The iPhone has started moving cell phones in a new direction with its ability to be a phone, GPS, Application machine, game platform, web browser, even a leveling tool, and a huge number of new things that are added daily/weekly by the community developing applications for the phone. Let’s discuss the new features of the iPhone OS 3.0 scheduled to release in 2009.
Some of the NEW iPhone Features include:
- In App Purchasing
- Apple Push Notification Services
- Accessories Communication
- Peer to Peer Connectivity
- Maps /w more Google support
- iPod Library Access
As a developer the new features have me thinking about the myriad of possibilities for applications moving forward. One feature in particular is the In App Purchasing, which basically allows you to lock sections of your application, turn off certain features, or enhance the application when an item is purchased. It has been a big problem to really see the potential for generating profit from an iPhone application that only sells for $0.99 or $1.99. The apps tend to be too simple, which is mostly because of the cost it would take to develop a better application — that would mean having to charge more or see larger sales numbers. But with the introduction of In App Purchasing larger apps can be created that leverage this purchasing as modules to an application.
For example: if I built a game that had 100 levels and I give 5 away for free, 30 of the levels come with the $1.99 purchase of the app, and $0.99 for every 20 to 30 levels after that. Making my app free to start, $1.99 for 30 levels, $2.98 for 50 levels, $3.97 for 70 levels, and $4.96 for the full app. Opportunities like this will give companies a reason to build better, more complex applications. Not everyone that downloads the app will experience all the features but they may at least make the initial purchase.
With development in mind the push notification seems to be another valuable add to iPhone development. Before, you could not alert users when new content or functionality became available, but now developers can inform users via a new counter over the thumbnail app icon, text alert that allows your users to enter your application right away, and/or special sounds that will alert your users when there is something new. This is another handy tool to help drive traffic to your application; however there is one drawback to this service; if you don’t have a web server already, there needs to be another service running on an external server to notify Apple that there is something new in your application.
iPhone connections from one to another has been a struggle in the past, having to connect and pairing with another iPhone over Wifi and mostly handle these connections with your application and Bonjour. OS 3 has made connection with other iPhones or iTouchs easier than before by giving developers the option to allow connections to another iPhone nearby. This Peer to Peer connectivity works over a standard IP-based communication channel but also allows for advertising/detecting someone using the same application, looking for someone to join a game or with whom to share information. Allowing users to connect easily will give developers even more incentive to have multi user interaction experiences — if not for the fun things you can do with it — than it will at least open your application to yet another way of verbal advertising by having users spread the word about your application through their day to day interactions.
There is also the possibility of using the new Maps feature that can be added to our application which can be customized to the area you want to show like a university map, theme park map, etc. With this custom map, or utilizing the Google Mobile Maps Services, custom points can be added to help your users find what they are looking for more easily. This is very useful for helping users find where your restaurant locations are, location where you can purchase a certain product from, or where campus building is on your university, for example.
These are just some of the new features available with the latest OS, but are the main ones that I think will help in iPhone App development. I am excited to see what kind of new applications come out and to now be able to release some of my own into the wild.