In March 2009, Apple officially announced iPhone OS 3.0, the upcoming operating system update to the 2.2.1 software currently running on iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPod touch, and second-generation iPod touch hardware. A beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 was released soon thereafter, showing off many of the disclosed “consumer” features of the new software, as well as a number that had not yet been mentioned by the company. In late March, 2009, a second beta version was released, and additional features were uncovered, including some that turned to be available only to users of the iPhone 3G S, the “third-generation” iPhone that Apple officially announced on June 8, 2009, and will release on June 19, 2009.
This article looks at the new consumer-side features in the iPhone and the iPod touch versions of iPhone OS 3.0, additionally spotlighting their differences and interactions with iTunes 8.1. The iPhone OS 3.0 will be released on June 17, 2009 for iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod touch users.
iPhone owners will receive the update for free, though iPhone 3G owners will benefit from certain features not found in the standard iPhone version. iPod touch and iPod touch 2G users will have to pay $10 for the new software, and again, original iPod touch users will be lacking for certain features found in the iPod touch 2G version of iPhone OS 3.0. We’ll discuss the known limitations, below.
The Home Screen
While many users expected that Apple would introduce a radical new approach to organizing or grouping applications, the company did not do so in the initial beta release of iPhone OS 3.0. Instead, the Home Screen received only minor changes: the Text app was renamed to “Messages” and given a new icon, the Stocks icon was updated, with sharper peaks and no calendar months at the bottom of the icon, and a tiny magnifying glass icon was added to the left of the white and gray page number indicator dots above the dock. The iPod and Phone icons also received diagonal line tweaks to make them look more like the new Messages icon.
The most significant of these changes is the smallest: the magnifying glass. Now, when you click on the Home button twice from any other application, you’re brought to the first page of icons; clicking one more time from the Home screen, or flicking this screen to scroll to the left, brings you to Spotlight, a new application that has its own page.
Spotlight and Search
Having added a Search feature to Contacts in the prior version of the iPhone OS, Apple has now added active Search bars to Mail, iPod/Music, and other applications, as well as the ability to passively search the entire device using Spotlight.
Spotlight lives off to the left of the main Home screen, and lets you type in letters, words, or numbers to search your entire device for matching applications, text, contacts, calendar events, or media files.
Interestingly, Searches can in some cases—as with Mail—go beyond the scope of the iPhone or iPod touch’s own contents and actually expand outwards to content found an an external server. Here, Mail enables searches of an entire Google Gmail archive.
Search results for Spotlight can be customized to let you display Contacts, Applications, Music, Podcasts, Video, Audiobooks, Notes, Mail, and/or Calendar events; you can switch the order of displayed results and turn individual types of results on or off.
Widescreen Mode for Key Applications
Another major change is the long-requested addition of widescreen modes and keyboards to a number of the key iPhone OS applications, including Mail and Notes. This change enables users to take advantage of a superior, larger keyboard when typing messages to others or themselves.
Widescreen isn’t just limited to Mail and Notes, though. It also appears in Contacts, as well as enabling a new, higher-detail display of stock performance in the Stocks application.
While not every app has been given a widescreen option, this appears to be Apple’s new way—following the example set by Calculator last year—of expanding the functionality of existing applications using the accelerometer as an easy to way to access a second screen.
Cut, Copy, Paste, Select, and Select All
Another long-awaited feature—text “Cut and Paste”—has been added to the iPhone OS in the form of a unique and simple “double tap” interface. Double-tapping on text within most of the key apps now results in the appearance of a light highlighter box and bars that can be touched and dragged to the left and right of existing text. Grabbing a bar brings up a magnifying glass to show you more precisely where the bar currently ends.
When you’re done selecting the text, a black pop-up word bubble appears with three context-sensitive buttons inside. That bubble will contain Cut, Copy, and Paste options if nothing has previously been cut or copied into the iPhone’s clipboard.
When something is in the clipboard, it offers Select, Select All, and Paste features, enabling you to erase part or all of the current text on screen in the process of pasting new text from the clipboard.
Text, including HTML from web pages, can be selected in one application and pasted into another. Photos, including multiple photos, can separately be selected in one application and pasted into another.
As the only new icon-based application added to iPhone OS 3.0, Voice Memos presently does not appear on the iPhone’s Home screen by default. It will not work on the first-generation iPod touch, but it does work on the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, and second-generation iPod touch.
With an old-fashioned microphone taking up almost all of the screen, a similarly old recording level indicator, and buttons at the bottom for recording and menu options, Voice Memos serves several purposes: first, it lets you record audio from either the integrated iPhone mic or a mic attached to the iPhone or iPod touch. Second, it lets you easily trim the recording by dragging sliders to mark the beginning and end of the portion of the sample you want to preserve, and third, it lets you send the voice memo to yourself or others through e-mail.
Also interesting is the fact that Voice Memos is capable of running in the background, unlike any previously released third-party recording application for the iPod touch or iPhone. Like the Nike+ application for iPod touch, it displays a red recording bar at the top of the screen while it’s running, which can be touched to instantly bring you back to the application. It does not work during phone calls.
Enhanced iPhone 3G Bluetooth, and Unlocked iPod touch 2G Bluetooth
After a teardown by iFixit, everyone knew that the iPod touch 2G had a Bluetooth chip inside, but it was barely being used: Apple had repurposed it as a way to communicate with the Nike+ Sensor for exercise purposes. Meanwhile, the iPhone and iPhone 3G both contained Bluetooth chips, which Apple used only for a single purpose: enabling monaural wireless earpieces and car kits to transmit voices back and forth with the Phone application.
In iPhone OS 3.0, Apple both acknowledges and unlocks the iPod touch 2G’s Bluetooth potential, while expanding the Bluetooth capabilities of the iPhone 3G. Now, both devices will be capable of streaming stereo Bluetooth audio, as well as connecting to other Bluetooth-capable iPod touch or iPhone devices for same room (~30-foot) gaming and other multi-user applications. Data sharing, including streaming of one user’s audio to another user’s iPod or iPhone, is said to be possible. Software support for as-yet-unreleased Bluetooth-based hardware accessories is also being added. Note that the original iPod touch will not support this functionality, and the original iPhone will not support stereo Bluetooth. Additional details on the sound quality and related functionality of Bluetooth audio are not yet available; limitations of the data transmission features have also not yet been disclosed.
Phone and Contacts
Though obvious changes to the Phone application are minor, there are a couple that are worth mentioning. The application now keeps a log of your recent calls to specific contacts, offering both individual call details and a pooled call information screen as varying levels of detail.
It also adds to the bottom of Contacts the ability to share your contact information with someone else via e-mail or MMS. Bluetooth contact transfer is also expected, but not obviously accessible at this point.
Apple uses the widespread VCF format for contact file transmission.
Beyond its ability to display stock charts in widescreen mode, additional details have been added to the Stocks application.
Stock headlines relating to stocks in your portfolio, as well as more detailed current statistics for the selected stock, are now displayed at the bottom of the screen.
Multi-touch can be used to measure the change in a stock’s value from two points on a dateline, using sliding bars to set start and finish dates for the comparison; a calculation of the price and percentage difference appears on screen.
Additional tweaks to the on-iPhone App Store have also been made in iPhone OS 3.0. Individual listings now contain reviews that have been tagged by version number, rather than generically pooling all reviews across multiple versions of the application as is done now.
Additionally, multiple, scrollable screenshots have been added to the middle of app download pages.
Though the core functionality of YouTube appears to be the same as it was in both prior iterations of the iPhone OS, Apple has given the application the ability to connect to your YouTube account, complete with a username and password sign-in dialog box.
Once you’re connected to your account, you have access to video subscriptions and playlists of videos, neither previously included in the application. Your history may also carry over from your computer-based YouTube browsing, as well.
Photos and Camera
While there haven’t been any dramatic changes made to the iPhone-only Camera application, Apple has changed the bottom-left button from a generic “see the Camera Roll” icon to a tiny thumbnail of the last picture you snapped. Clicking on it brings you to the Camera Roll screen in your Photos library.
The Photos app now enables you to select multiple photos at once to be Shared (e-mailed or MMS multi-media messaged), Copied (into another app), or Deleted. This is a major improvement for users who have been forced to send multiple individual e-mails to share photos. Note that the original iPhone will not support sharing of photos or other MMS features, but the iPhone 3G will.
Apple’s collection of Settings screens continues to increase and change a little with every iteration of the iPhone OS, and this version continues that trend.
New optional features are buried within these menus, including the iPod Shake to Shuffle feature, which first appeared in the fourth-generation iPod nano: when you’re listening to music, shaking the iPod changes the current song and randomizes playback.
On the iPhone 3G, there is now an option to enable MMS messaging—a multimedia messaging feature that other phones have had, but the iPhone and iPhone 3G have not. While this feature is unavailable on the original iPhone, and the costs have not yet been disclosed for using it—the instantaneous, device-agnostic equivalent of text messaging, but for photos, audio, contacts, and other data files—you can activate it for the iPhone 3G under Settings. Otherwise, the Messages application will be limited only to text messaging.
Apple’s MobileMe service is apparently gaining the ability to “Find My iPod touch” or “Find My iPhone,” presumably using a direct Push-based messaging connection to the device in combination with location-based services to figure out whereabouts a lost device is currently located. Additional restrictions, or parental controls, have been added to prevent access to the Location functionality, as well as more specific restriction on what sort of iPod media content is allowed to be displayed on the device.
New Safari settings offer access to AutoFill, which will automatically populate web browser fields with your specified Contact information upon request, and also store names and passwords for specific sites. Another feature adds a Fraud Warning, which pops up when you are going to visit sites determined to be “fraudulent.” Our sources have been unable to trigger this feature so far.
A new Load Remote Images option has been added to let Mail have faster access to the text in your mailbox, eliminating its need to acquire images when loading messages. Presumably only for developers, but possibly to acknowledge the unlocking of phones in certain regions, iPhone OS 3.0 currently enables users to enter their own preferred phone numbers into the settings menu; it is unclear whether this feature will appear in the final version of the software.
Some of the major Settings changes are buried in the International menus.
Amongst other improvements, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Malay, two Portuguese, and Thai keyboards have been added, along with region formatting and localization for new territories.
Internet (Modem) Tethering
Announced by Apple but not easily discoverable in the iPhone OS 3.0 software, Internet Tethering is a feature that enables the iPhone 3G to serve as a 3G cellular modem for a computer that’s attached either via a USB-to-Dock Connector cable, or Bluetooth—Apple’s dialog screen for the feature actually says “USB and Bluetooth” to suggest that devices might share the connection through both means at once.
Developer Steven Troughton-Smith discovered a way to tweak the iPhone 3G’s settings to enable this feature. When active, it transforms the top of the screen into a purplish blue bar, which also extends to the full-screen battery charging unlock screen when the iPhone is connected via USB. The words “Internet Tethering” appear under the clock on both screens to indicate that the feature is active. Some cellular networks may disallow use of the feature altogether, and it is highly possible that many networks will charge high fees for it. As of June 2009, AT&T has not announced a date when this feature will be accessible, but the U.K.‘s O2 has announced that it will be available for £15 per month for 3GB of data, £30 a month for 10GB of data, each fee added on to the existing iPhone data plan.
Safari and In-Line Links
In addition to adding AutoFill, the aforementioned feature that can automatically populate web page fields with personal information you store as your personal contact information, Safari—and other applications—now offer more actions for on-page links, such as e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and web pages.
When a link to one of these things appears on the page, you can hold down on the link to bring up a special contextual menu that lets you (a) send a new e-mail or create contact info for an e-mail address, (b) call, text message, or create contact info for a phone number, or (c) open or copy a web address.
iPod Audiobooks and Podcasts
Small tweaks have been made to Audiobook and Podcast playback in the iPod app (iPhone) and Music app (iPod touch).
Both audiobooks and podcasts have added “go back 30 seconds” icons that make it possible for you to easily jump back a few sentences, even in an audio file which is difficult to scroll through with the scrubber bar. In Audiobooks, there’s now an icon that can change playback speed, and in Podcasts, there’s an icon with an envelope, presumably to let you share the podcast link with a friend. The feature is apparently non-functional at this point, notes our source.
In order to improve “scrubbing”—the user’s ability to skip to a specific portion of a song by moving around on the song’s timeline—the third iPhone OS 3.0 beta has added a three-speed scrubbing bar that switches from “hi-speed” to “half speed” to “quarter speed” scrubbing if you slide your finger down.
Prior versions of the iPhone OS forced the user to make more imprecise movements through the song using a single-speed scrubbing bar that rarely seemed to be as precise as it needed to be, a problem that increased with longer songs and super-long audio tracks since the same on-screen line needed to represent even more possible skipping points in the song. With the new three-speed scrubber, users will be able to choose the pace at which they skip through each track.
As noted above, the SMS “Text” app found on the iPhone and iPhone 3G but not iPod touch has been replaced with Messages, which now handles multimedia messages: images, audio files, contact information, and text can all be sent, assuming that your carrier offers support for MMS messaging.
Images and text appear within text bubbles. Other files appear as icons that need to be clicked to be opened in other applications.
Push Notifications, Subscription Calendar Support
In the second beta release of iPhone OS 3.0, Apple turned on support for push notification services, which will allow certain applications to continue to send updates to the iPhone/iPod touch even when they’re not actively running on the device. The company began more active testing of the feature with the fifth beta release, sending developers an Associated Press application with the ability to push notifications that might be text “alerts, sounds and icon badges.” A universal Notifications Settings menu allows alerts, sounds, and icon badges to be individually turned off on an application-by-application basis.
In addition, the second beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 added support for “Subscribed Calendars,” the ability to synchronize calendar information from sources other than iTunes and MobileMe. Screenshots are posted below.
iPhone 3G S: Camera AF, Video Recording & Editing, Voice Control, and Magnetic Compass
Further examination of the second iPhone 3.0 beta release led to the discovery of a number of hidden text strings and images that turned out to be features in the iPhone 3G S, ultimately announced on June 8, 2009. Images of video recording and editing tools were discovered within the software, requiring the iPhone OS to detect VGA (640×480) video camera hardware that is not present in the iPhone 3G before allowing the user to choose between still or video camera modes. The editor enables simple snippet-style video editing of recorded videos so users can cut down their clips for faster sharing. Videos can be sent directly from the iPhone 3G S to YouTube, MobileMe, MMS or E-mail. In still image mode, the iPhone 3G S now has a “tap to focus” feature that places a square on screen to let you manually focus on a specific part of the image you’re about to capture, as well as autofocus, auto white-balance adjustments, and a higher-resolution 3-Megapixel still camera.
iPhone OS’s prior Photos application seems to have evolved into a new form, as well, with separate tabs for stored Photos and Videos. Apple’s official press images show that the Photos application remains under the name “Photos,” with “Camera” doing the same. Images of these features were first discovered by sources who leaked images to MacRumors and the Boy Genius Report, as watermarked below.
MacRumors also reported the presence of text strings referencing an unknown Voice Control feature, and a magnetic digital compass feature. Voice Control enables an iPhone 3G S to have its iPod music and phone dialing functionality controlled by voice commands, with an on-screen wave form that shows what options can be selected and detected by the iPhone at a given time. The digital compass has its own new Compass app, which lets users see the direction they’re currently pointing in, and also integrates into Google Maps to provide the correct map orientation at a given moment, while aiding turn-by-turn driving applications and games in determining the user’s movement. The small images here are from Apple’s official screenshots of these features in use.
Additionally, the Boy Genius Report also noted a new battery percentage indicator option that expresses your remaining power numerically as well as graphically.
Direct-from-iPhone/iPod iTunes Store Account Access
Slipped into the third beta version of iPhone OS 3.0 and still in early form visually as of the fourth beta version, the iPhone and iPod touch gained the ability to create, store and access iTunes Store account information, as well as to redeem Store credits and certificates. This feature was largely finished as of the final “gold master” release of the iPhone OS on June 8, 2009, adding the ability to download videos, audiobooks, and iTunes U content directly to the iPhone and iPod touch via the iTunes Store.
The initial goal of this new feature addition was to partially untether these devices from a computer-based version of iTunes, enabling some users to handle everything from initial iTunes Store account setup to management without the need to use a Mac or PC. However, the need to preserve backups of content downloaded directly to the iPhone and iPod touch makes a computer an all but mandatory part of the experience.
Apple’s redesigned iTunes application includes bottom-of-screen buttons similar to those in the prior version, but now with separate categories for Music, Videos, Podcasts, Audiobooks, and iTunes U; the specific buttons on the bottom of your screen can once again be user-selected based on which four of the different categories you want to see at once. Buried under “More” is a new button for Redeem, which lets users input gift certificates and promotional codes directly into the iPhone or iPod touch for purchases and free downloads. The App Store application also adds a Redeem option for the same purposes.
The new Videos section of the iTunes application provides tabs for Movies, TV Shows, and Music Videos, with two promotional banners at the top, and lists of different content below. Apple had to figure out a way to handle the downloading of HD and SD video content to the iPhone and iPod touch, given that neither of them can actually play HD content. The answer: you can either buy SD videos at the typically lower price, or see HD videos in the store at higher prices with a dual-downloading system. On-screen text explains Apple’s approach: “The SD version of this item will be downloaded to this device and the HD version will be available for download to your computer.”
Video rentals are also available for movies at the same prices offered through the on-computer iTunes Store; obviously, only the standard-definition rentals are playable on the iPhone and iPod touch.
Music videos are available as well. All videos can be previewed on the iPhone and iPod touch before purchase using a new Preview button. File transfers take considerably longer than with music and most audio content, as feature-length movies typically consume 1GB of storage space a piece.
Find My iPhone/Find My iPod touch: Requires a MobileMe Account and a Network-Connected Device
In addition to features that are available to all iPhone and iPod touch users, Apple has added a new feature that is only available to MobileMe subscribers: Find My iPhone, also known as Find My iPod touch. This feature enables the user to make his or her device—particularly an iPhone, iPhone 3G, or iPhone 3G S—produce an on-screen text message and a sound effect when it has been lost or misplaced, even if its speaker is turned off. Anyone who finds the device can then help to return it.
More importantly, Find My iPhone or Find My iPod touch can be used to locate the device on a Google Map, assuming that it has both battery power and a network connection. Using MobileMe in conjunction with the device’s integrated GPS or SkyHook triangulation location services, the user can trigger the device to signal its location on a map; users can also remotely erase the device’s contents in an up to two-hour process that also renders the device impossible to locate or send retrieval messages through MobileMe. For an iPod touch, the device must be connected via Wi-Fi in order to be capable of being located; for an iPhone, a cellular or Wi-Fi connection will work. Location on the MobileMe map will vary in precision depending on the device and other factors.
Other Features Not Depicted in Screenshots
A considerable number of additional features have been announced by Apple for iPhone OS 3.0 but are not depicted in the screenshots above, due to either their status as “features offered to developers to include in their apps,” or “features that will be supported in as-yet-unreleased third-party hardware.” Those features have been discussed in separate iLounge articles, and include:
In-Application Purchasing Services
Dock Connector and Additional Bluetooth Accessory Support
Push Notifications from Apps (Demo)
Peer-to-Peer Device Communication Using Bonjour (Demo)
Embedded Google Maps
In-App E-mail and Voice Chat (Demo)
Assisted Turn-by-Turn Directions, But Not For Google Maps
iPod Library Access for Apps (Demo)
Enhanced, Bandwidth-Adjusted Video Streaming (Demo)
Apple says that there are 1,000 new features available to developers in iPhone OS 3.0. Many will be revealed in the months to come.
iTunes Changes: Updated April 29, 2009
A handful of small changes are already apparent in iTunes 8.1 when connected to an iPod touch or iPhone running 3.0 software. A new Encrypted Backup feature appears, enabling users to securely backup and restore the contents of their devices—complete with password protection—rather than keeping easily disassembled archives of their contacts, e-mails, photos, and apps sitting on their computers.
Notes composed on the iPhone or iPod touch can now be synchronized with iTunes. Prior to April 28, 2009, it was unclear whether this synchronization will be expanded further with the release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, or with a subsequent version of iTunes.
Released late at night on April 28, 2009, a beta version of iTunes 8.2 for the Mac provided additional information on Notes synchronization: “syncing notes requires Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later,” and apparently, iPhone OS 3.0 will require the use of iTunes 8.2 or later. It’s unclear how Notes synchronization will work on the PC.
Additional features will most likely be added to subsequent releases of the iPhone OS 3.0 between now and Summer, as well as to iTunes. Stay tuned for additional articles discussing the new functionality as we learn more.
Special thanks to iLounge sources “Mr. F” and “Tobias Funke” for providing these screenshots, except as otherwise credited above. This article was most recently updated on June 9, 2009 to add additional information.