Apple Inc. today previewed the next generation of its iPhone software, which will add several long-awaited features, including copy/paste, MMS and search to the smartphone and its iPod Touch cousin. Those are among the more than 100 new features slated to debut when the company launches the update this summer.
IPhone 3.0 will be a free update to iPhone owners, but it will cost iPod Touch users $9.95, the same price that Apple used when it rolled out iPhone 2.0 last year.
"This is a major update," said Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, who handled most of the 90-minute presentation. "I can't wait until you get your hands on it." He did not set a timetable for iPhone 3.0's release -- Apple did not do that last year, either, when it previewed iPhone 2.0 in March 2008 -- and said only that it would ship "this summer."
"I don't want to use Apple's words, but this is clearly a significant development in the iPhone," said Mike McGuire, a Gartner Inc. analyst. "There is the potential here for some really significant changes."
"There's an awful lot of stuff in [iPhone 3.0] that developers will be happy with," added another Gartner analyst, Van Baker.
A beta of iPhone 3.0 and the supporting software developer's kit (SDK) are available today for developers, said Greg Joswiak, Apple's head of iPhone and iPod marketing, who was also at the event on the company's campus in Cupertino, Calif.
Among the most notable end-user features coming to the phone and iPod Touch are cut-and-paste and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), two omissions that users have dinged Apple for since it rolled out the original model in mid-2007.
With iPhone 3.0 in place, users will be able to cut or copy text from one application on the device, then paste it into another. To select a block of text, for example, the user will double-tab, then slide a finger across the desired text; a bubble boasting Cut, Copy and Paste options will appear above the selected text. To paste, the user double-taps at the insertion point and selects Paste.
"Frankly, I wasn't sure we would ever see cut and paste," said McGuire, who tagged it as the premier end-user addition to the iPhone.
MMS is the feature sported by most cell phones that lets users send photos and video as attachments to text messages, something the iPhone has lacked. Instead, users were forced to use e-mail to send photos, preventing them from flicking pictures directly to others' phones.
Some features, including MMS, won't be available on the first-generation iPhones because the older hardware lacks support for them, said Apple during the presentation. In an accompanying statement, it also noted that "some features may not be supported by older hardware" but did not elaborate on which other iPhone 3.0 features will not be available on the original model.
Apple is also adding a pseudo-devicewide search, dubbed Spotlight, to match the search tool integrated with Mac OS X. Spotlight searches through all the major Apple-built applications on the device, including Mail, Calendar, Notes and iPod. The new search screen is to the left of the home screen and can be used to, for instance, search through Mail's in-box, a feature the phone currently lacks. Forstall also pointed out that Spotlight can substitute as an application launcher, just as in the Mac OS X version.