Apple took the wraps off version 2.0 of its iPhone firmware at WWDC today. But it didn't send thousands of iPhone owners scurrying away to click on 'Check for Update' in iTunes.
The 2.0 firmware, and by association the new iPhone 3G, are due to be rolled out worldwide on July 11.
The new iPhone 3G is undoubtedly the headline act – it updates Apple's pioneering smartphone with tri-band HSDPA connectivity, GPS and improved battery life. If the iPhone was hard to beat before, it's even tougher now. But the new 2.0 firmware that's being rolled out with it is equally important.
Enterprise, SDK and 'new features'
Available on both the 3G and original 2G iPhones, version 2.0 adds a several new features to the iPhone platform. There are those that we've already seen: push email and calendaring (via MS Exchange), Cisco VPN support and downloadable third-party applications via the forthcoming App Store.
And there are those features we didn't see coming: a push notification service, a scientific version of Calc and a nifty Contact Search. These hardly make compelling front page news. Apple has improved the iPhone in very subtle ways.
When it hits on July 11, version 2.0 of the iPhone firmware won't offer a major overhaul of the iconic touchscreen interface. Why should it? If it 'aint broke... As Steve Jobs explained in his keynote, there are three elements to the iPhone 2.0 software – enterprise, the SDK and 'new features'.
Since Apple first revealed the iPhone 2.0 software back in early March, we've known about its enterprise plans. Apple's support for MS Exchange will enable the sort of push calendaring, push email, push contacts and remote wipe capabilities that businesses have been crying out for. Ditto the built-in Cisco VPN client.
What we're really interested in is the personal apps and games. With 250,000 software developer kits downloaded since March, Jobs revealed that Apple had admitted 4,000 applicants to its iPhone developer programme (from 25,000 applications).
With access to the iPhone's core APIs (shared with Mac OS X), plus its accelerometer, camera and localisation features, we now have a better idea of what the iPhone is capable of.
Super Monkey Ball for $9.99
Just as it did back in March, Sega showed off an updated cut of its GameCube favourite Super Monkey Ball. This game will be available on the App Store for $9.99 when it launches in July. That's about £5 or £6 in UK money, although expect the real-world exchange rate to be avoided in favour of $1=£1. At least it's a lot less than the rumoured $25 per game that was swirling around tech websites pre-keynote.
In comparison, the rest of the early App Store line-up at WWDC seems a little simplistic – an uninspiring selection of games, medical applications and prettied-up news feeds. But there are some bright sparks.
The mobile version of TypePad, for example, has been designed to tie in with the iPhone's camera, enabling you to take shots and upload them to a website. Loopt offers a mix of social networking with location-aware intelligence, while the Associated Press plans an app that will map your whereabouts to deliver relevant news.
Apple itself has developed a push notification service, designed to keep a persistent IP connection open that can notify you of new emails or instant messages. And it does this without the relevant applications running in the background. It's a big deal, but pencil September in your diary for this one.
Like the iPhone 3G, the App Store should launch on July 11th. 2G and 3G iPhone owners will be able to download apps less than 10MB over 2G/3G, Wi-Fi or via iTunes. Anything greater than 10MB will be limited to Wi-Fi connections and downloads via iTunes.
The 2.0 upgrade will be free for iPhone users, but it will cost iPod touch owners $9.95.
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