iPhone 3.0: It's all about the apps

iphone 3.0
Apple is doing its very best to ensure that the next generation of mobile must-haves only run on Apple kit

No, we didn't get a netbook. No, we didn't get a tablet. And no, we didn't get a sniff of the next iPhone's form factor - not that the first two were ever likely at an iPhone event.

But if you think Apple's iPhone extravaganza was a damp squib, you're looking in the wrong place. There's much, much more to version 3.0 than MMS and cutting and pasting.

It helps if you remember that the iPhone isn't really a phone. It's a portable computer that just happens to make phone calls, an operating system that's going to be available on 30 million devices.

What's important isn't what Apple is adding for end users, but what it's giving developers. With version 3.0, they've just been given a whole bunch of new toys to play with - and that means even more amazing apps.

New toys for developers

Apple is giving developers three important things. First of all, there's accessory support, either via the dock connector or over Bluetooth. Developers can write apps that control connected hardware, but there's more to it than hi-fis or FM transmitters.

Health firm LifeScan showed how an iPhone could connect to an insulin meter to ensure that diabetics take the right quantities of insulin. You could pair your phone with a pedometer, or a medical monitor, or your car's computer, or anything else with a USB port or Bluetooth radio.

Next up, there are the APIs, the hooks that enable developers to take advantage of the iPhone/iPod hardware and operating system.

If the iPhone can do it, developers can access it - GPS-aware Google Maps inside an application? Sure. Peer to peer data sharing of business cards or other content over Bluetooth? No problem. We can't even imagine the sort of apps that we're going to see in the next few months.

Last but not least, Apple has found new ways for iPhone developers to get paid. Version 3.0 will support in-app purchases, such as upgrades or additional content, and it will also support subscription purchases.

An iPhone MMORPG? Downloadable content such as better guns for shooting games, or goodies from your favourite musicians? Subscription content such as newspapers or magazines? If developers want to build them, Apple will make sure they get paid for them.

The new features in the iPhone OS are useful - bar tethering and video recording, we can't think of anything on our must-have list that Apple isn't delivering - but they're still features that you can get on stacks of other mobile phones.

What you can't get on other phones are the apps - and with version 3.0, Apple is doing its very best to ensure that the next generation of mobile must-haves only run on Apple kit


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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.