iPhone 3.0 adds cut-and-paste, search, new dev toys
Arriving in 'summer'
The new iPhone 3.0 software will introduce copy-and-paste options, spotlight search, background notifications, stereo Bluetooth, MMS messages, and third-party access to the device's map application.
Apple's third major software release for the iPhone was previewed today for a press gathering at the company's HQ in Cupertino. Expect the device's refreshed OS to arrive "this summer," offered free to iPhone users and priced at $10 for the iPod Touch.
The news was reported by several media outlets, including Cnet. Apple declined to provide The Register with an invitation to its press gathering, citing lack of space.
Apple also provided a look at the phone's new software development kit, which will let iPhone app makers add new toys like push notification, peer-to-peer networking, and hardware accessories that can communicate with apps.
Copy and Paste, hallelujah
The iPhone's lack of a basic copy-and-paste functionality has consistently been pointed out as one of the device's major flaws as a smartphone. Fortunately, Apple's belated addition of copy-and-paste for 3.0 appears to be done right.
Grabbing a chunk of text seems easy. A user double taps on a piece of text to select it, which brings up grab points to resize the selection box. Above the box are three buttons for cut, copy, and paste. Shaking the device cancels the action.
Mercifully, copy-and-paste works across all iPhone applications. For example, text from a web page can be pasted into an e-mail or Notes application. Text from third-party apps can be copied too.
Apple said images can also be copied and pasted - although it's unclear if users can grab pictures from websites or if it's restricted to their own pictures.
Spotlight for iPhone
Search has been added to all core applications including mail, calendar, and the device's song library.
A search bar will appear when users flick the home screen to the left. Entering a term scours everything on the device from e-mail text to calendar dates. Selecting a result will automatically bring the user to the specific app it was found in.
Apple said the feature will also be a handy way to locate a specific app for customers with several screens full of software.
Fun, games, and discovery with Bluetooth
A new option for stereo A2DP Bluetooth on the iPhone makes for a surprise entry to the 3.0 update. The feature will only be available on the iPhone 3G. Perhaps an Apple Bluetooth headset isn't far off?
Apple's latest SDK will also let devs include peer-to-peer networking using Bluetooth. Discovery is handled by Bonjour. The company is a bit unclear about the improvements here, but suggests third-party apps could include things like the ability for other iPhone and iPod Touches to see each other when playing the same game nearby.
Peripheral app support
The 3.0 update will give developers access to third-party hardware peripherals using the iPhone or iPod Touch's dock connector. Apple said uses range from adding a stereo system equalizer to app that takes measures from a blood pressure cuff.
The SDK update also gives developers the option to add notifications via a push server. "We're late on this," admitted Scott Forstall, chief of iPhone software development at the event.
Apple said the delay was due to required re-architecting of its servers to accommodate. Companies can use the technology to deliver notifications like sounds and text alerts when the program isn't loaded. Notifications are sent from third-party sources to Apple, which then delivers it to iPhones.
Map Access and street-by-street navigation
The mapping engine Apple developed with Google for the iPhone's built-in Map app will be opened up into a general purpose API. Developers will be able to embed its mapping features like multi-touch navigation, street and satellite views, and GPS plotting into their own applications.
Core Location will also let turn-by-turn GPS direction possible — but Apple warned that developers who want to include that feature will have to use their own maps due to licensing problems.
Micropayments, subscriptions and in-app purchases
iPhone 3.0 will support new payment options for third-party software like in-app micropayments and subscriptions. Joswiak gave examples of a e-magazine where users can renew the subscription from within its app or iPhone game makers selling additional levels a la carte.
Payments are done through iTunes accounts, similar to how music and apps themselves are presently handled. Users are prompted to give their iTunes password for verification within the app before the download starts.
Apple said the payment split will be the same for in-app purchases. Devs take 70 per cent of any revenue generated by their apps and Apple gets the rest.
Apple touched on additional features to be included in iPhone 3.0, such an ability to use the keyboard in landscape mode for all applications. This should be particularly handy in Mail for those lacking tiny, tiny fingers.
The update will also add a new voice memo app. Calendar gets support for subscriptions. And the CalDAV standard supported by Yahoo and Google for shared calendars.
Safari gets antiphishing technology and auto-fill. Parental controls are also being added to the iTunes app store.
The Developer beta is available today to everyone in the iPhone Developer Program. The rest of us need to wait until "summer" to get our hands on the new iPhone toys. ®