5 ways Apple's iPhone OS 4 is a game changer

Developers get their hands on a slew of new features, users benefit, too

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The iAd platform will allow dynamic ads that can include text, images, animations, audio/video, and even games written in HTML 5 -- proof that these features can be implemented without Flash -- and that can be viewed without leaving the app. This offers advertisers an attractive way to engage users, promote one or more products/services, and offer users more information about something without forcing them to leave the app.

It also allows users to easily buy something from the App Store (if the ad is promoting an app) or simply return to the app they were using.

iAd will be a game changer in many ways. It will revolutionize the concept of mobile ads, even on devices and networks beyond Apple and its mobile devices.

Ads won't take the user away from the current experience and will, in fact, essentially work as small apps in their own right (albeit inside other apps). This should result in more user interaction and awareness of what's being advertised. And it offers a single platform for all iPhone/iPad developers, who get 60% of the revenue generated by the ads; Apple gets the remaining 40%.

5. Bluetooth keyboard support

Since the introduction of the iPhone in January 2007, one of the most common criticisms has been about its on-screen keyboard and the utter lack of support for any input other than touch. Although Apple did a remarkable job with the virtual keyboard and its autocomplete and autocorrect features, which learn your particular vocabulary and typing styles, it will never provide the same ease of use of a real, standard-size keyboard.

Supporting Bluetooth keyboards has long seemed like a pipe dream on the iPhone. However, with the iPad's Bluetooth keyboard support, it makes perfect sense to extend that option to the iPhone and iPod Touch. This may not sound like a major shift at first. After all, carrying a full-size desktop keyboard around for use with an iPhone does seem absurd.

But what about a smaller, more portable option, or even a collapsible keyboard that could be easy put in a messenger bag or purse? (Even Apple's current Bluetooth keyboard is smaller and lighter than most desktop models.)

Other mobile device and smartphone platforms have offered a collapsible keyboard with device stands for over a decade. If Apple or a third-party firm offered a similar product, it would make the iPhone (as well as the iPad) an alternative to a netbook. A Bluetooth keyboard would also let you type larger notes, e-mails or other documents easily while relying on the on-screen keyboard for quick, on-the-go typing.

What about Game Center?

The planned Game Center will allow iPhone gamers to challenge friends and to locate and compete with other players of similar skill levels, and offer leader boards and achievement rankings. This has the potential to be a major deal for iPhone gamers and game developers.

I've omitted it from my top-five list because, as of yet, there are few details about how it will function or when it will be released. In fact, answers to some of the questions posed about Game Center during the Q&A following Apple's announcement indicate that even Apple hasn't yet fully refined how it will handle some features, such as achievement rankings and rewards.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. His most recent book is The iPhone for Work, published by Apress. You can find more information at www.ryanfaas.com and can e-mail Ryan at ryan@ryanfaas.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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