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iPhone 2.1 Beta 4: a step backward

iPhone 2.1 Beta 4: a step backward

Apple has released a fourth beta of iPhone OS 2.1 that, according to to sources, removes some or all of the groundwork laid for push services. Apparent GPS directional features have also been removed. Apple has provided no reasoning, though speculation posits that, given numerous issues with iPhone OS 2.0 and 2.0.1, the company may have decided to concentrate on bug fixes rather than introduce new features in the incremental update.

The forthcoming push notification service is a workaround for the lack of background process capabilities on the iPhone that will also purportedly enhance performance and battery life for the device. Actual push testing cannot yet occur, however, since no live, public push server has been established.

Why is Push so important? Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software at Apple, has said that implementations of background applications on other mobile operating systems are flawed since users think that the applications they have closed are closed but are actually still open in the background. Running these applications in the background results in a significant reduction of battery life. With battery life already dismal when 3G and GPS services are available, push is an important alternative.

Developers will be provided with APIs that provide access to these services. These services will be available in September 2008. The service uses a central Apple server that developer servers would use to push information, messages, updates, etc. to the iPhone. However, given the current omission, it's possible that Apple might miss the September deadline.

Apple's reliability with regard to push has been called in question because of widespread issues with MobileMe. If any portion of the push server infrastructure fails, the user may end up with an application that does not work as intended.

Previous versions of the iPhone OS 2.1 contained the following API changes that most thought indicated the addition of turn-by-turn directions in Google Maps or third-party applications. Previously added the following have been removed in Beta 4 from the CLLocation (CoreLocation) library include:

  • CLLocation.heading
  • CLLocation.speed
  • CLLocation.speedAvailable
  • CLLocationDirection
  • CLLocationSpeed

Greg Joswiak, Apple?s Vice President of Marketing, has refuted early assertions that GPS-based driving directions on the iPhone 3G are impossible because of the GPS receivers? size. The iPhone?s GPS is "just like the GPS in other phones, many of which do provide driving directions," but there are some ?complicated issues? preventing driving directions at present "It will evolve. I think our developers will amaze us," Joswiak said.

It remains to be seen whether or not iPhone OS 2.1 will bring relief to iPhone OS 2.0 users who have struggled with a bevy of bugs and performance issues under the current iteration.