Chicago (IL) - There is an incredible amount of speculation about the new iPhone generation out there, lots of rumors and retractions from rumors. But thankfully, there are some hard facts and conclusions as well : Hackers already have analyzed substantial portions of the iPhone 2.0 software update, which not only provides further evidence that the 3G iPhone launch in fact is imminent, but reveals new features as well.
Yesterday, we wrote about key communication features of the v2.0 iPhone and we still believe that bridging computing, entertainment and communication worlds can become the next killer application for Apple’s smartphone. But thanks to the hacker community, we now know have some certainty about additional features that Apple will be rolling out with the new firmware update, presumably at the end of June.
The 3G iPhone is yet to materialize, but there is no doubt that the upcoming iPhone 2.0 software update will be a crucial component for both the existing iPhone and the upcoming 3G version. Developers who signed up for iPhone Developer Program have had exclusive access to the iPhone SDK and the beta version of the iPhone 2.0 software update since March. Last Tuesday, Apple released the iPhone 2.0 software update beta 3 to developers.
In the meantime, enthusiasts with lots of spare time on their hands took a deep dive into the firmware and uncovered clues to previously unknown software features. Here is what hackers have discovered so far (English translation provided by Google Translate) :
- Tighter YouTube integration with Safari : Officially, Safari on iPhone can’t show YouTube videos since the browser lacks Adobe’s Flash technology that needed to playback YouTube videos inside the browser. Unofficially, there is a browser bookmarklet called iTransmogrify that tricks Safari into transforming Flash content into direct links to natively supported formats. This workaround makes it possible to play embedded YouTube videos and MP3s on web pages within Safari today. You can see how it works in this YouTube video. However, the Internet Plug-Ins directory of the upcoming 2.0 software update includes the file "YouTubePlugIn.webplugin". This could easily mean that the firmware will integrate a YouTube player within the Safari web browser, enabling users to play YouTube videos in Safari – without the need for any workarounds.
- Bluetooth media streaming : iPhone owners have been complaining about poor support for Bluetooth devices in iPhone since the release of the device last year. The 2.0 firmware includes text strings that suggest greatly improved Bluetooth capabilities. Apparently, Bluetooth media streaming will allow users to stream iTunes music from their iPhone to external, Bluetooth-equipped sound systems. Since Bluetooth GPS and A2DP are required for Bluetooth media streaming, it seems Apple will deploy those features as well.
- Bluetooth printing : This is a feature many competing handsets already have. The ability to print photos or email messages stored on your iPhone using Bluetooth-equipped printers is indicated in text strings of the firmware.
- Wireless printing : The existence of a “Printers” folder inside the “Library” folder suggests that a system-wide support for printing is be in the works. Since Apple has stressed the Wi-Fi connectivity of the iPhone, we could be in for a treat : The ability to print documents, email messages and photos to printers available over Wi-Fi network. In our opinion, that’s an inevitable feature, especially since we know that Apple now also focuses on enterprise customers in an effort to position the iPhone as the ultimate business tool. Can you imagine the ultimate business gadget being unable to print to network printers ?
- GOOG-411 support : It seems that the Maps application, one of the strongest features in the current iPhone, could get some kind of tight integration with free Goog-411 service from Google : The software allows you to find local business via voice input. The firmware includes a Google411 entry pointing to Maps.app.
- Contact searching, meeting requests : Engadget thinks it will be possible to search your built-in or Exchange contacts using the search bar positioned at the top of the contacts list. Additionally, a drawer button is now believed to reveal a meeting invitations folder that shows your meeting requests in a similar way SMS and mail messages are displayed today.
- More evidence of a 3G iPhone : Hackers at ZiPhone discovered the text string "SGOLD3" in the firmware, which could indicate the type of baseband chip that is used in the 3G iPhone. If you Google this chipset, you will find that S-GOLD 3 (also known as PMB8878) is the successor of Infineon’s S-GOLD2 chip that - surprise, surprise – is integrated in today’s iPhones. It delivers better hardware-accelerated video playback capabilities, support for up to 5-megapixel cameras (instead of the 2-megapixel camera in the current iPhone), an interface for MMC / SD memory card slots at 2x speed as well as DVB-H module support. And yes, the chip supports 3G networks (HSDPA at 7.2 Mbps). Of course, all these features are supported and it is up to Apple which ones it will integrate : The current iPhone, for instance, does not utilize many features of the S-Gold2 chip that powers the handset.
Eagle-eyed readers may find it a bit strange that there isn’t a single piece of evidence for the iChat app being used - as suggested in our opinion article iPhone’s next killer apps : VoIP and videoconferencing. Truth to be told, most of the leaks in software builds aren’t a result of Apple being sloppy. Remember, this is the company that vigorously protects its secrets to the point that most engineers who worked on pieces of iPhone technologies didn’t actually know what the final product would be up to the last moment. There wasn’t hard evidence for the iPhone other than that what Apple patent filings and rumors revealed.
To us, it appears that Apple leaks intentionally, only what it wants (well, with very few exceptions such as this one). It is part of a clever marketing that fuels the demand and gets the company continuing press coverage. Does this mean that our opinion on VoIP and videoconferencing as iPhone’s next killer app is wrong ? Well, it’s just that - an opinion. Patent filings and common sense logic led us to conclude that iChat for iPhone is in the works. But if you were Apple, you wouldn’t want to leak your unique selling points in advance, too. While we don’t have hard evidence for iChat yet, we are certain it is in the works and it could nicely fit into Steve Jobs’ keynote : “There’s one more thing …”
What this new information about iPhone 2.0 truly reveals is that there is a lot of scalability in the iPhone software and Apple leverages its potential. The device you have now is not the same device when it went on sale last June. It is the software-hardware integration that sets Apple apart from other handset makers at this time : An innovative approach to software and vertical integration remain Apple’s key advantages in a more and more competitive mobile landscape. As the saying goes : It’s the software, stupid.