iPhone 3.0 Software Previewed

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Earlier today Apple gave the world a sneak peak of it’s upcoming iPhone version 3.0 software. This is clearly a substantial release, with Apple touting over 1000 new APIs and 100 end user features for this release.

There’s already a significant amount of coverage out there regarding the preview, so let’s focus on some of the smaller details, and look at them in more detail.

Still No Demos

InAppPurchase.pngIf you would have said to me earlier in the week that Apple would be allowing “in app” purchases, my initial reaction would have been “finally, we can get some demos”. Alas, this is not the case. It would seem to the casual observer that “in app” purchasing would be an enabler of demos in the app store, allowing users to download a free “demo” version only to upgrade to the full version from within the app. The net result will inevitably be a continuation of the “lite” model adapted by many developers.

Enabling Turn-By-Turn Directions

I had to watch this particular part of the presentation twice, because the wording was very deliberate.

“We’re enabling developers to use Core Location as the basis of turn-by-turn direction applications.”

That turn of phrase struck me as somewhat odd, especially considering we have already had a couple of turn-by-turn apps hit the apps store, XRoads for example. XRoads has, for the time being, been removed from the App Store.

Traditionally, the problem with turn-by-turn directions on iPhone has been a lack of compass in the hardware. This made it difficult for the phone to determine the direction of travel. It’s possible that Apple have conjured up some software solution to get around this issue, and that’s the “enabling” Apple speaks of.

The removal of XRoads from the App Store suggests a slightly different story. It was stated that any turn-by-turn app would require its own maps – it couldn’t use the ones supplied by Google – because of “licensing”, and it’s possible that the enabling Apple speaks of relates more to legal and licensing issues rather than software and hardware changes.

It’s clear from watching the presentation that this announcement was aimed squarely at Tom Tom, Garmin and the like.

More than Viable as a Gaming Platform

Looking through many of the changes announced, it’s clear that the potential is huge. Particularly in the gaming arena. There are three enhancements in particular that hold promise for gamers.

  • Device Communication – One of the newly introduced features is the ability to communicate with other devices, either through established or new protocols, and utilising either Bluetooth or the dock connector. One of the exciting possibilities here would be using iPhone as a controller for another game. Imagine having your iPhone interact with your PS3 over Bluetooth. This might finally be the controller that makes RTS (Real Time Strategy) games usable on consoles.
  • Intra-Device CommunicationPeer2Peer.png – In addition to communicating with third party devices, iPhone will also be able to communicate with other iPhones. This opens up a whole new world of multi-player gaming possibilities.
  • Voice Chat – As evidenced in the ngmoco:)demonstration, Voice Chat is now available. This obviously doesn’t just have implications for games, but all applications. It will allow for push-too-talk style services and possibly, although it remains to be seen, VOIP.

The really exciting possibilities come when you consider combing these opportunities for connected, immersive experiences.

No Video, No Flash

The two big omissions from iPhone OS 3.0 were Video Recording and Flash. I, personally, was hoping for Flash as it’s becoming increasingly jarring to come across a Flash-heavy website while using iPhone. The rest of the web experience is so good that this omission seems particularly glaring.

Video recording is something I can live without. It would be a nice addition, but I fear we will have to wait for the next hardware revision before this functionality is added. What remains to be seen is whether the SDK enhancements will enable app developers to create video recording applications. Something that has already happened in the jailbroken community.

Hints of the Future

VoiceNotes.pngThese software updates are always interesting because they point to the future. Not just the summer, which is the planned release window the the software, but beyond. The image to the right is taken from the web stream of the event and demonstrates the new Voice Recorder application. The brief demonstration of this app is interesting because it seems to break a number of iPhone’s interface conventions. For example, the buttons are a different colour to buttons in other apps.

I’m also going to go out on a limb and predict that within a week of the beta being released there will be news stories regarding a hardware revision. A developer somewhere will either find a reference to a new hardware version, or a reference to a piece of functionality not currently supported, and the rumour mill will be firing up again.

Summary

Overall, I think this is a strong showing from Apple. More than anything else, it reassures users that the company is listening to their needs. The inclusion of Copy & Paste and MMS should certainly appease some of the most vociferous critics of iPhone, and more importantly, keep every day users happy. There are also some well thought out and implemented interface tweaks, such as landscape mode, that will make performing some key tasks easier. i can’t wait.