iPhone 3.0's dichotomy: playing catch-up while pushing the envelope

At a special press event in Cupertino today, Apple previewed the next version — 3.0 — of the iPhone’s OS. And in doing so, the company showed once again how on one level it’s playing catch-up by delivering features that all other existing smartphones (and some feature phones) already have, while at the same time pushing the envelope further than its competitors.

In the catch-up camp is copy and paste, support for MMS and stereo Bluetooth (A2DP), media library access for third-party apps, and the previously announced ‘push notification’ system, Apple’s alternative solution to true multitasking and background apps.

At the same time, there was some genuine innovation on show, not least the opening up of the iPhone’s hardware port and Bluetooth access to enable third-party developers to build support for new accessories and software, such as a blood pressure monitor, glucose testing (finger pricking device) and other sorts of input devices. This will lead to all manner of new consumer and enterprise iPhone accessories, and will take the device into areas that aren’t traditionally thought of as smartphone territory.

Another example saw Apple take its ‘App Store’ business model to the next level by adding support for in-app purchases and subscriptions. For example, you’ll no longer need to download a new e-book reader app or game in order to purchase new books or game levels. Instead, these can be purchased within an existing app or paid for as part of a subscription. All payments are linked to a user’s iTunes account, with the same 70/30 revenue split in favor of the app’s developer. This ‘innovation’ in itself should go a long way to appease developers who feel the existing pricing model is too restrictive and, at times, encourages a 99 cents race to the bottom, and will likely attract more big guns and ambitious offerings to the platform.

See also: iPhone’s ‘In App’ purchases will be a boon to micro-payments

Two other features, Spotlight and Bonjour (zero-config networking), saw existing technology found in the desktop version of OSX making its way onto the iPhone. The former is very similar to one of the yet-to-be-released Palm Pre’s flagship features (Universal Search), while Bonjour, which enables the iPhone to auto discover other iPhones over Bluetooth, paves the way to Nintendo DS-like social gaming and other types of peer-to-peer networking.

Image credit: Engadget

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last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

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