Maggie Shiels

Apple playing catch up?

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 18 Mar 09, 09:22 GMT

Without too much fanfare, Apple took the wraps off its next generation software for the iPhone and the iPod Touch at a fairly low key event at their campus in Cupertino.

iPhoneThere was none of the mad jostling that has gone on at some of the company's other product launches. Though I do hate it when they make everyone wait outside like second class citizens. Still at least it was sunny and they did provide muffins and coffee.

At the end of the day there was no need to stop the presses and hold the front page with this announcement. I am not alone in thinking that. Ernest Doku of mobile phone news site, e-mailed to say: "After the excitement surrounding Apple's last software update that brought us the groundbreaking App Store, this latest version seems to have a little less to set pulses racing."

Indeed it seemed to some degree like Apple playing catch up with the rest of the smartphone brigade by giving a lot of iPhone users functionality that is pretty standard on a lot of other smartphones.

The big headline is the ability to copy, cut and paste from one application to another. The other is multimedia messaging.

One missing piece from the puzzle for many users is the ability to record video or play video made using Adobe's Flash software.

At a question and answer session after the invitation only launch, Apple execs gave a "no comment" when pushed on the issue.

They were equally mum when I asked a question about a new iPhone. "Nothing to announce today", Apple's Phil Shiller told me.

I know I should know better because Apple never pre-announces anything, but I felt it would have been remiss to simply not ask the question. Afterwards Gartner Analyst Van Baker, who follows Apple, told me he reckons it will happen and it will happen in the summer around the same time as the software release.

Note of course that is when co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs is supposed to be back at the helm. And note also that since he went on sick leave, announcements out of Apple have so far been damp squibs. So they are going to need something that will wow when he gets back on deck.

Ngmoco virtual pet gameA host of developers also attended the launch to see what was in the SDK or software developers kit for them to help build their applications. In all Apple said there were some 1000 api's or software hooks for developers to use.

A few of the developers demonstrated some apps that they had produced after just two weeks of using the SDK Beta. ESPN showed how it can update games with scores while LifeScan, a Johnson & Johnson company, demonstrated how someone with diabetes could regulate their condition and track peaks and troughs.

Game developer Ngmoco demonstrated a virtual pet game where you can buy virtual clothes or toys and then veered to the other end of the spectrum with a first person shooter game where users could pay small sums of money to upgrade their gun. From hanging with fido to fragging it was one heck of a leap!

Smule guys demonstrating Ocarina appThe most entertaining demo was from the Smule guys who create sonic media and are behind the phenomenally successful Ocarina app that has turned the iPhone into a musical instrument by blowing into it.

The app that company co-founder Ge Wang developed for this gig was called Leaf Trombone which allows users to play the iPhone like a trombone.

Their rendition of Phantom of the Opera rocked the event and got the loudest cheer of the day.


  • Comment number 1.

    As an iPhone 3G user I was happy with the update. I didn't expect any hardware orientated announcements (more capacity, better camera, video recording, faster processor etc.) but its good to see Apple continue to invest in the iPhone for current users (most of 3.0 will work on the original iPhone) - I don't think I ever got any new features on any other brand of phone I bought in the past after purchase.

  • Comment number 2.

    Apple had got themselves into a position where they were damned either way - either for refusing to add basic smartphone features, or indeed for adding them after so long. Frankly, they unveiled a fairly comprehensive sweep of the mundane but irksome deficiencies within the iPhone OS, and made a few worthy additions (in-game voice, push notifications). And as the poster above said, this is all free to existing iPhone owners.

    I wouldn't be surprised if a hardware upgrade in June drops the other shoe. Expect one or more of: improved camera with video support, video calling with an 'iChat AV' app, better processor(s), higher screen resolution (Engadget report an announcement in the the Q&A that Apple are adding HD video support - for a handset which currently doesn't have an HD screen!?). Of course the 'tablet' rumours continue as well.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was pleasently surprised as some of the missing features were added. Most iPhone buyers will see this as a positive as they bought the phone with its existing features set so this can only be seen as a bonus.

    The only point I'd make is that this isn't Apple 'investing', they are most definitely playing catch up here because these are indeed standard features on the other manufacturer's phones, phones which are edging closer and closer to the package the iPhone offers just now.

    A tough market just got a little more interesting.

  • Comment number 4.

    Apple critics who have never touched an iPhone and just hate anything the company produces will all be saying that this isn't newsworthy, that it's ridiculous we had to wait 2 years for these 'basic' features, and that their Nokia had MMS since before they born.

    I think most iPhone users will be relieved by the 3.0 announcement; it shows Apple is listening to its customers and giving us what we want (Finally, landscape keyboard! Phew).

    Meanwhile, other manufacturers frantically implement poor touch screen phones, cobble together their own 'market place' and continue to focus on the quantity of features rather than the quality. The iPhone was a game changer and as long as Apple keep giving us what we want, its success will carry on growing.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is newsworthy however it is also ridiculous that it's taken this long to add basic functionality.


  • Comment number 6.

    This is all good news for iPhone users and, if we're honest, something that the other makers should take a serious note about.
    Okay, so things like MMS are standard with most phones (although I've never had a need to use it) the fact that Apple are ADDING it is a big step.
    How many times has Nokia supplied an update like this for their phones? Never? What about Sony Erricson, or Samsung or any other? Never?
    The normal practice is as soon as another feature/function is developed, it's time to market a new phone meaning all the poor people who bought the old model are stuffed.
    Apple's changing the game and in some respects, it's the other makers who are playing catch up.
    Just look at the App store.

  • Comment number 7.


    Nokia have never supplied an update like this because they've never had too. The features Apple are providing were there to begin with and have been standard on every N-series or smartphone for the last 3 years.

    Although Nokia did upgrade the N95's GPS to A-GPS with a firmware update back in 2007.

    To suggest Apple aren't playing catch up here is utter nonsense. as the hurried and buggy Beta firmware suggests.

  • Comment number 8.

    I couldn't help laughing out loud (and very close to even rolling with laughter) when I watched the video of the iPhone 3.0 software release.

    A room full of suited individuals sat seriously watching a man demonstrating 'cut, copy and paste', and then spontaneously burst out in applause!

    Who said there is no more humour left in this world?

  • Comment number 9.


    Yes, Apple is providing some basic stuff here. Out of interest (genuinely - I don't know the answer to this), when Nokia added their music and app stores to their platform, were these also provided to existing users as well?

  • Comment number 10.


    Yes, they did - if you're referring to Nokia Music Store (which is a widget weblink) and Download!

    Nokia are also releasing Ovi store this summer as a competitor to Apple's app store. This will be installable on all S60v3 and v5 phones.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yet again its welcome to 5 years ago apple! The lastest update does at least bring the iPhone reasonably up to date, but Its only selling point, the app store, no longer unique. So its still not really got it anywhere.
    As we speak everyone else is opening these stores that will, like the app store, fill with useless gimmicky rubbish. Thats apple innovation for you.

  • Comment number 12.

    londonitis, i couldnt agree more.

    It is funny that apple fans are willing to cheer and whoop one of the most standard features on smart phones that should have been included a long time ago.

    I a quite pleased with the update to the apps software. The availability to create an app that can work alongside hardware may mean that 3G could soon be coming to my iPod Touch. Although it may be a while.

  • Comment number 13.

    This is Apple doing what they do best. They are for sure the masters of 3 things - Design, Marketing and knowing what really sells.

    When they designed the first iPhone, they realised what technologies they need to concentrate their efforts on that will produce the wow factor in the market, get consumer buy-in, create the product image and perception, and eventually get people hooked on to the phone.

    Once you have consumer buy in, then you can slowly bring your product up the specs that everybody is making noises about, but very few actually care about.

    The idea is simple - do a few things, but do them better than anyone has ever done them.

  • Comment number 14.

    I have had my IPhone now for 6 months, I got it after my partner purchased his 3 months previously and its the best phone i have had. I had a Nokia N95 before this and apart from the camera it wasn't the best at all, I must just say I do miss the camera, it was definatly the best! so come on apple improve the camera function and had video...
    I went out to purchase the Samsung Omnia, but after being allowed to use one in the shop I am so glad I didn't, that is not what I call touch screen at all, IPhone wins hands down for that one especially with the pinch screen on the internet...hardly use my laptop now I have the IPhone.
    Must say cant put the thing down, and before I purchased mine I was pinching my partners...couldn't live without it now, its great and anyone that does obviously hasn't used one for long enough.
    Great news about the free upgrade from apple, good to know Apple are looking after their current customers rather than having to purchase another phone.
    Anyway keep up the good work and look forward to receiving my upgrade...sooner rather than later please.

  • Comment number 15.

    For me there are two big issues, one is in Apple's court the other the Telco's

    1 Tethering was not mentioned but for me this is a big advantage. I want to use 3G tethering to connect my Mac to the internet - I do it today with a couple of Dongles or my Nokia mobile, but how much better to have this integrated in the iPhone

    2 We must stop locking and roaming charges in Europe, we need to be able to move anywhere and use our phones at the same costs and with the freedom to plug in any SIM we like.


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