Live blog: iPhone OS 3.0 preview

Apple's preview of the iPhone OS 3.0 software starts at 10 a.m. PDT from its headquarters in Cupertino, and this is the place to be for live coverage.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
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Tom Krazit
17 min read
iPhone 3.0 sample
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Inside the theater, we wait for the event to begin.

This is the spot for live coverage of Apple's iPhone 3.0 event later today from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., which kicked off at 10 a.m. PDT.

This is a play-by-play account of the presentation. For a summary of what got announced, including the long-awaited cut-and-paste and MMS, click here.

9:53 a.m. PDT: Welcome to Cupertino and Apple's Town Hall auditorium for the iPhone 3.0 software preview. Everyone's settling into their seats, undeterred by a 9:10 a.m. fire alarm that briefly evacuated the building. A mixture of press, analysts, developers, and employees are expected to attend--somewhere around 250 to 300 people. Classic Apple build music at the moment: Jack Johnson.

10:01 a.m. PDT: Dave Mathews Band's "Everyday" at ear-splitting volume takes us into the start of the event, remarkably on time at 10 a.m. compared to the last several of these events. Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPhone and iPod marketing, takes the stage to kick things off. "We're going to give you a preview of iPhone OS."

10:02 a.m. PDT: Joswiak starts with an update on the iPhone: It's in 80 countries, 13.7 million iPhones were sold in 2008, and there was a clear uptick following the launch of the iPhone 3G. Apple has now sold 17 million iPhones.

iPhone 3.0 sample
Credit: James Martin/CNET
iPhone sales are climbing.

10:03 a.m. PDT: He points out that the iPod Touch also runs iPhone OS, and that Apple has sold 30 million iPhones and iPod Touches combined through the end of 2008. I believe that's the first time they've broken out iPod Touch sales figures. The SDK, unveiled last year at a similar event, has been downloaded 800,000 times, and 50,000 developers are in the iPhone Developer Program.

10:05 a.m. PDT: 62 percent of those developers were brand new to Apple, Joswiak says. He says the App Store levels the playing field for developers, pointing out the success of both Gameloft and Steve Demeter, an independent developer. We're treated to one of those slick corporate-produced videos, a fixture at the last several Apple events but a rarity during any Steve Jobs-led events.

10:07 a.m. PDT: Demeter is basically talking about his experience over the last year, and he's done well. CNET editor Kent German and I didn't catch the name of his app, but it sounded like Drizzle. The video ends, and Joswiak notes "we've had a lot of curiosity about the App Store approval process," which is quite an understatement. 98 percent of apps are approved, he says, and 98 percent of those are approved within seven days. (Editor's note: In a Q&A after the presentation, Apple later said 96 percent of apps are approved. We probably mistyped it here.) The App Store has seen 800 million downloads to date, he says.

iPhone 3.0 sample
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Some 800 million app downloads in 8 months.

10:08 a.m. PDT: Scott Forstall, the head of iPhone software development who reports directly to Jobs, takes the stage for the business end of the presentation. "I'm here to tell you about iPhone OS 3.0, and this is a major update to the operating system."

iPhone 3.0 sample
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Now for the OS release...

10:10 a.m. PDT: He starts with the news for developers. He reviews the current iPhone SDK (software development kit), introduced a year ago and allowing developers to use the same APIs that Apple developers use. "We've spent the last year working hard to make this SDK even better." Apple has unlocked more than 1,000 APIs (APIs are communication standards that developers use to have their application interact with the iPhone).

10:12 a.m. PDT: Forstall reviews the App Store policies, such as the pricing on the App Store and the developer's cut. Some developers, however, were interested in other business models, such as subscriptions. Forstall gives the example of magazines or game developers who want to sell game levels from within a game, or content sold within an application, such as that much-discussed application of the last month: the e-book. With iPhone 3.0, Apple will support all those business models.

iPhone 3.0 sample
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Can now purchase renewals from within Apps.

10:14 a.m. PDT: They're calling this In-App Purchase. The example is a magazine where you can renew a subscription within the app. Or, say, a game has 10 levels, but you want to keep going: the game will download the new levels automatically upon prompting from within the app. Everything works with your iTunes account, it's sort of the same thing as when you download an update to an iPhone application, prompting you for your iTunes password and sending the download after verification.

10:15 a.m. PDT: Developers still get to pick their prices, and they still get 70 percent of any revenue generated inside an app. This only applies to paid applications, not free applications. Some developers had expressed interest in distributing free applications to try, and then buy, but that doesn't seem like it's going to happen.

10:16 a.m. PDT: The next thing? Support for peer-to-peer networking. This should be interesting. You can find other iPhones and iPod Touches in a given area that are playing the same game as you; Forstall gives the example of two kids in the back of a car. iPhone 3.0 will automatically discover other applications over Bluetooth, and there's no pairing. "Completely seamless," he promises. Bonjour is the back-end technology behind this, and it's not just for games.

10:18 a.m. PDT: Accessories is the next topic. Lots of companies have been working on iPhone and IPod Touch accessories, such as speakers. Accessory companies will now be able to build applications that talk directly to the accessory, such as an EQ built into an application that controls a speaker's sound from the iPhone.

10:19 a.m. PDT: Medical devices are a telling example, Forstall says. Take a blood pressure cuff that could be hooked up to an iPhone and send your blood pressure to your doctor from your iPhone. This works through the dock connector and wirelessly over Bluetooth. Standard protocols are supported, but custom protocols are also supported.

10:20 a.m. PDT: Kent German notes: "The peer-to-peer through Bluetooth profile is welcome, though it would be nice to send contacts and other data files through Bluetooth without needing an app."

10:21 a.m. PDT: The Maps application is the next topic. Apple and Google developed this application and developers want to be able to add a map into their application. Developers are going to get access to the Maps API with iPhone 3.0 and embed maps in their apps. That means you can take advantage of all the views and zooming capabilities in the Apple/Google Maps in your application. Location information is also part of this.

iPhone 3.0 sample
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Maps are public APIs and can be embedded in Apps.

10:23 a.m. PDT: "But there is one more thing we're doing with apps." Core Location, the GPS technology, will let app developers finally build turn-by-turn directions, but there's a catch: they can't use the Maps application due to licensing problems, Forstall said. Developers who want to build that will need to use their own maps.

iPhone 3.0 sample
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Core location for turn by turn directions.

10:24 a.m. PDT: Push Notification is next. "We're late on this," Forstall admits. Apple was supposed to roll out a quasi-background notification system last September, but it never appeared. The company was caught off guard by the growth in iPhone apps, and the system they had built couldn't scale. They took six months to build a truly scalable system, he said.

10:25 a.m. PDT: Kent German: "Applause for turn-by-turn apps. Previously, the SDK had prohibited this, so it makes sense that developers will need to use their own maps."

10:26 a.m. PDT: Those hoping for true background processing, however, will be disappointed. Forstall talks about how true background processing saps battery life, up to 80 percent in a test Apple ran. Performance is also an issue, he says. Other phones do offer true background processing, but Apple seems to be sticking to its original plan.

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Push notification is very scalable.

10:27 a.m. PDT: How does it work? Notifications pass through an Apple server and are then passed to a phone. You can pass badges (letting users know if things are waiting for them, like IMs), audio alerts, or text-message alerts. "The reason we're doing this is because it scales." Forstall also says this is optimized for mobile networks, which was probably a concern on the part of Apple's carrier partners when they discussed true background processing.

10:29 a.m. PDT: Forstall briefly goes through a few other new APIs, such as in-app e-mail or iPod library access. You can play music in an app directly from your library, for example. All told, more than 1,000 APIs will be available to developers with iPhone 3.0.

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
More than 1,000 APIs added for developers.

10:29 a.m. PDT: Apple showed off the new SDK to some developers a few weeks ago, and let them build new apps using the new SDK. Meebo is the first app to be demoed, and they plan to move it native to the iPhone.

10:32 a.m. PDT: Meebo's Seth Sternberg takes the stage to explain the app. He's the co-founder and CEO. Meebo lets you talk to friends across IM networks. The company was waiting for push notifications to build a native iPhone app, Sternberg says. He demos the application, showing how the application provides a background notification that a new IM is waiting.

10:35 a.m. PDT: EA is the next company to take the stage. They've developed 10 games for the iPhone thus far, and EA's Travis Boatman comes up to talk about their new app. The Sims 3 for iPhone was developed with the new SDK. "Scott" is the Sims character that they're using, and this appears to be a demo of the in-game purchase capabilities, using the "simoleans" that serve as money in the Sims. "Scott" buys a stereo, which lets you play your iPod library in the game through the virtual stereo.

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
In-app commerce on The Sims 3.

10:38 a.m. PDT: Forstall promises everybody that he doesn't dance like Seinfeld's Elaine in real life, unlike EA's "Scott." Now Oracle's Hody Crouch is crashing the party, bringing an enterprise tinge to the iPhone 3.0 software. He's demoing an Oracle app that uses the background notification systems to let him know when Oracle Business Systems has a new alert. That information can be used by traveling businesspeople to fill inventory needs, adjust to outstanding orders, and access other business data.

10:42 a.m. PDT: ESPN is next. Forstall praises the ESPN Web app, but ESPN's Oke Okaro will show us the Worldwide Leader's new native iPhone app. The new SDK is letting ESPN deliver better notifications of scores or news to play that ubiquitous "dah-dah-dah, dah-dah-dah" ESPN tone, using the custom sound capability. Okaro is showing how game highlights can be delivered to the iPhone, rather than pulled by the user. The app uses the new video-streaming capability in the SDK.

ESPN delivers over 50 million alerts a month.
ESPN delivers over 50 million alerts a month. James Martin/CNET

10:46 a.m. PDT: Kent German: "Push notification is a good add, though I'd prefer it to be a native feature rather than driven by individual apps. I'd like to see one umbrella push system for all linked e-mail accounts. The functionality seems to be a bit scattered as they're currently describing it."

10:47 a.m. PDT: ESPN's app was one of those that forced Apple to rebuild the push notification system to make sure it could handle the traffic, Forstall says. LifeScan, owned by Johnson and Johnson, will bring Anita Mathew up to discuss the company's diabetes iPhone application. The app works with glucose monitoring hardware, a blood sugar reader, to transmit a patient's data back to a database, and allow the patient to note how they feel or what they've eaten to better manage their blood sugar.

10:49 a.m. PDT: The data is sent from the blood sugar reader to the iPhone over Bluetooth. Within the app itself, patients can track blood sugar levels over the course of the day, allowing them to plan future meals by checking sugar levels in certain foods. The patient can also e-mail or text that blood sugar information to others, such as parents, helping them monitor their kids' health.

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Anita Mathew from LifeScan demonstrates how the iPhone communicate directly with a glucose monitor.

10:54 a.m. PDT: Ngmoco is the next company, a start-up that builds games for the iPhone and iPod Touch and that received money from Kleiner Perkins' iFund. Neil Young (not that one) from Ngmoco starts talking about their new game built with the new SDK. They built two apps, a virtual pet game and a first-person shooter. That's diversification. The virtual pets game allows you to set play dates with virtual dogs, believe it or not. You take the role of a dog, interacting with other dogs, taking on missions, and, of course, buying accessories.

10:56 a.m. PDT: LiveFire is the other game, which is slightly different. This lets you play a first-person shooter game over a WI-Fi network with other players, allowing you find friends over a network and play against each other. Kent German: "Buying apps and game levels without going through the iTunes Store will be easier, but like the gum in a supermarket check-out line, I suspect that it will lead to a lot of impulse buying."

11:02 a.m. PDT: Smule is coming next. Ocarina is a very popular iPhone app that lets you use the iPhone as a musical instrument. Ge Wang is talking about their new app, called Leaf Trombone World Stage. It's a social gaming experience geared around music, Wang says. The app lets you create music by blowing into the microphone, like Ocarina, but you can have a backing track and you can synchronize with another player over Wi-Fi. Wang and another Smule developer demonstrate the app by playing Phantom of the Opera on Leaf Trombone, harmonizing more or less in time.

11:04 a.m. PDT: Forstall retakes the stage, saying that Apple created the SDK to make developers successful. (They probably also wanted to sell more iPhones.) Now Forstall will talk about some of the new features in iPhone 3.0. And yes: copy and paste is coming to the iPhone.

11:05 a.m. PDT: "We've been working really hard to design an easy-to-use, straightforward user interface for cut, copy, and paste," Forstall said. He opens an e-mail message, and double-taps on a piece of text to select it, with grab points at the end of the text bubble and three buttons overhead the bubble with cut, copy, and paste options.

11:06 a.m. PDT: Kent German: "Now the good stuff...Hallelujah for cut, copy and paste."

Copy-paste functionality in iPhone OS 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
A demonstration of how copy-paste works in iPhone OS 3.0.

11:08 a.m. PDT: Copy and paste works across all applications, not just mail. The Notes application is also demonstrated, showing how you can "select-all" from Notes and paste into an e-mail. You can also copy Web content, such as text from a Web page. This looks sort of like the text selector used in a PDF document, with four buttons on the four sides of a text bubble that let you expand your text bubble by dragging the button. If you messed up, shake the phone to undo any of the actions: cut, copy, or paste.

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Cut, copy, paste works across all applications.

11:10 a.m. PDT: SMS messages can also be copied, as well as text from third-party apps. Photos are also included, with the ability to select a certain photo, copy it, and paste into a mail message. Kent German: "Cut, copy and paste seems easy to use, particularly with the movable grab points...like the shake to undo. Wondering if you can access a clipboard and if you can copy images on Web sites."

11:12 a.m. PDT: Landscape is the next feature Forstall plans to show. He's showing how you can read a Web page, for instance, in landscape mode, rather than the iPhone's usual portrait mode. The landscape keyboard that could be used in Web pages can now be used in all applications, particularly mail. That will be a key addition for e-mail addicts, and perhaps a concession that some people were finding the portrait keyboard difficult to use.

11:13 a.m. PDT: The text message application has also gotten a few new features, such as forwarding and deleting individual and multiple messages. "But the big news, for the messaging application, is that we're adding support for MMS."

11:16 a.m. PDT: There's a new voice memo application from Apple. Several third parties have built voice recorder applications in the meantime. Calendar is also getting an update. Last year, Calendar got support for Exchange synced over-the-air, and this year, Apple is adding support for CalDAV, a standard supported by Yahoo and Google used for shared calendars. The other is support for subscriptions, such as adding a sports team's schedule to your iPhone's Calendar.

11:17 a.m. PDT: Kent German: "Can't describe how needed the multimedia messaging functionality is. Though, I'm wondering if it's shameful that I'm getting excited about such a basic functionality."

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Voice memo support.

11:18 a.m. PDT: Search is next, it's getting added to all main applications, including Mail. You can search text and headers in Mail as well as on the server. Calendar is now searchable, as well as your song library in the iPod.

11:20 a.m. PDT: Apple's Spotlight technology from Mac OS X is what's coming into the iPhone. A search bar will appear when you flick the home screen to the left, bringing up a search engine. Enter your search term into the Spotlight box, and it takes you right to that application, such as a contact, where you can dial or e-mail. Forstall notes that this is a much better way for iPhone owners with dozens of applications to launch specific application, rather than flicking through the various home screens to find the app you need.

Spotlight search added on home screen.
Spotlight search added on home screen. James Martin/CNET

11:22 a.m. PDT: Forstall reminds the crowd that 100 new features will arrive with iPhone 3.0, but that he doesn't have time to go through them all. You can sync notes with your Mac, use the "shake to shuffle" feature on the iPod Nano, and stereo Bluetooth, a much-requested missing feature from the current iPhone. Safari will have antiphishing technology and auto-fill. Parental controls can now be applied to the App Store, perhaps allowing you to block your kids from using those naughty fart applications. (Editor's note: After the presentation, Apple said it would not issue the complete list of the 100 new features today. So far, they're just making public the ones they announced during this presentation.)

News.com Poll

Hello, 3.0
What for you is the most notable change in iPhone OS 3.0?

Cut, copy, and paste
GPS/mapping tweaks
In-app purchases
Landscape mode tweaks
MMS send and receive
P2P networking
Push notifications
Systemwide search

View results

11:23 a.m. PDT: Kent German: "Surprised we get stereo Bluetooth. Surely an Apple stereo Bluetooth headset can't be far behind."

11:24 a.m. PDT: Forstall recaps the day's major news: the new SDK features and the new user features. Hopefully he's getting to the "when" question: when will this be ready?

11:25 a.m. PDT: Joswiak is coming back to announce when this will arrive. A developer beta will come first, and that's available today, and available to everyone in the iPhone Developer Program.

11:26 a.m. PDT: Interesting to note that they keep calling this "iPhone OS 3.0," which they had done informally for a while but seems to be coming into parlance now as an official term, distinct from Mac OS. Joswiak says the App Store is coming soon to additional countries in which it is now available.

11:27 a.m. PDT: "But how about the rest of us?" Joswiak promises to ship it "this summer," free to IPhone customers, and it will work on the original iPhone. Not all features will be available on the original iPhone, such as MMS and stereo Bluetooth.

11:27 a.m. PDT: It will cost $9.95 for iPod Touch customers, in keeping with the different accounting treatment Apple uses for the iPod Touch.

11:28 a.m. PDT: Kent German: "Too bad iPhone Classic users can't get MMS with the update. Interesting that the hardware changed that much."

11:28 a.m. PDT: Joswiak winds down by thanking everybody for coming. Developers are getting a little party upstairs, and the press is going to hang out for Q&A. Five-minute break, everybody.

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
More new features added in iPhone 3.0.

11:33 a.m. PDT: Phil Schiller joins Forstall and Joswiak on stage to take questions. The first question, "Why did it take so long to get cut and paste on the iPhone?" Forstall says it's not obvious on how to do it, taking into account security issues and making it work nicely with the touch interface.

11:34 a.m. PDT: The next question concerns Flash, and Schiller says they have no announcements about Flash today. But Forstall says that HTML 5 video is supported, as well as h.264. There's now HTTP streaming for audio and video: "We actually think there are a lot of great video solutions for a single clip and live streaming solutions."

iPhone 3.0
Credit: James Martin/CNET
Question and answer session with the press.

11:37 a.m. PDT: Another reporter wants to know about the peer-to-peer functionality. Forstall says the P2P connection is about a device-to-device Bluetooth connection, about using Bluetooth and Bonjour to make an IP connection. The accessory piece of this is handled differently, Forstall says.

11:38 a.m. PDT: The logical next question is whether you can trade files or music over this peer-to-peer capability. Joswiak says you can stream music to other apps, but he says it would be "confusing" to have applications that could download music from outside the iPod capability.

11:39 a.m. PDT: "Where do you guys stand on tethering?" That was a rumored capability for this release. Forstall says there are two pieces to support that, client side and carrier side. Client side support will be built into 3.0, but the carrier part is a work in progress, Forstall says. That sounds like it's coming as soon as the carriers decide to make it ready.

11:41 a.m. PDT: Apple is not going to make any kind of uptimes guarantees to developers regarding the push notification service, Forstall says in response to my question. Our own Larry Magid wants to know if external third-party microphones can be used with the voice memo application, and Joswiak says yes.

11:42 a.m. PDT: "Do you plan to deal with some of the performance issues in the current hardware?" Forstall says Apple takes performance very seriously, and that some of the units used in the demos suffer a bit because of the way they are tethered. No suggestions of better hardware on the horizon, as might be expected.

11:44 a.m. PDT: The original iPhone uses a different radio, which is why it can't support MMS. Forstall wonders how to respond to a question about access to another person's iPod library with the peer-to-peer connection, and Schiller isn't quite sure how to answer that either. That sounds like Apple hasn't exactly decided how the peer-to-peer application will interact with the iTunes/iPod franchise.

11:46 a.m. PDT: Harry McCracken wonders if Apple plans to get a bit more open about the App Store approval process, a well-documented source of frustration for developers. Schiller notes the growth of the App Store has been amazing and that customers want quality. He says they've improved the turnaround time, and let me correct something from earlier: Apple is quoting a 96 overall acceptance rate, not 98 percent we said above.

11:47 a.m. PDT: Schiller says Apple watches for profanity in the applications, as CNET's David Carnoy knows. The ability to use parental controls with applications should help get around some of the issues around objectionable content, Schiller says.

11:48 a.m. PDT: That's going to be the last question, and that's going to be all for this live blog. Stay tuned for all kinds of followup and reaction from across CNET, and, as always, thanks to everybody back on Second Street who make it possible to bring you these live blogs.

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