Live Blog: iPhone OS 3.0: 100 New Features, 1,000 New APIs
The suspense is building. In a few moments Apple will preview its iPhone 3.0 operating system and a new software development kit at an invitation-only event at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Soon we’ll find out what to expect in the next iteration of the iPhone’s OS and, more importantly, whether the reality distortion field created by Apple execs Greg Joswiak and Scott Forstall can match the one often conjured up by their boss Steve Jobs.
At 10 AM sharp Greg Joswiak takes the stage to kick things off. First a brief overview of the iPhone/iPod Touch ecosystem. Over 30 million iPhone and iPod Touch devices have been sold to date. Clearly, the platform is much larger than anyone had thought. The iPhone is now in 80 countries, says Joswiak, who also notes that the iPhone developer program now has some 50,000 members. Many of those members are entirely new to app development, attracted by the SDK’s ease of use and the simplicity of the App Store. The App store appeals to big developers and small. Currently there are 25,000 apps in the store.
Exclusive photos from the event by AllThingsD’s Adam Tow can be found at the end of this post, and in their own post as well.
96 percent of all apps submitted are approved and 98 percent of those are approved within a week of submission. That seems to run a bit contrary to the stories often told about Apple’s byzantine approval process. To date, there have been 800 million downloads from the App Store. Impressive, given the store’s just 8 months old.
iPhone 3.0 SDK
Joswiak invites Scott Forstall to the stage for a look at OS 3.0. Forestall says Apple (AAPL) has been ‘blown away” by the breadth and quality of app development its seen. So it’s making the SDK even better. It’s adding more than 1000 new APIs and more flexible developer business models to the App Store, which right now relies on one-off transactions.
iPhone 3.0 will support “in-app purchases” and subscriptions. Magazine renewals or additional game levels, for example, can be purchased via a simple transaction performed within the game or app itself. Developers still set their own prices. They still collect 70 percent of revenues and there are no credit card fees. Free apps, of course, remain free.
Another new addition to the platform: support for peer-to-peer connectivity. This will really extend the iPhone as a gaming platform. Automatic discovery through Bluetooth. No need to join a WiFi network. Nor is there any need for pairing. An excellent feature–and not just for games, says Forstall. He offers up an example of contact sharing among business colleagues.
Also include in iPhone 3.0, a new accessory API that will allow vendors to build applications that will talk directly to their accessories. An FM transmitter, for example, could be designed to find and tap into the best FM frequency in a particular area. Accessories can talk to apps via dock connector, BlueTooth, standard protocols and custom protocols as well.
Moving on to maps now. Developers have been asking for the ability to add the iPhone’s Maps application into their own apps. Apple has created an API that will allow them to do just that. The API supports pan and zoom. It also supports core location and cell tower triangulation so that developers can build their own turn-by-turn apps, something many have been calling for. There is one catch, however. Because of licensing issues, developers who hope to do this must provide their own maps. The API is BYOM (bring your own maps), says Forstall.
Onward. Also coming in iPhone 3.0, push notifications. We’re late to this, Forstall admits. Late, indeed. Forstall notes that developers and users have been calling for background processing, but says it demands far too much battery life and slows performance. Apple apparently tested background apps on rival mobile operating systems from RIM and Microsoft and found standby time fell by 80 percent when background listening was active. In contrast, Apple’s push solution reduces standby time by only 23 percent. So how does it work? Apple’s Push Notification Service will maintain a persistent connection to iPhones over which badges, audio and text alerts can be sent. It’s optimized for all mobile networks and more importantly, it’s scalable.
Forstall rattles off a few more APIs that can be 3.0: in-app e-mail, iPod library access, streaming audio and video, proximity sensor, in-game voice chat. This is indeed a big update.
Apple’s given early SDK access to a few developers who will now show off their new apps. First up: meebo and its multi-protocol chat client. Why did meebo wait so long to build an iPhone app? The developers say they needed push notifications to make the app experience and the Web experience seamless.
Next up: EA, the gaming outfit that’s had quite a few successes on the iPhone already, Spore, for example. EA’s Travis Boatman takes the stage to talk about Sims for iPhone. Impressive, particularly its use 3D. Game supports in-app commerce and media access. Boatman uses a Sim to puchase a stereo and then play a song on it demonstrating a new API that allows in-game access to the iPhone’s local iPod library for music playback.
Now comes Oracle. Hody Crouch takes the stage, noting that the company has already launched 5 very successful iPhone apps. Crouch demonstrates the lauch of Oracle Business Indicators directly from a push notification message. Yawn. Interesting. Forstall says iPhone ranks number 1 among business users according to a JD Powers Associates survey.
Next up: ESPN. Quick demonstration of push alerts. The company also intends to scale video quality according to connection type automatically using the new iPhone APIs.
Following ESPN, LifeScan with a new diabetes management app. Using the new accessory API, Lifescan’s glucose meter can transmit readings to the iPhone over Bluetooth. It also tracks historical glucose and insulin readings and graphs them as well.
ngmoco:)’s Neil Young takes the stage and takes the demo back to gaming. He’ll be introducing two games today: Touch Pets and LiveFire. First up: Touch Pets Dogs. A social network in which players adopt, nurture and play with their virtual puppies and those of others around the world.
Touch Pet demo is followed by LiveFire, a first person shooter. Game is multiplayer via global gaming server. Demoer pulls up first screen. Ha. Immediately shot dead. Game supports shake-to-jump and push notifications to friends. Seems destined for top app status.
Next up: Smule, the outfit responsible for the iPhone’s Ocarina app. Did I hear that correctly? Developer says Ocarina has more than 700,000 users. Smule’s used the new iPhone SDK to create what it says is “the first massively online social music gaming experience.” It’s called Leaf Trombone World Stage. Two demoers using the app play a pretty sweet version of Phantom of the Opera. Big applause for that.
More iPhone 3.0 Features
Forstall returns to the stage. “How can I possible follow that,” he says in a nod to the Smule guys who are so far the highlight of the event. Apparently by rattling off a list of new features in iPhone 3.0. The OS has more than 100 of them. Top among them Cut, Copy and Paste. Well, it’s about damn time, isn’t it?. Text is selected with a simple double tap. Beginning and end grab points are placed around the selected text and a little “cut, copy, paste” bubble appears. Cut, Copy, Paste works across all applications. It can copy plain text and Web content and multiple photos as well. Simple. And with a “shake to undo” feature, very slick.
And the features keep coming …
Landscape. iPhone 3.0 brings landscape and the big landscape keyboard that accompanies it to all apps — Mail, Notes, Messages, etc.
Also updated in 3.0, Messages, Apple’s text messaging app. As expected, it will soon support MMS, forwarding and deletion. Also some enhancements to Calendar: support for CalDev and subscriptions. Search has been added to all key apps — Mail, Calendar, iPod, Notes. And now an entirely new app: Voice Memos.
And another: Spotlight, a brand new home screen which allows a search across the entire device. Very nice.
And still more new features follow: Shake to Shuffle, WiFi auto login, stereo BlueTooth, Notes sync, and in Safari parental controls, auto-fill, and an anti-phishing feature. A veritable cornucopia of iPhone goodness.
The list clearly goes on, but Forstall cuts it short to talk about release dates.
Uh-oh. Bad news for Palm. The 3.0 SDK developer beta is available starting today. And iPhone 3.0 will ship this summer. It will work on all iPhones and the iPod Touch. It will be free for iPhone users and $9.95 for iPod Touch owners.
And now on to the Q&A
Q&A with Forstall, Joswiak and Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing.
First question: Why did cut and paste take so long? Forstall says its far more complex than it would appear. Apple wanted to get it right the first time.
A question about video and Flash support. Schiller jumps in quickly and says the company has nothing to say about Flash today. Forstall talks up other video platforms, features.
Question about streaming music: Joswiak sacks it saying it would be confusing with iTunes.
Can you say anything about hardware? Netbooks?
Schiller: Nothing to announce today. Nothing to announce today.
Will 3.0 address performance issues iPhone users sometimes encounter? Lags, etc. Forstall says Apple’s very concerned about this and is working to address it. BS answer. Presumably the next generation iPhone will take care of such things.
Tethering? “We’re absolutely supporting tethering in the client side in iPhone 3.0,” says Forstall, “but we’re working with carriers around the world to see when they can add tethering support on their networks. But we are building that support into iPhone 3.0.”
Another question about peer-to-peer. Can it be used to access another user’s iTunes library? Not right now. Is there a way to use the SDK to do that? Forstall says probably not right now.
And that’s it …