Tuesday marked the official day of reveal for the upcoming iPhone 3.0 firmware and SDK update. Those of you without iPhones probably aren’t quite as interested as those of us who do have them, but there are enough changes to make at least a few converts, I’m guessing. And while the changes are just generally cool, they provide some really solid web working benefits as well. As an Apple Developer Program member, I recently got my hands on the OS 3.0 beta (it won’t be released to the public until the summer); I can already tell it’ll significantly affect how I go about doing my work.
First, I want to look briefly at the possibilities the new APIs available to developers allow. I won’t go into too much detail, because at this point it’s mainly speculation, but the possibilities are exciting. I’m especially looking forward to what push notification will allow for GTD and task management apps, and the possibilities surrounding hardware-specific app communication, which might finally allow full-size keyboard interaction and give me a more portable mobile work solution than even my Asus Eee PC currently provides.
Setting aside fantasies that may never come to pass, let’s take a look at what the concrete feature additions built-in to the OS itself bring to the table.
Cut, Copy and Paste
I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I was genuinely excited when Apple announced this. It’s not something that Apple deserves applause for, since they should have included it from the release of the original iPhone. Even so, the benefits it brings for web working on the go are worth cheering for.
Being able to copy and paste from Tweetie, email and Safari, all the while preserving HTML markup, is a huge help when I’m writing email or quickly editing blog posts on my iPhone while traveling or away from a computer. Plus, you can copy and paste multiple images for inclusion in an email, which is great for when I take screenshots with my iPhone and need to send them to myself to include in a post.
Spotlight (System-wide Search)
Building on the Contacts search feature introduced in a previous update, Apple has now extended search functions to all of the iPhone’s default apps.
Just by swiping left from the home screen, you can access Spotlight, which searches notes, emails, contacts and your apps (just the names of the apps, not the data they hold) to return results. Now, when people ask me to refer back to an email they sent or that I sent them, I can just quickly look it up and launch directly from the results instead of scrolling through and trying to manually find the message in question.
Landscape Keyboard in All Default Apps
Another big boost for my productive potential with the iPhone. I used to use my Palm Tungsten E with an IR keyboard all the time, so I’m used to doing word processing on a small screen if it’s convenient. I definitely lost my taste for typing on a portable platform when I tried fumbling with the iPhone’s portrait keyboard, the only available option for Notes and email originally.
After only a day of using Notes with the new landscape keyboard, I make far fewer mistakes, and find the overall experience far less frustrating. I won’t be composing the next great American novel on my iPhone any time soon, but I also won’t be so terse in my email correspondence when I have to prepare a proper reply and the only tool available is my phone.
It’s not so much the picture messaging I care about from a web working perspective, but the new ability to send contact and map information via text message. Contacts can be exchanged in the standard .vcf format, which eliminates the need for a lot of ridiculously priced third party apps that do the same thing, only less efficiently. And .vcf format means BlackBerry users will have no trouble accessing the information either.
The ability to send map links means that if I have a meeting, or want to give directions, the process becomes very simple. No more “take a left, then take a right” nonsense. At least, as long as it works. I’m not yet sure if BlackBerry or Android users can interpret the links sent by the iPhone.
Long story short, this latest update slides the scales a little more in favor of my iPhone, and a little away from my netbook, which is a good thing since I like to travel as light as possible. Depending on what app developers end up doing with the new power Apple’s put in their hands, it could replace the Eee altogether, and I’m genuinely hoping it does.
What do you think of the iPhone OS 3.0 update?