Despite the large number of user requests that were answered in Apple’s preview of iPhone OS 3.0, there remain several unresolved issues.
Adobe Flash support: When asked what Apple was doing in regards to Adobe Flash support on the iPhone, the company’s trio of executives danced around the question, stating that they had nothing to announce today, and going on to talk about the expanded video and audio support in iPhone OS 3.0. Apple’s true intentions regarding Flash support remain unclear, although if today’s event and subsequent Q&A session are any indication, it’s not a high priority at this time.
App Store acceptance policies: While Apple touted the large number of applications available on the App Store, the strong developer response, and the expanded range of APIs developers will have access to, it said little to shed light on the semi-mysterious App Store acceptance policies. In response to the lone question asked on the topic, Apple Senior VP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller said, “96% [of submitted apps] are approved, but there are things we have to watch out for. There have been issues, issues about content that’s available to children for instance. But at the end of the day, we have a great solution that’s working, and we’re constantly making it better.”
iPhone/iPod touch hardware limitations: In announcing iPhone OS 3.0’s summer launch date, Greg Joswiak indicated that some of the new features would be limited to certain hardware, saying, “For instance, A2DP and MMS won’t be available on the iPhone 1st gen.” However, he did not elaborate on exactly which features would be available for which devices, leaving users to wonder as to what features their device will support.
Display Technology changes: Also absent from today’s announcement was any talk of display technology changes. As mentioned prior to the event , the iPhone OS’ user interface is currently optimized for devices with 480x320 resolution displays. Any change in this resolution, whether to go larger or smaller, would require a lot of work for developers, and as this was not brought up during the event, it appears unlikely that Apple plans to release a higher-resolution iPhone or iPhone OS-based device anytime soon.
Dock Connector and Wireless Keyboard and Controller Support: Even in response to a direct question regarding keyboard support in iPhone OS 3.0, Apple was unwilling to commit to certain specific Dock Connector and wireless devices that would be able to interface with the iPhone and iPod touch using iPhone OS 3.0. Examples of devices that could work included diabetes glucose testers, FM transmitters, and speakers, however, the company declined to say that a human interface device (HID) driver would be available for use by iPhone applications and games.
In addition to announcing a number of new consumer features and developer features like accessory compatibility and in-app purchases, Apple today revealed a number of other new technologies that will be available to developers in iPhone OS 3.0.
Push Notifications: First unveiled at last year’s WWDC conference and planned for release last fall, Apple will finally offer third-party developers a way to send small notifications to users about incoming messages and new content without the need to leave programs running in the background. As described last year, the developers’ servers will stay in contact with an Apple-run notification server, which will push the messages directly to the user when necessary. This feature is expected to consume roughly 20% additional battery life when turned on.
Peer to Peer: Peer to Peer is a new device connectivity feature that uses Apple’s Bonjour technology to let applications automatically discover one another and communicate over a Bluetooth connection. No pairing will be necessary, and although Apple pointed out the feature’s usefulness for close-quarters wireless gaming, Peer to Peer will also be available for traditional applications.
Google Maps and Turn-by-Turn Navigation: Third-party developers will, in iPhone OS 3.0, be able to add Google Maps directly into their applications using a new Maps API, instead of having to provide their own implementation. Additionally, developers will be able to use the OS’ Core Location features to provide turn-by-turn directions, but will need to supply their own maps when using turn-by-turn functionality due to licensing agreements.
iPod Library Access, Proximity Sensor, and More: Mentioned in a large graphic alongside other common APIs were new calls for iPod library access, letting third-party applications play music directly from the device’s library and potentially opening the door to an iPhone-based DJ application, and for the Proximity Sensor, which Google notably accessed via an unpublished API in its Google Search application. In addition, developers will gain APIs for accessing the battery, a standard audio recorder, and a pre-configured shake implementation.
In keeping with past releases of the iPhone OS software for the iPhone and iPod touch, Apple today announced that the iPhone and iPhone 3G versions of iPhone OS 3.0 will be free for current iPhone users, and that the iPod touch version will be available for $10. Slides at the event, interestingly, depicted the iPhone as receiving a new Voice Memos application previously announced in the presentation, while the iPod touch was shown without the application; it is unclear whether Apple will attempt to charge iPod touch users separately for the voice recording functionality. iPod nano and iPod classic users have a free integrated application for this purpose.
In previewing the upcoming release of iPhone OS 3.0, now scheduled for public availability in Summer 2009, Apple has unveiled the following new features users of the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod touch can expect to see added.
Cut, Copy + Paste. A much-requested feature, users will be able to cut, copy, and paste text in virtually any text-based iPhone application—from Apple or third-parties. Double-tapping on text automatically selects it, with grab points on either end and a cut/copy/paste bubble above. When sliding a grab point, a new magnifying glass appears. Long holds in Safari automatically select large blocks of text; it will also copy HTML. Users can undo the last cut, copy, or paste by shaking the device; a select, select all, and paste dialog is also available. The same process will work in third-party apps as long as they use Apple’s new API.
Share Multiple Photos. Users will be able to select multiple pictures in the Photo app to insert into multi-picture emails.
Voice Memos. Apple has created its own application that will quickly and easily record audio messages using either the device’s integrated microphone (iPhone) or an external microphone (iPhone, iPod touch 2G). Editing will also be possible inside this app; it will apparently become a part of the OS 3.0 list of included apps.
MMS. Support for Multimedia Messaging transforms the current SMS application into a new app called Messages. Users will be able to transfer contact information, Google Map location information, certain audio files, and images using MMS.
Spotlight Search. Search features have been added to a number of the “key” apps, including iPod, Contacts, Calendar, and Mail, enabling you to search within the apps or within a new Spotlight global application to find people, e-mails, appointments, and media files. Spotlight is accessible by swiping from the first iPhone OS home screen over to the left, and now appears as a miniature magnifying glass icon off to the left of the dots on the bottom of the screen.
Widescreen Keyboard. Previously found in Safari, this keyboard is now being added to a number of “key” iPhone apps, including Mail, Messaging, and Notes, enabling users to more easily type on the iPhone’s screen. Apple is not yet adding support for external keyboards to the device.
Other Apps. Stocks now includes more detailed stock performance information, including widescreen charts and stock headlines. Notes can now synchronize with your computer. Calendar gains support for additional calendar-sync standards, including CalDAV and .ICS.
Among the announcements made by Apple today at the iPhone OS 3.0 preview event was newly-touted accessory compatibility for the updated OS. Using new APIs made available in the iPhone OS 3.0 SDK, accessory makers will be able to write custom applications that communicate directly with their hardware via the 30-pin Dock Connector or wirelessly over Bluetooth. While Apple used both an on-screen speaker equalizer and an open-station finder for an FM transmitter as examples of this technology in use, it is possible for this new ability to open the door for third-party gaming accessories, however, Apple did not cite either this or support for keyboards as currently announced features of iPhone OS 3.0.
Apple has also added support for stereo Bluetooth using the A2DP protocol; this feature will work on the iPhone 3G for certain, but not on the original iPhone; it is likely to work on the iPod touch 2G as well, but not on the original iPod touch.
In less than two hours, Apple will hold an event to pre-announce details of its iPhone OS 3.0. We will be linking to Engadget’s live coverage of this event, found here. As the event takes place, users should pay especially close attention to Apple’s answers to the following five major issues regarding the upcoming software release, as well as important surrounding changes to iPhone and iPod touch hardware and accessory support.
5. Pricing: Will original iPhone owners need to pay for iPhone OS 3.0? How much will iPod touch users pay?
Though Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo don’t charge for their game consoles’ software or firmware updates, Apple has claimed that it is legally required to charge for software updates to its iPod touch, and implicitly would have to do the same for its iPhone after a two-year revenue deferral period. It charged iPod touch owners $20 for the January ‘08 Application Pack, and $10 for iPhone OS 2.0. As June 29 marks the two-year anniversary of the original iPhone’s launch, will launch day and other early-adopter customers be expected to pay for upgrades once the two years of revenue deferment are over? Will iPhone users who purchased later be entitled to a free 3.0 upgrade, as they’d expect from their two-year service contracts?
4. App Store: Are there any changes planned for the App Store, such as more consistent approval standards, price increases for developers, an Adult section, or a Premium section?
Since the App Store’s launch last year, developers have roundly criticized Apple for opaque and inconsistent approval standards, as well as permitting influxes of cheap or borderline offensive applications to flood the Store. Will Apple address any of these concerns with improved approval transparency and new sections of the Store, letting apps such as South Park be offered to their intended audience, or will it continue to remain silent or ambiguous regarding approvals?
3. Display Technology: Will Apple reveal a plan to scale the iPhone’s UI to different-sized displays, smaller and/or larger than the current 480x320 screens on iPhones and iPod touches, or create an output mode for external displays?
With competitors releasing higher resolution smartphones, and the possibility of smaller iPhone and iPod touch models, Apple may finally have to expand past the iPhone OS’s sole supported resolution—but as we discuss in detail in this article, that’s not as easy as it sounds. Apple can get a jump-start on expanding the iPhone OS’ supported resolutions by including a solution in the iPhone OS 3.0 SDK, and could also address those who have been waiting for years for an Apple-developed menu interface for use on external displays.
2. External Keyboard + Game Controls: Will Apple finally enable the iPhone to support external keyboards and game controllers, or announce upcoming models with superior integrated keyboard or game controls?
More than two years after it was originally demonstrated, Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch keyboard has proved to be better than its harshest critics expected, but still less reliable than many business users had hoped. Similarly, though thousands of games have been released for these devices, many popular game genres have proved difficult to replicate due to Apple’s lack of integrated joypads and buttons. Will Apple finally add support for superior keyboards or game controls to iPhone OS 3.0?
1. How many other long-standing iPhone user criticisms will be addressed in iPhone OS 3.0?
Before the original iPhone even hit the market, potential buyers were already compiling lists of features they wanted or needed from the device. While iPhone OS 2.0 addressed some of these concerns, adding the ability to load third-party apps, as well as Microsoft Exchange support, a wide variety of features—such as copy & paste, background notifications, MMS messaging, widespread access to the landscape keyboard, video recording, and more—remain missing. Now, with the growth of the App Store, users also need a more effective interface for managing the growing number of programs stored on their iPhones and iPod touches. How many actual user requests will be addressed in the software?
Apple has extended the iPhone Developer Program contracts of all developers signed up during the beta period, giving the company time to sort out its renewal process. Last week it was reported that developers seeking to renew their contracts, many of which were scheduled to expire this month, had no way to do so. “There is no process in place yet to renew it just now,” an Apple Developer Connection representative said. Apple has since begun contacting these early developers via email, stating that their contracts have been extended to July 11, 2009—one year from the opening of the App Store—and that they will be able to renew their contracts beginning in May.
Apple has begun sending out invitations to select media outlets inviting them to a special event on March 17. As illustrated in the invitation, the topic will be iPhone OS 3.0 and a new software development kit (SDK) for the updated operating system; the event will be held on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, CA. The invitation arrives a little over a year after Apple’s 2008 iPhone Software Roadmap event, in which the company outlined plans for the iPhone SDK, the App Store, and previewed Exchange support for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Indonesian carrier Telkomsel will launch the iPhone 3G on March 23, according to a new report. Citing Indonesian cite Ndorokakung, 3G Week reports that there will be up to four national distributors for the handset when it launches, and that there will be a pre-launch event on March 21. Pricing has yet to be determined, but is suggested to be around IDR 10 million, or roughly $840. Telkomsel is Indonesia’s largest GSM provider, and is partially owned by SingTel. [via MDN]
Malaysian carrier Maxis has begun accepting pre-orders for the iPhone 3G, which will launch in the country on March 20. Maxis will offer the handset on a tiered pricing scale, dependent on which plan the customer chooses and the duration of the contract. For users choosing a 12-month contract, the 8GB iPhone will range in price from RM 1900 (roughly $514) to RM 1080 (~$292), while the 16GB model will range from RM 2290 (~$619) to RM 1470 (~$397), based on which plan the user selects. The base i-Value 1 plan, which runs RM 100 (~$27) monthly, offers 333 minutes and 500MB of data, while the top i-Value 4 plan runs RM 375 (~$101) monthly and includes 2500 minutes and 3GB of data. With a 24-month contract, the price range on the 8GB model drops to free—with the i-Value 4 plan—to RM 1510 (~$408) with the i-Value 1 plan. 16GB pricing on a 24-month contract ranges from RM 1890 (~$511) to RM 260 (~$70). Finally, users selecting a Value Plus plan and a six-month contract will pay RM 2540 (~$687) for the 8GB iPhone 3G and RM 2960 (~$801) for the 16GB model, with plans ranging from RM 80 (~$22) to RM 500 (~$135) a month, none of which include free minutes. Maxis will be accepting pre-orders through March 17, and will be holding official launch events on March 20, 21, and 22 at the KL Convention Centre.
Following the publication of our story concerning two iPhone prototypes that were being sold on eBay, both the auction and a YouTube video of the working prototype in action have been pulled at Apple’s request. Responding to a comment request from iLounge, the seller told us that “as many people predicted would happen, Apple has contacted eBay to close the listing.” He also pointed out that a YouTube video he posted of the iPhone’s limited testing operating system had been pulled; when trying to navigate to the video, users are presented with the message “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Apple, Inc.” This marks the second time in the last month that Apple has asked eBay to pull an auction; former Apple employee Mike Evangelist had his auction for a pre-release iPod pulled in late February.
Following an interview last week with Bloomberg in which a key Palm investment partner and board member made disparaging remarks about the iPhone, Palm has filed a form with the SEC formally withdrawing the statements. Roger McNamee, Managing Director & Co-Founder of Elevation Partners, which owns 39% of Palm, and board member of Palm, Inc., said of the iPhone, “our product’s just going to run rings around them on the web. If you want to go to the web, it’s just going to be a million times—well, not a million times—several times faster.” Palm noted in its statement that the Pre is “still under development and it is premature to state the speed at which the device accesses the web or the relative speed of the Palm Pre compared to the smartphone products of competitors.”
Perhaps more noteworthy was McNamee’s claim that “not one” original iPhone purchaser will remain an iPhone user once their contract expires. “You know the beautiful thing: June 29, 2009, is the two- year anniversary of the first shipment of the iPhone,” McNamee said. “Not one of those people will still be using an iPhone a month later. Think about it—If you bought the first iPhone, you bought it because you wanted the coolest product on the market. Your two-year contract has just expired. Look around. Tell me what they’re going to buy.” In its filing, Palm said this statement was “an exaggerated prediction of consumer behavior pattern and is withdrawn.”
An early iPhone prototype has made its way onto eBay, complete with a rough beta version of iPhone OS and a second, non-functional unit. The working prototype is said to be in good cosmetic condition, and interestingly features a matte plastic screen as opposed to the glass screen found in production units. Its serial number is YM649xxxxxx, which the seller claims corresponds to a factory in China, manufactured week 49 of the year 2006, and it runs iPhone OS 03.06.01_G — the iPhone launched running OS 1.0, version 03.11.02_G. The seller claims the phone can make calls, browse the mobile versions of websites, and can receive SMS, but lacks any way to manually type an SMS on the phone. The non-working prototype has a glass screen, a slightly higher serial number, and is described as being in “fair” cosmetic condition, with various scratches. The two units are currently up to $300; it is unknown how long the auction will remain up, following Apple’s recent action to get an early prototype iPod removed from the auction house. [via iFun.de]
Update: The listing is no longer available. It is unclear whether the auction was pulled by eBay or by the seller.
Apple is surprisingly unprepared for the upcoming round of initial App Store developer renewals, according to new reports. Spurred by an Apple Insider report that developers had yet to be offered a way to renew their contracts with Apple, iPhone developer Erica Sadun contacted the Apple Developer Connection in an attempt to renew her paid iPhone developer membership, and was told there was currently no way to do so. “There is no process in place yet to renew it just now,” the ADC representative said. “As soon as a process is in place, you’ll be notified via e-mail or the website. It’s a new program. This program was not yet in place last year, and Apple needs time.” The representative also said that the ADC had been experiencing high call volume over this issue and that there were “many developers in this situation,” while assuring Sadun that Apple will not be removing already-approved applications from the store. Apple announced its iPhone developer program at a special event on March 6, 2008, and began accepting applications from developers shortly thereafter, meaning that the contracts of the first developers accepted into the paid program will be expiring soon, if they haven’t begun expiring already.
The iPhone and App Store helped push the mobile gaming industry to become a $5.4 billion market in 2008, a 20% increase over 2007, according to a new JupiterResearch report. The report states that overall game downloads were flat in the U.S. and Western Europe, while they rose in emerging markets like China and India. Java-based games reportedly saw a steep decline in sales, but were offset by iPhone game downloads. Report author Dr. Windsor Holden said, “The combination of iPhone and the Apple App Store has galvanized the mobile games industry. Apple has provided an innovative device which enables developers to create smooth, compelling, visually attractive games for the mobile users, together with a business model offering a highly competitive revenue share for developers.” The report goes on to predict that more than half of games downloaded by 2012 will be funded by advertising.
The developer behind Cydia, a package installer and manager for jailbroken iPhones and iPod touches, is opening an App Store-like service, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cydia will offer applications not allowed onto the App Store, such as the free Cycorder app, which allows the iPhone to shoot video, and PdaNET, a $29 program that allows the iPhone to function as a cellular modem. Jay Freeman, developer of Cycorder and the Cydia Store, says he decided to launch the service so developers whose work is either outlawed or denied access to the App Store have a way to make money from their efforts. A 27-year-old computer science doctoral student in Santa Barbara, Freeman says he intends to charge developers no more than the commission Apple does for his site’s billing services. Apple recently argued to the U.S. Copyright Office that jailbreaking constitutes copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, and is therefore illegal; Freeman says he has a lawyer lined up in case Apple takes legal action against him. “The overworking goal is to provide choice,” he says. “It’s understandable that [Apple] wants to control things, but it has been very limiting for developers and users.”
Following a move last year to offer its Emmy screeners online, Showtime is letting TV Academy voters view shows on the iPhone and iPod touch. Emmy voters will be able to screen full-length episodes of Showtime series including “Dexter,” “Weeds,” and “United States of Tara” simply by entering a passcode on a website. “It’s just another option for those TV Academy members who want to see product any time and any place,” said Richard Licata, Showtime’s exec VP of corporate communications. Licata said the channel saved “tens of thousands of dollars” last year by offering episodes online, and added that he isn’t concerned about voters viewing shows on the small screen of the iPhone. “I don’t think the creative is compromised in this way. It’s just another avenue for people to explore. They can watch two or three minutes of an episode on an iPhone, and they can at least decide if they like the show.”
Chang Xiaobing, chairman of China Unicom, has confirmed that the company is in talks with Apple to bring the iPhone to China. “We are in talks with many handset suppliers, including Apple,” Chang said, adding, “3G users will account for 20 percent of all mobile phone users in China in the next three years.” A previous report from February cited an anonymous Unicom manager as stating that the companies were in discussions over the iPhone. Interestingly, despite earlier reports that Unicom rival China Mobile had broken off talks with Apple due to a disagreement over control fo the App Store, Reuters reports that China Mobile chairman Wang Jianzhou said that the company would continue to talk to Apple, while declining comment on discussions between Unicom and iPhone maker. Reports of China Mobile and Apple’s iPhone negotiations date back to November 2007, and have reportedly stalled multiple times over various issues.
JP Morgan analysts Jimmy Cheong and Tim Storey suggest that both iPhone clones and large subsidies may be holding back discussions. “iPhone copies (i.e. the Hi-Phone) are available without (users) having to sign long-term contracts,” the analysts said in a note. “iPhone is likely to be highly subsidized and China Unicom may give away large revenue share so earnings upside is possibly limited, in our view. We think this is a reason why China Mobile has refused to sign with Apple to date.”
Apple’s iPhone 3G, fourth-generation iPod nano, and second-generation iPod touch were all given International Design Forum gold awards at the 2009 CeBIT conference, SetteB.IT reports. Among 802 products that were recognized, including the Apple In-Ear Headphones with Remote and Mic, only 50 products earned gold awards. The products were judged on the basis of design quality, workmanship, choice of materials, degree of innovativeness, environmental compatibility, functionality, ergonomics, visualization of use, safety, brand value / branding and universal design. Notably, the MacBook Air was also the recipient of a gold award.
According to the latest statistics released by Net Applications, the iPhone accounts for roughly two-thirds of all mobile browsing. Apple’s handset is listed as having a 66.61% share of the mobile browsing market, followed by Java ME with 9%, Windows Mobile with 6.91%, and Symbian OS with 6.15%. Interestingly, Google’s Android operating system was equal with Symbian, and has grabbed a 6.15% share of the market since its release in October. Net Applications notes that although Android and Blackberry are rapidly gaining market share, this doesn’t necessarily mean that iPhone use is shrinking, due to the rapid growth of the overall market.