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In-App Purchases

Developers are getting a little bit more out of the App Store these days with the ability to sell content through their apps. While still powered by the iTunes Store, this allows developers to do a number of things. eBook readers can now allow you to purchase titles without needing to go through a web browser or external purchase tool, game developers can allow you to purchase expansion packs to existing games, and photo editing tools can make additional filters available on demand for a small price. It will be interesting to see exactly what types of content developers will choose to offer in this manner, but the possibilities are pretty great.

Peer-to-Peer Gaming

Speaking of gaming, one of the most limiting features of iPhone gaming has been that there was no easy way to establish multi-player games (though some developers did make an effort to do so over Wi-Fi). iPhone OS 3 includes support for peer-to-peer gaming using Bluetooth, in which iPhones in proximity running the same multi-player game can automatically discover each other and connect. This stands to be a revolutionary feature for game developers that can be implemented in anything from card games, to first-person shooter games, to more complex role-playing style games. It definitely helps cement the iPhone as a mobile gaming platform (and that the new iPhone 3G S apparently has specs outperforming a PSP doesn’t hurt, either).

Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone is both a feature of iPhone OS 3 and Apple’s MobileMe service—and quite frankly the feature makes MobileMe a truly valuable service (something that could be argued in the past). Find My iPhone does just what it’s name implies: You log in to the MobileMe website, click the Find My iPhone page, and you’ll see the location of your iPhone on a map (courtesy of Google Maps and the iPhone’s location services and GPS).

You’ll also have the option of displaying a message to the iPhone and playing a sound to help locate it—really helpful if it’s lost in your home or office (and the sound will play even if the iPhone is in silent mode). You can also remotely wipe all data from the iPhone in the event that it is truly lost or stolen (and can resync that data using the backup that iTunes makes during each sync if you find the phone again).

One particularly nice tidbit is that if you have multiple iPhones and iPod Touches associated with a single MobileMe account, you’ll have access to these features for each one of them.

YouTube Account Support

As YouTube has grown, the video sharing/networking site has added a number of user-specific features. You can mark videos as favorites, subscribe to different YouTube user’s feeds, and create playlists. All these are available to any computer that you use to sign in to YouTube. Accounts also let you rate and comment on videos, and even flag ones that display offensive content.

The iPhone now supports all of these features (in fact, Apple has done away with YouTube bookmarks stored on the device itself in favor of user favorites). This makes YouTube more user-friendly and interactive, and allows the experience of YouTube on the iPhone to much more closely match that of the actual site. It also makes organizing and quickly locating content much easier.

Accessory Development

One complaint from makers of iPhone add-on accessories has been that Apple didn’t allow them to pair their hardware with any specific software on the iPhone. This meant that a developer couldn’t make an accessory that was controlled by a companion app or that provided data to an app. So, accessory development was pretty limited—mainly to docks/chargers and audio integration systems for home or car stereos. With this release, Apple has begun allowing app/accessory development as a whole package. The result will be a new generation of iPhone add-ons that can offer new hardware features to the device.

Turn-by-Turn Navigation

In fact, one of the first hardware/app pairings will be coming from Dutch GPS navigation systems developer Tom Tom with a special docking station that will boost the iPhone’s built-in GPS as well as offer car stereo integration and hands-free calling. This also ties into another big opening for developers: the ability to develop turn-by-turn navigation apps that rely on the iPhone’s GPS capability (the catch being that developers can use the iPhone’s GPS and location services, but cannot use Google Maps due to licensing issues).

This is a big deal because even though the iPhone can offer you your location and maps/routes based on Google Maps, it so far hasn’t been able to offer actual turn-by-turn directions based on your location (the way that many GPS navigation systems do). Adding this feature into the iPhone (with or without additional hardware) is a major coup for the device as a complete replacement for any other in-car navigation devices.

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