New iPhone Software: Copy & Paste (Finally!), Intriguing APIs

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The iPhone is due for a major operating system update, and this week Apple revealed what the iPhone OS 3.0 software (due to be distributed summer 2009) will allow users and developers to do.

In a nutshell: Plenty.

The biggest splash: iPhone 3.0 will support copy and paste. Seems like a no-brainer, but so far iPhone users have not been able to employ this basic user interface tool which has been available since long before Apple even started making computers. The iPhone’s lack of copy and paste has led to considerable user frustration and some clumsy work-arounds involving javascript bookmarklets for mobile Safari. I’ve heard several people say they’d get an iPhone if only it did copy and paste. So it’s possible that this key bit of usability catch-up could broaden the iPhone market base.

But even more importantly: New iPhone APIs offer exciting opportunities — especially for news orgs and other online publishers…

The real genius of Apple’s iPhone strategy has always been the application store. The app store what I like to think of as an entrepreneurial engine: good business not just for Apple, but for any people or organizations that think entrepreneurially.

iPhone Apps can be sold outright to users (like the Omnifocus iPhone app I rely on daily) for a direct revenue stream. However, even free iPhone apps can help build online businesses (including for news publishers, advertisers, or news-related services) by growing audience, increasing user engagement, or enabling additional features or services.

The latest iPhone software developer kit offers over 1000 new iPhone application programming interfaces. (Earlier, Tidbits contributor Will Sullivan explained why news orgs should use APIs.) Many news orgs like the New York Times already offer their own iPhone applications. But the new API’s just announced by Apple will allow whole new types of interaction with the iPhone and with iPhone applications. For instance, Apple notes:

  • In-Application Purchase: “Users can purchase content or services from your application using the Store Kit framework.” Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe observed, “The biggest feature in Apple’s iPhone 3.0 is a cash register.”
  • Maps in your Apps: “You can now embed maps within your applications using the new Map Kit framework.” Imagine a mobile map interface to your local news.
  • Push Notification: “Alert your users of new information, even when your application isn’t running.” This could include breaking news headlines, relevant classified ads, event announcements, and more. And what if you coupled this with the embedded maps API? Maybe alerts could change based on the iPhone user’s location…
  • Peer to Peer Connectivity: “Allows any application to communicate between devices [i.e., several people’s iPhones] using Bluetooth — no pairing required.” This could prove useful for enabling mobile coverage collaboration between professional or citizen journalists.

I’d strongly suggest that someone on the tech side of every news organization download the iPhone 3.0 beta SDK (enterprise developer program: $299) and start exploring the possibilities now. If you don’t already offer an iPhone app, this is a good time to start developing one — and you might even get it into the app store in time for the summer distribution of iPhone OS 3.0.

…And if you don’t think that the number of iPhone users is significant enough to warrant this effort, bear in mind that iPhone users tend to be power users of online and social media. Getting their attention through a well-planned app might yield surprising benefits to your news business and brand.

(NOTE: I originally published this piece in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, where it was combined with a related piece by Barbara Iverson.)

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5 thoughts on New iPhone Software: Copy & Paste (Finally!), Intriguing APIs

  1. I’ve read that the update will also include support for tethering, but no carriers have said they will use it yet. And of course there would be an additional charge on top of the already hefty monthly charges, so it may not be worth it.

    I would expect that Apple and ATT to find a way to keep tethering charges low in order to coax the jailbreakers (who are already tethering) back into the fold. Either that, or they will use the nuclear option and charge / sue them back into submission.

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  3. “And what if you coupled this with the embedded maps API? Maybe alerts could change based on the iPhone user’s location…”

    Not unless you push the alert like a poll, get the location, send it and push back a 2nd alert…

    The alerts are only useful for events which originate outside the phone and require no information from the phone at the time they’re sent. Sooner or later Apple will introduce true multitasking and those kind of location aware apps will be possible.

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