhone or iPod touch! That goes beyond what those reports suggested!
Another long-awaited feature is multimedia messaging (MMS), which lets you send such content as photos in the same fashion as a text message. This is a feature long available even on the cheapest feature phones. There will also be support for stereo Bluetooth headphones and Mac OS X’s famous Spotlight search feature.
Alas, although there’s a neat Voice Memo feature, voice dialing wasn’t mentioned among what Apple estimates to be 100 new features debuting in iPhone 3.0. That remains a serious shortcoming, though one can always hope it’ll show up either in more detailed descriptions or as a later addition. For now, I’m just curious why the tech media isn’t making a bigger deal about this.
And, of yes, there was no word whatever of when or if Flash will make its debut on the iPhone. So far, we’ve managed to remove Flash content from all but one of our sites, and we’ll be working on the last over the next few months. However, with millions of active sites remaining in the clouds using Flash for one reason or another, it’s doubtful that things will ever really change. I still think Apple needs to find a way to work with Adobe to implement this feature instead of ignoring the way things are.
As to other new iPhone 3.0 capabilities, one that pleases me is the forthcoming ability to compose and read text messages in landscape mode outside of Safari. That, to me, is extremely important, as I occasionally receive email that doesn’t neatly format into the narrow portrait screen and reading then becomes a horizontal scrolling nightmare. Indeed, I’m often tempted to postpone a careful read of such material until I can get to one of my regular Macs and seem properly formatted.
Developers will, in turn, have over 1,000 new APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to play with, including the long delayed Push Notification feature, which lets applications work in the background, using minimal extra battery standby power (an estimated 23%), to send such things as text messages and alert notifications. Clearly AIM will be a huge beneficiary for this new capability.
Another key improvement will allow developers to connect directly to custom peripherals via the Dock port. This would mean, for example, that an iPhone or iPod touch could function in a doctor’s office to provide diagnostic information, such as your blood pressure and other readings. It would also extend the capabilities for playing games on these gadgets.
App Store developers will also be able to sell subscription-based services from within their apps. This will, for example, allow publishers to exact monthly fees from subscribers, and as usual, Apple gets 30% of the take, with the rest going to the developers.
The new firmware is set to debut this summer. All features will function on the iPhone 3G, and we presume its successors. Some features, no doubt those depending on 3G capability, such as MMS, won’t work on the original iPhone. However, with millions of two-year pacts ending this summer, perhaps owners of the first-generation model will be ready to upgrade.
Users of the iPod touch will again have to pay $9.95, the standard fee for such things. As of Tuesday, iPhone developers are now able to download the version 3.0 SDK so they can bring their apps in conformity with all the new features.
Meantime, according to Apple, some 30 million iPhone and iPod touches have been sold since these products first sent on sale in mid-2007. With 17 million iPhones included in these figures, it appears sales are moving at a pretty good clip despite the state of the economy. There are also some 25,000 apps available from the App Store now, with about 800 million downloads recorded . They didn’t break down the ratio of paid to free, however.
What’s more, despite claims about Apple taking an undue amount of time to approve apps, they claim to be approving up to 98% of the submissions within seven days. The few exceptions, however, result in those loud complaints and adverse publicity.
And, unfortunately for conspiracy theorists, no mention whatever was made about Steve Jobs, the state of his health or any changes in his plans to return to Apple in late June. A date for the next WWDC wasn’t discussed either, although it is widely expected to occur the second week of June, at which time all eyes will probably be pointed to revelations about Mac OS 10.6, also known as Snow Leopard.