FAQ: What iPhone 3.0 means to you

Apple packs upgrade with 100 new features, 1,000 new APIs

Push, which mimics background processing, has the iPhone pinging Apple's servers to see if there are, for example, new messages waiting for your instant message client. Push consumes some of your precious battery power, but much less dramatically than true multiple application processing, claimed Forstall.

I'm greedy. Give me more of the good stuff?

You got it.

  • Apple's added landscape mode to key iPhone apps, including Mail, Notes and SMS.
  • You can now sync Notes via iTunes to a Mac or Windows PC, though Apple didn't provide any details on how that will work, and what it will exactly sync with on the desktop end.
  • MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), the standard that lets most other cell and smartphone owners send and receive photos, contacts and other information phone-to-phone, is coming to the iPhone 3G, but not the older first-gen model, in 3.0. No word, naturally, on what extra charges carriers will ding you to do that, however.
  • True turn-by-turn navigation will be possible with iPhone 3.0, Apple said Tuesday. Using CoreLocation technology -- the technology that debuted in January 2008 as part of a firmware update -- third-party developers will be able to craft software that provides turn-by-turn directions. Those developers will have to license their own maps, however, as those in Google Maps are out of bounds.
  • A new Bluetooth-based peer-to-peer connectivity will let applications "discover" other nearby iPhones and iPod Touches running the same app, then create an ad-hoc network and connect everyone. Game makers will jump on this, said Garter analyst Van Baker.

Any game changers in iPhone 3.0?

The one addition consistently cited by analysts is the new "In App Purchase" feature, which iPhone 3.0 supports via a variety of APIs and backend restructuring of the App Store.

As Apple explained it, the new feature lets developers charge users for after-market purchases, such as subscriptions to content, additional content or enhanced functionality. Developers, said Forstall, have been crying for the ability to ditch the single-purchase model of Apple's App Store. Obviously, it also gives them a way to get more money out of you and me.

"This will be hugely important to game makers," said Baker. "And if Amazon doesn't build a Kindle store into their iPhone Reader, I'll be very surprised."

Expect content providers, including newspapers and magazines -- both struggling with not only the recession but also the decline of print -- to take to the iPhone now that subscriptions are possible, said Gartner's McGuire. "That's today's big takeaway," he said Tuesday.

In App Purchase will also add significant revenues to Apple, which takes a 30% cut of all App Store revenue, said Baker. "This is going to drive the amount of revenue in the App Store, because the apps will get more expensive as they get more robust," he said.

Hold on a moment ... apps will cost more after iPhone 3.0's out?

That's Baker's view. "Most apps are in that 99 cents to $1.99 range, but with In App, I can see apps going for $10, $15, even $20," he said.

I have one of the first-generation iPhones. Do I get everything in iPhone 3.0?

Nope.

According to Apple, the older hardware doesn't support MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) and stereo Bluetooth A2DP. There may be other features in the upgrade that won't work on the original iPhone, but Apple's only mentioned those two omissions.

What didn't make it into iPhone 3.0?

Every iPhone owner has a wish list of the things the gizmo can't do, and although Apple crossed off some items on those lists, it left others untouched.

Background processing -- a feature that would allow multiple applications to run simultaneously, as they commonly do on a computer -- didn't make the cut. Long requested, background processing makes unreasonably greedy demands on the battery, said Apple Tuesday. According to its tests, running multiple apps at the same time -- to, for instance, keep an instant messaging client always active -- would decrease the phone's standby time by 80%, a huge hit.

Instead, Apple decided to finally implement the push notification system that it had in a developer build of the iPhone software last fall, but then pulled before releasing it to the public. Push, said Apple, only decreases standby time by about 20%. "I think they have a reasonable argument here," said Gartner's McGuire.

Another feature that many want is "tethering," which turns the iPhone into a portable hot spot, letting you reach the Web from a laptop via the iPhone's data connection.

Tethering rumors have regularly surfaced. Last November, for example, AT&T Mobility's CEO Ralph De La Vega said his company would have a tethering solution "soon" for iPhone users.

During a Q&A with the press Tuesday, Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, noted that tethering is built into iPhone 3.0, but said users will have to wait for the mobile carriers to implement the feature on their end.

Also a no show: Video capture, which several analysts had predicted would debut. Looks like stills are still all you get.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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