Third “iPhone OS” 3 beta seeded to developers

Apple on Wednesday seeded a third beta of iPhone OS 3.0 to developers with numerous unannounced/under-the-hood changes (which we will be detailing in coming days) as well as a handful of specific improvements developers have been asked to test.

Among the officially disclosed changes are:

*Overall performance improvements (removal of debug code, re-writing of several key system routines which have been identified as sluggish since firmware 2.0, some even going back to 1.x….also, a lot of attention has been paid to app launch times and fine-grained optimization of the graphics system which is most noticeable in visually intensive games or apps with very active visual interface behavior).

*MMS multimedia messaging now works properly on a range of foreign (mostly European and Middle Eastern) networks and is fully compatible with the alternative “carrier bundles” used by some service providers overseas. Sources say this is an area where most of the third-party testing is focused at this time: MMS took this long to implement for a reason, and it’s not just on Apple’s end nor is it primarily a software problem but rather an issue of hands-on debugging with the full range of international service providers in a real-world environment.

*Major enhancements and usability improvements — notably the ability to refine or restrict searches — in Spotlight. One widely mentioned tweak is the “saving” of each search to be recalled/repeated as an option in the next invocation of Spotlight.

*In-App purchases can now be restricted entirely, or limited on a case-by-case specific approval basis similar to how Location Services is limited in 2.x.

*New options (only some of which are actually available to the user in b3; apparently this is a work-in-progress) for the behavior of the hardware buttons — Power/Sleep and Home on current iDevices. Support for additional buttons is reportedly in place under the hood, raising interesting questions about the nature of this summer’s new hardware releases…..

All in all, from the user’s perspective a significant but not dramatic step forward in iDevice OS development. Reports of the perceived performance improvements appeared to vary depending on which app(s) were tested with 3.0b3, but were generally reported to be subtle with a few notable exceptions that we hope to talk about in coming days.

For the most part, as is to be expected with such a unique hybrid-embedded operating system, the changes in Beta Three are under the hood, to be experienced by developers and which may become more apparent with time but which are generally not obvious to a user who simply fires it up on their iPhone or iPod Touch.

Still, we’re excited by the significant step forward and can’t wait to play with it hands-on over the weekend. Have questions you’d like to ask us or specific tests/benchmarks/points of focus you’d like us to undertake in our examinations of iPhone OS 3.0b3? Drop us a line:, or simply fire off a comment using the form below!

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