Apple Announces iPhone OS v3.0

Apple, struggling amid a rough economy continues to look to the iPhone as its brightest sales star.  Today Apple announced the new version of its iPhone OS, version 3.0 at a special presentation to the press.

At the start of the presentation, Apple lauded the iPhone’s performance pointing out that it is now sold in 80 countries.  Stated presenter, Greg Joswiak, “Before we shipped our first phone, we set an aggressive goal — we said we’d sell 10 million phones. And we sold 13.7m. We blew it away.  We’ve sold 17m altogether, you can see how people have accepted the 3G. But the touch also runs the same OS, and if you look at the time period, we’ve sold over 30m units of iPhones and iPod touch.”

Apple also plugged the development community, saying that it has received 800,000 SDK download requests and has 50,000 companies and individuals working on developing Apps.  Apple defended its track record of approvals, which has received a lot of attention of late, saying that it approved 96 percent of submitted Apps, rejecting a mere 4 percent.

Scott Forstall, Apple’s SVP of iPhone software was on hand to demo the new v3.0 OS and new SDK.  He started by announcing 1,000 new APIs in the new SDK.  He states, “Let me tell you what we’re doing for developers. Our goal was to make devs successful, we gave them the best tools ever. It blew us away what they did. We’ve spent the last year working hard to make the SDK even better.”

In a major announcement he revealed that developers will now have the ability to create Apps with so-called “in App purchases.”  This means that subscription Apps like magazines or shareware should now be possible.  The purchase is tied to iTunes just like a standard App download and like downloads, Apple gets a 30 percent cut, including fees, and hands the rest to the developer.

More SDK announcements include the addition of Bluetooth and automatic discovery APIs.  This should allow multiplayer Apps.  Also new, developers will have new APIs to talk to hardware peripherals — like attached speakers.  The APIs will likely bring one feature the iPods have long lacked — FM radio — to the iPhone and the iPod Touch via third part hardware, says Apple.  Apple also says that medical device makers like blood pressure cuff makers are interested in using the iPhone as a readout for their devices.

Apple is including a Maps API in the new OS/SDK for use with creating turn-by-turn directions. 

One of the biggest pieces of news, though, was that Apple has revised its server setup to support push notification, a feature the presenters admitted was “overdue”.  Push notifications are a means for non-running Apps like IM clients to receive and display alerts to the user while they’re using another program — say Safari.  Apple says in testing push notifications only dropped battery life 20 percents, versus full background (running multiple Apps at once), which dropped batter life 80 percent or more.

EA was on hand to announce The Sims for the iPhone.  At the original SDK launch they had announced Spore for the iPhone.  In a decidedly different application announcement, Johnson and Johnson announced an iPhone blood sugar reade.

Oh, and after about an hour and five minutes of other stuff, Apple announced that the OS v3.0 is bring cut, copy, and paste, as rumored, to the iPhone. Copy and paste is accomplished by double clicking words to copy them and then sliding your finger to select a block of text.  Shaking undoes paste jobs.  The feature will work in SMS messages, Safari and more.

Speaking of “more” — Apple announced MMS support as well.  Support for landscape email was also announced.

The SDK is available in beta form today, while the new OS will be released to customers in June as a free iPhone update.  Disappointing for some is that iPod Touch owners will have to shill out $9.95 for the new OS.  Also iPhone first generation customers won’t have access to MMS.

In all Apple has delivered on many rumors — push notifications, copy and paste, turn by turn, FM radio support (via third party), MMS messaging, and landscape email.  It has failed to deliver on others, though — Flash, new hardware, officials plans for tethering, and background applications.  As with the iPhone itself, the new OS is still a work in progress, but one with a lot of attractive features at least.