Developers Thoughts and Plans for OS 3.0

iPhone OS 3.0 is still at least several weeks away from landing on our iPhones, but developers are already hard at work on new versions of our favorite apps that will take full advantage of every new feature–and then some. From in-app purchases to the elusive copy and paste, many developers have been dreaming of the APIs Apple finally released with the latest iPhone SDK, so the ideas came fast and furious as soon as they got their hands on it.

“We decided to write Air Sharing, and defined its feature set after ruling out a number of other potential projects and features that would have made sense only with certain iPhone OS 3.0 features,” said Dave Howell, CEO of Avatron Software, Inc., “including in-app purchases and subscriptions, serial communication with hardware, Bluetooth connection, global search, and more. Besides new payment methods, copy and paste of course are very relevant to a document viewer.

“iPhone 3.0 offers features that will open possibilities to us in Air Sharing and in other apps that we are working on. But you’ll have to wait and see!”

Bruce Morrison, senior producer of Freeverse, was light on specifics, too, but is clearly cooking up something big for iPhone OS 3.0.

“I can’t talk about our upcoming titles in full yet, but we are very excited about the iPod access, micro transactions, push notifications and a huge slew of other things,” he said. “That, in combination with the new Facebook APIs (which, while not part of 3.0, feel like they almost are), are giving us some very exciting possibilities.”

And those possibilities are virtually limitless. Just ask Kristi Konotchick, co-founder of Mobeezio, Inc: “We see iPhone OS 3.0 as a significant enhancement and have had to put several projects on hold until now because of the lack of these features. The most exciting projects we’re working on for 3.0 revolve around premium Hollywood content. We’re working with content providers now and until the release of 3.0, this business model was difficult to monetize and justify.”

Other developers, like CK of Q. Touch, are more interested in sticking to “the old fashioned way” and “don’t see the new iPhone OS having a huge effect on broadening the iPhone/iTouch market.”

“The addition of WiFi multiplayer is great for games, but I think the vast majority of iPhone/iTouch users are looking for cheap diversions for a few minutes at a time (hence the appeal of $1 gags and gimmicks on the App Store), and multiplayer online gaming tends to be a bit more of a time commitment than most people are interested in. This will likely change over time, though.”

But that doesn’t mean Q. Touch isn’t exploring its options. “We see (OS) 3.0 a big step forward for interactive game and social networking applications. Features like in-game purchasing would enable wide variety of possibilities which we intend to pursue.”

But just because our phones are running OS 3.0 doesn’t necessarily mean the Tiny Violin and Pocket God updates are going to come pouring in. A large swath of developers–especially those with paid apps–have adopted a wait-and-see approach to the new software, despite the brewing excitement over its summer release.

“We are going to take it slow with 3.0,” said Dave Castelnuovo, president of Bolt Creative. “Many of our users are in high school and they are very cost-conscious. $9.95 is an expensive update for (iPod touch users) and we don’t want to alienate them. We will probably release a 3.0-enabled app when more than 60% of iPod touch users have 3.0. I’m not sure what other developers think but I think that releasing a 3.0 game at release will limit their market.”

The upgrade fee is a sticking point for Tiny Violin, too, says developer Brian Gorby: “I don’t want to alienate such a large section of my user-base, so I will most likely wait a bit before creating a 3.0-exclusive version of Tiny Violin.”

Developer Elliot Lee of Gengar Studios is also “in the planning stages of updates to our existing apps,” but he’s in no rush, either. “We do believe that it will take some time for OS 3.0 to become stable, and then it will take some time for it to be fully adopted by a large portion of existing users. On occasion, I still meet people who haven’t upgraded to 2.0!”

If you’re a fan of CNotes or Crazy Snowboard, however, you’re in luck, and Hendrik Kueck, independent developer of Juxtaposer, is “certainly planning to have a version with the in-app email feature ready to go.”

Kelli Noda, however, is “doubtful” there will be an update to the Zombieville app. “I’m busily working on new games, and adding major features like Wi-Fi multi-player to Zombieville would require a complete overhaul of the whole game.”

But even if the release schedule is fuzzy, developers are certainly taking full advantage of the time Apple has provided to brainstorm and experiment with iPhone 3.0. Here’s just a smattering of what’s to come:

Elliot Lee, Gengar Studios
One feature I would have liked (in OS 2.0) is peer-to-peer communication over Bluetooth. My app, Whiteboard: Collaborative Drawing, uses Bonjour over Wi-Fi to facilitate a connection between iPhone or iPod touch devices. While it works, I suspect that it’s less robust than an officially-supported peer-to-peer solution. One downside for developers: The first generation iPod touch doesn’t have Bluetooth capability, so there’s a part of the market that won’t be able to take advantage of the new addition.

Kristi Konotchick, co-founder, Mobeezio, Inc.
With regards to our existing apps in iTunes, the most affected is our Thumper app. This is a fun whack-a-mole-type game with the differentiator being that you can add anyone’s face to the game to whack. If we had the 3.0 features at the time of the release, we would have added the ability for multiple players via the peer to peer connectivity. We plan to upgrade this app when the new OS is released.

CK, Q. Touch
We definitely are going to release a new version for 3.0. Major upgrade would be full-blown graphics with varieties of competition mode, especially peer-to-peer.

Gary Fung, developer, Typing Genius
One of the features we have always wanted to include in Typing Genius was a competition mode. This would allow users to go through typing exercises with their friends in a ‘type-off.’ While this was not possible previously, the new peer-to-peer connection on iPhone and iPod touch will allow us to implement this new feature. We have a few ideas on how it can be best used, such as players competing for the best stats and a cooperative game mode to finish each other’s sentences. We look forward to adding these features.

We do have a few new app concepts that were previously not possible. Peer-to-peer connection in particular is probably an underrated feature, as it was primarily introduced as an extension to the gaming framework. However, this creates huge opportunities for apps in all categories to develop creative ways to exchange data between devices.

Noel Llopis, developer, Snappy Touch
There are features that fall in the category of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if,’ but I don’t know if they’ll have a significant impact for Flower Garden. For example, peer-to-peer connectivity over bluetooth could be used to detect nearby ‘gardens’ and do cross-pollination between them.

Joe Wee, director and co-founder, Chillingo
For sure, in-app purchases, push notification and peer-to-peer capabilities are the three main features that excite us most as far as game development is concerned. Indeed, we have already a few titles in development now which will fully utilize these key features. For example, our MMO SEED coming out in the autumn will contain trade/sell capabilities and also real-time networked combat–this would have been ‘difficult’ to achieve prior to v3.0.

Kelli Noda, sole developer of Zombieville
Wi-Fi multiplayer is the biggest feature that would have been cool to have for Zombieville. As many players have suggested, co-op multiplayer would fit the game perfectly and it would have been great to have access to it before.

Dave Castelnuovo, president, Bolt Creative
Our development strategy is to create games that can be released to market with a limited initial budget and then update the apps that people are interested in. Although we may do multiplayer games in the future that take advantage of the new 3.0 features, we believe that multiplayer is an expensive way to get interest in our apps. Having some kind of community play that incorporates the push functionality might be closer to something we would use, though.

In-App Purchasing
CK, developer, Q. Touch
Players would be able to purchase the level packs directly from within the application (which might be easier with 3.0 than to do it ourselves).

Joe Wee, director and co-founder, Chillingo

These new features will provide the necessary tool for Chilingo to launch multiplayer-based games, with innovative pricing strategies utilizing in-app purchases. Prior to iPhone 3.0, pricing was constrained to only one-off purchases.

Elliot Lee, Gengar Studios
In-app purchasing and subscriptions are a groundbreaking feature. Developers will be able to offer additional levels, chapters, and more. It will allow much more flexibility for users in that they will be able to pick and choose exactly what they want to buy on a more granular level. And instead of apps becoming stagnant, the subscription model will allow users to get new content on a continually updated basis.

Kristi Konotchick, co founder, Mobeezio, Inc.
With the new features of micro-billing/in app purchasing… we’ll now be able to bring this content via iPhone apps to the market this summer with the release of the 3.0 OS.

Brandon Barber, vice president of marketing, Zynga
Obviously, we’re also excited about the micropayment platform. For games like Live Poker, the ability to make smaller purchases of chips and gifts will allow us to normalize pricing, and give gamers more options to play and customize their experience.

Brian Gorby, developer, Tiny Violin
The Store Kit framework, which will allow a user to purchase and download new content from within an application, opens up a whole world of possibilities. Micro transactions and downloadable content have already seen much success in the current web-enabled video game market. The Store Kit framework now brings these possibilities to the iPhone platform. For an application like Tiny Violin, this could mean a user could purchase a new violin-pack that would contain exclusive new styles of violins and sounds.

Noel Llopis, developer, Snappy Touch
The biggest one for Flower Garden is going to be the in-game purchases. The fixed-price model of the current App Store is an example of one-size-does-not-fit-all. You may price your app at $0.99 to reach a large audience of people, but you’re missing out on the extra money that the people who are really into your game would be willing to pay. In-game purchases allows those people to get extra features and content they want (different types of seeds, more locations, more bouquet accessories) by paying a small amount extra.

Simon Edis, president and head coder, ezone
We are very interested in the potential of in-app purchasing–but (developers) will need to be very careful how we implement it. I think the FPS demo shown at the 3.0 announcement scared a lot of app buyers when they saw the ‘Buy railgun for $0.99?’ window pop-up in mid-game! The way we plan to use in-game purchasing is to create $0.99 apps (like Crazy Snowboard) that come with a lot of built-in value; for example, 30 missions, 16 different boards, etc., and then up-sell players in-game with expansion packs, like another 30 missions. At the end of the day, we need to make sure we provide value for money to the end user, and if we don’t, the review system and word of mouth will very quickly effect sales.

Kelli Noda, sole developer, Zombieville
I’m a bit skeptical about introducing paid add-ons to games. Generally, gamers tend to look at such things with disdain, particularly when they’ve grown accustomed to free updates.

Dave Castelnuovo, president, Bolt Creative
In-app purchases and push notification are definitely the most interesting of the new 3.0 features, but I think that the design of our app would have to change somewhat to take advantage of them. When we first started, we released a limited feature set, so our job was to justify the $0.99 price of our app. If we took the time to start big, then I would be more comfortable selling upgrades.

Push Notification
Brandon Barber, vice president of marketing, Zynga
Notifications will allow us to make the games much more social and reflect some of the mechanics that have worked so well for us on social networking games like Yoville and Mafia Wars. Allowing people to let friends know when they’re playing or what they’ve accomplished will be extremely addictive to the overall experience.
Patrick Alessi, developer, CNotes
I think that push notification will open up new areas for development, because I will be able to provide a host of new services to the customer once I have the ability to remotely notify the user that the something in the application needs their attention. Maybe every morning, you get a push with all ‘Red Flagged’ items. Maybe you get a notification the day before you have a note marked for follow-up.

Noel Llopis, developer, Snappy Touch
There are two other features that aren’t as flashy, but that will make Flower Garden a more enjoyable experience: The first one is push notifications to let people know when they’ve received a bouquet, or even to remind them when plants need watering.

In-App Email
Noel Llopis, developer, Snappy Touch
The second is in-app email. The only official way to send email right now is to use the ‘mailto: protocol,’ which quits your app and launches the iPhone mail program, but that’s less than ideal, because it doesn’t return to your app and you can’t include attachments. The current way I’m doing it with Flower Garden is to send the bouquets through a dedicated server, but it would be great if there were a simpler way to let developers access email from their apps.

Hendrik Kueck, developer, Juxtaposer
The one publicly announced new feature that will be useful in my photo editing apps is the ability to let users compose emails (with attachments) inside the app. This will allow users to directly email their creations to their friends. Hopefully this will also allow sending images in higher resolution and quality than Apple’s Mail app, which down-samples and compresses images fairly aggressively before emailing them.
Of course I would have liked to have this feature from the beginning, but I’d like to distinguish that from stating that it ‘should have been there from the beginning.’ Developing and testing such APIs takes a lot of time, and I am glad that Apple did release their initial SDK when they did and that they did not wait another year until all the features that some people say ‘should have been there from the beginning’ will be ready.

iPod Integration
Brian Gorby, developer, Tiny Violin
Another cool feature is the ability to finally access a user’s iPod library. This has been a sizable sticking point for developers in OS 2. Don’t like the current sound set included in Tiny Violin? Select your favorite sorrow-laden track from your own iPod library, and play it with Tiny Violin!

Voice chat
Simon Edis, president and head coder, ezone
We are also interested in the in-game voice chat, which has the potential to open up all kinds of social interaction within games. We have a space shooter called Galactic Gunner currently under development which would be ideally suited to a co-op play over a local network, with each player manning a ship and fighting together.
Third-part communication
Hendrik Kueck, independent developer, Juxtaposer
There are certainly groundbreaking features in there. Especially the support for communicating with custom hardware is huge in my opinion. However it does not affect my apps.

Copy & Paste
Alexander Marktl, developer, Outer Space Apps
For iTranslate, we really missed the Copy & Paste feature. About 40 percent of our support questions are something like, ‘Why can’t I translate my incoming email?’ Another weird thing is that developers cannot programmatically add text to an SMS (while it’s possible with email). Sending a text message with translated text is one of the most requested features. With Copy & Paste that should now be possible, too.

Patrick Alessi, developer, CNotes
The application is all about creating notes and it would have been nice (in iPhone 2.0) to be able to copy from a web page or another email, and paste it into a note. I would have also liked to have had the in-app email API so that clients wouldn’t have to exit my application to write a follow-up email.

[via MacLife]