Since the launch of the original iPhone in 2007, users have been demanding various features like copy and paste, MMS, and stereo headphone (A2DP) support for instance. Today apple announced the addition of all those things and more. We will run through some of the major ones to give users an idea of what will be possible with new Apps in the future.
To start off, the features everyone has been waiting for all this time:
- PUSH! – Apple has finally announced their intent to support Push notifications for Apps after their prior deadline of September 2008 came and went. Apple says they had to do significant work on the back-end to get Push working correctly, and had to work with network operators around the world to ensure it functions in all the markets in which the iPhone is currently sold. It should now be possible for a chat application like AIM or Nimbuzz to notify you that you have new messages even while the Application is closed.
- Copy and paste – It seems that every phone EXCEPT the iPhone has copy and paste. Whether that is true or not is up for debate, but now the iPhone will have it too. Functionally it works as one would expect, you double tap a block of text or a word, and small dots appear to adjust the selection. If you double tap a block of text, the iPhone is claimed to be able to intelligently select the block. A bubble will pop up with options for copy, cut or paste. This feature works between Apps, so you should be able to copy text in a webpage, open another app and paste it in a text area by double tapping an empty space. Shaking the device will undo or redo the action.
- MMS – The iPhone will now gain the ability to send MMS messages with the Messages App. You will be able to send and receive text, pictures, files and contacts over the network. Video may come but no word on that yet. One caveat, Apple claims the first gen iPhone will not support MMS due to hardware differences.
- A2DP – This is the Bluetooth protocol that allows wireless headphones to work, some other phones already support it as do some portable media players. In iPhone OS 3.0 you will be able to connect your wireless headphones to the device to listen to music, how this will affect the battery remains to be seen, it has been speculated that Apple avoided implementing this in the past due to battery concerns. This too will be unavailable on the original iPhone, though they both do have Bluetooth….hmmmm.
- Landscape mode for Apple Apps – Things like Mail have been only able to operate in portrait mode so far, prompting a number of 3rd party applications to appear on the App Store to support reading mail and entering text in landscape mode. In 3.0, more of Apples own applications will support landscape mode.
- 3rd party accessories – Developers will now be able to make and sell accessories that can connect to the device through the dock connector or bluetooth, Apples example was a media application controlling an equalizer over the dock connector. All those rumors of a game control pad for the iPhone should now be possible, though it remains to be seen what Apple will truly allow, and what the SDK actually supports.
- Spotlight – Apple is integrating device-wide search for the iPhone and allowing individual Apps to implement search using native APIs, to activate the feature you flick left from the home screen.
- Subscription Apps – While most users don’t react well to being forced to pay for something repeatedly, this one might turn out some good Apps in the future. If the revenue for an App depends on users remaining happy with it, we may yet see a change in the current situation where a developer releases an App, then never updates it again.
- In-App purchasing: Apps will now be able to offer paid features and content from inside the App itself. Only paid apps will be allowed to do this, but it should present some interesting opportunities. That favorite game you just finished could have new levels added without forcing you to download another separate App, or an App could offer paid books from inside the App. Amazons Kindle app currently offers access to Kindle books, but it appears that Apple will now allow Amazon and other developers to actually sell content inside the App itself instead of forwarding users to a web browser to complete the sale.
- Turn by Turn directions – Apple will now allow Apps to provide turn by turn directions using the GPS, however the data must be provided by the developer since Apples licensing agreement with Google does not currently allow turn by turn.
Stay tuned for more coverage of the new features and a more in-depth coverage of the technology behind it all.