Whether or not you appreciate its products, you have to admire Apple's adeptness at creating new ways to delight its customers while finding equally creative ways to draw revenue from already closed sales. Some 50 million owners of iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch got a sneak peek today at iPhone 3.0.
Device owners will have to wait until summer before iTunes will inform them of a free firmware update that, as iPhone 2.0 did a year ago, makes their existing iPhone or iPod Touch match or exceed the capabilities of flashy new alternatives. iPhone developers, who made the platform the wild success it is by populating the iTunes App Store with 25,000 downloadable Web and native applications, all in the eight months since iPhone 2.0 went live, get to play with a beta of the new OS now. Developers got almost everything they asked for, and by the time iPhone 3.0 launches, App Store will be stocked with a new generation of iPhone apps, and users will be more inclined than ever to put the word "my" in front of Apple's brand.
Cut and paste
Apple spent most of the event addressing developers, but it packed a lot of new out-of-the-box features into a very brief period of stage time. The headliner, without question, is the addition of cut and paste to the iPhone GUI. This is difficult to pull off on the small screen even with a stylus or a navigation pad, but Apple covered the most common case of selection -- paragraphs or sections -- a matter of tap and drag. Tapping on text pops up a tooltip bubble with buttons (as close as iPhone gets to a pop-up menu) for cut and paste. You drag markers that define the region of text or HTML you want to lift, copy it, position the cursor in the document that is the paste target, and tap paste in the bubble to perform the magic. If you mess it up, you can undo a paste by shaking your iPhone.
Apple's framework-centric design of the iPhone platform allowed it to wire cut and paste into all Apple applications. It required the creation of a global pasteboard to hang onto copied content while you switch applications (iPhone 3.0 is still limited to one app at a time). As with OS X, the pasteboard supports document type tagging. Apple demonstrated cut and paste with text, HTML (formatting remained intact), and images, using the pasteboard to send multiple photos in a single e-mail. There's no reason the concept couldn't be extended to other applications, including iPhone's built-in rich document viewers.