Today Apple previewed their next major software update for the iPhone (and iPod Touch). Apple is touting "100 new features" for this summer, when the update is made available for existing users. But off the top of their list we get:
- Search your iPhone
- Cut, copy, and paste
- Send photos, contacts, audio files, and location via MMS
- Read and compose email and text messages in landscape
For each one of these features all I have to say "It is about time." Why? Well:
- Expanded Search: Existing Search capabilities will be expanded, allowing customers to search within Mail, iPod and Notes or search across all key Apps from a single location.
Honestly, I didn't even know that a search function existed already. And while a global search across "key Apps" isn't something I'm dying for, a decent search feature for the Mail App will be quite welcomed.
- Cut, Copy and Paste: With this new version, dubbed 3.0, users will be able to cut, copy and paste text in and between iPhone Apps.
Why the wait for something as basic as Cut, Copy and Paste? According to Apple they had an engineering challenge on their hands in dealing with the security implications of this. How can moving text around present a security issue? Well Cut, Copy and Paste basically works by writing some highlighted text into a memory buffer and then reading from that buffer. In theory an App could create a buffer overflow by writing more text than the memory buffer could handle, leading to either the iPhone or App crashing or to the potential unrestricted access of personal information residing elsewhere on the system. Hence the delay.
- MMS Support: Soon the iPhone will support Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS).
- Expanding Use of Landscape Mode Coming soon as well, the ability to read and compose email and text messages in landscape mode.
Another one of those, well duh missing features that must come only after the fact of rushing to release a "killer cellphone." One of the iPhone's key features is the ability, if the App is designed for it, to switch between "portrait" and "landscape" modes. Many Apps lock you into one or the other, depending on how the developer wishes to use the screen "real estate", but others, Safari being the obvious, allow the user to choose based on what they are focusing on.
I can't tell you how many times I've turned my iPhone while trying to read an email only to realized that, "oh, yeah the Mail App doesn't support landscape mode, how dumb."
MMS is the standard method for sending messages with photos or videos between cell phones over the phone network. It's texting with pictures basically. I have yet to hear why this hasn't been support since day one, and frankly, this has been the biggest issue to date I have with the iPhone.
How the heck could Apple develop such a media-rich device and not support such an obvious feature is beyond me. Add to the fact that AT&T's web interface for accessing MMS messages (provided to those unlikely enough to have a phone that doesn't support MMS, you get a text message that says someone sent you a MMS message go login using this temporary username/password) is a joke and well, well...
What's not on the list? Flash support, which is fine with me. While YouTube and other websites offer content via a Flash player, the iPhone skips the player and supports H.264 video streams. YouTube and other Apps use this for delivering video to the iPhone. Which works fine for me. I suppose the only issue is for those websites that don't have an iPhone specific App but do have Flash content (video or animation of some sort) on their site, that could be accessed via Safari, that won't be seen.
And on the rumored coming soon list? Tethering, using the iPhone as a modem for a laptop, is coming. Apple is working on the software for the iPhone, no doubt software for Windows and Mac laptops as well. The real question is how will the cellphone providers deal with this option. Will AT&T, here in the States, keep their "unlimited" data plan in tact? Or will one have to "upgrade" their wireless plan, for an additional monthly fee? That's the real question.