The new iPhone 3.0 release marks a significant milestone in sophistication and leadership. The new release seems to serve two agendas. 1) Satisfy developers 2) Satisfy end-users
From the end-user perspective the iPhone adds a number of features:
- Cut, copy, paste
- Photo/text message (MMS)
- Landscape use of email, notes and other applications
- System wide search
- Voice recording
Among a long list of many other new features. These make the iPhone a much more powerful device and narrow the gap between what was traditionally seen as a laptop function and what was considered possible for a phone. Most of these features were changes to the core built-in tools and could only have been done by Apple. I suspect the timing of the summer release will be such as to poison the well for the much anticipated Palm Pre device.
The three things that users want and are still missing were:
- Flash support
Was omitted probably for as much political as technical reasons. Apple likes new developers coming to the platform and wants unique native applications, not Flash ports. I expect they will hold off on this as long as they possibly can.
- Background applications
Were omitted for performance reasons. While I may not like it I agree with the trade-off. If background applications were allowed Facebook, Twitter, ESPN and everything else would try to run in the background killing the battery. A server based push model while not as flexible is a good way to address this pain point.
- Video Recording
A core function seen in many lower end phones. It's possible the new API's will allow developers to do this but given everything else Apple did add I was surprised this was not done.
Much of the recent success of the platform has been in large part to developer written applications and the App Store. Apple announced that over 800,000 downloads of the SDK. Wow! Apple has taken the original iPhone that wasn't a platform at all and over the last year has turned it into a mobile computer.
We've been designing and developing applications for the iPhone since it was released and while the iPhone is a very powerful platform there were a number of rough spots that Apple has been fixed with this new release.
- More complete set of API's.
The original release of the iPhone SDK was limited in that a lot of the API's were not documented or makred as off limits. With this new release Apple promises 1000 new API's hopefully opening up more flexibility in what applications are allowed to do and the types of tools that can be built.
- Easier wireless networking.
This new functionality allows users to play/chat/interact and otherwise communicate with other local users. This opens up a number of possibilities for social games, information exchange, syncronization and interactions.
- Built-in maps.
Google has allowed their map component to be used in other applications. It's still not entirely clear how this will work but this adds a nice component that was previously unavailable.
- Push Notifications.
Many applications need the ability to alert you to new things, events, alarms, messages, etc. Push notifications provides a solution for this but unfortunately it won't work for some types of notifications. You can't build a "Where is my child application." or "tell me when I'm near so and so." you can however build many other applications that were previously not possible.
- Interaction with hardware.
This is a big one. Expect to see custom iPhone apps for many of the speaker systems and audio docks Bose, Griffin, Altec, etc. Expect to see custom iPhone apps for BMW, Volkswagon and Audi to allow you to control various car features from your phone or Ipod Touch. This will lock in the iPhone to a lot of new hardware devices (good for Apple, bad for other competing devices.)
- Interaction with the music library
This will allow applications to play music from your own music library. So you can pick a playlist in a game and listen to your own music without having to exit out and go start your iPod.
- UpSell and Subscriptions
This is a big one for developers. The business of application building has some problems in it's current form. Any established software company knows you need the ability to upsell. The ability to upsell and sell subscriptions allows developers to build deeper and richer applications, create new content and new features that can be sold. This enabled a whole new breed of applications that could previously not have been done. Apple still seems to be missing the ability for developers to charge for software upgrades (upgrade from version 1 to version 2 for just $0.99) but hopefully this is will be possible.
What we're personally most excited about:
- Wireless networking - We have a game that we would like to enable with Wireless Networking. We're also thinking about a business card exchange program that could do the same.
- Hardware Support - We have a fitness application that could take advantage of hardware support
- We have a music application in development that we would like to be able to play your own library