Apple officially unveiled its iPhone OS 3.0 beta last week, promising more than 100 new features and more than a 1,000 new APIs to bolster the functionality of iPhone and iPod touch applications. But the biggest and most critical addition is the introduction of a more flexible and progressive App Store business model that promises programmers a host of new revenue opportunities. With iPhone 3.0, Apple will introduce in-app purchasing, which enables users to pay for new content or services within an application--e.g., new levels of a game or additional chapters of an e-book--and allow content to be sold separately from the application. The App Store will also begin to offer subscription billing, meaning consumers may sign up for continued access to a service (like games or navigation solutions) or receive new content on a regular basis (like magazines, videos or comic books).
Additional highlights of the iPhone OS 3.0 SDK include:
• Peer-to-Peer Connectivity, which enables mobile game developers to add multi-player capabilities. In addition, the new Game Kit framework allows any application--not only games--to communicate between devices via Bluetooth.
• Map Kit, another new framework that enables programmers to embed maps within their applications. Map Kit works with the Google Mobile Maps Service to offer panning and zooming, custom annotations, current location and geo-coding.
• iPod Library Access, which enables applications to directly access music, podcasts or audio books in a user's iPod library by means of the updated Media Player framework.
• External Accessory, a framework for applications to communicate with "Made for iPod" hardware accessories attached to iPhone or iPod touch through either the 30-pin dock connector or wirelessly using Bluetooth.
Apple confirmed rumors that iPhone OS 3.0 will add support for MMS and cut, copy and paste functions--in addition, it will extend Spotlight, a desktop OS feature that allows users to conduct searches through all information on the device. The update will also include the long-promised Apple Push Notification service, which offers developers a way to alert users of new information even when an application isn't running--coders may now send text notifications, trigger audible alerts or add a numbered badge to their application icon.
A few sought-after features remain MIA, however. iPhone 3.0 software will not support background processing, a decision Apple blames on battery life and performance concerns--with background processing, the iPhone can't enter sleep mode, meaning it can't operate at lower power. Apple also contends that background processing slows down the foreground app, but said it's working with third-party developers like Meebo, ESPN and Oracle to incorporate push notifications into their apps. Nor will iPhone 3.0 include data tethering via Bluetooth and USB--Ralph de la Vega, CEO of Apple's U.S. operator partner AT&T, said in November 2008 that an official iPhone tethering option would be announced "soon," fueling speculation that time would be now. Instead, the countdown to iPhone OS 4.0 is officially on. -Jason
P.S. For more on AT&T's Ralph de la Vega, check out this new interview at sister site FierceWireless. Also, don't miss an exclusive FierceMobileContent web feature exploring the latest mobile UI breakthroughs.