Steve Jobs took the stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference this year and once again pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the form of the iPhone 4 and iPhone OS 4, now called iOS 4. As usual, Jobs shared a wide variety of statistics about how Apple’s various products and businesses are faring in the marketplace, and although Apple is of course publicizing only numbers that support the company’s overall message, they’re still interesting. He also showed off new features in iBooks, recapped some of the previously shown features coming in iOS 4, and demoed a new video conferencing app for the iPhone 4 called FaceTime. Also plugged was iAd, which will start on 1 July 2010.
Jobs also gave demo time to Netflix for their forthcoming iPhone app, to Activision for the iPhone version of Guitar Hero, and to Zynga for the iPhone app version of FarmVille. This final demo was likely as much a political move as anything else, since FarmVille has gained 70 million users of its Flash app via Facebook (who could have predicted Apple would attack Adobe with virtual livestock?), and Zynga recently had a dustup with Facebook over game revenues.
Numbers — The first hint of just how popular Apple has become is that WWDC has over 5,200 attendees representing 57 countries. You had to be on the ball to get a ticket as well, given that the conference sold out after only 8 days.
Jobs went on to provide an update on iPad sales, noting that Apple has sold over 2 million units, which works out to one being sold on average every 3 seconds during the device’s 60 days on the market. Currently, the iPad is shipping in 10 countries, with 9 more being added by the end of July 2010.
Equally important, the number of native iPad apps has increased rapidly, with the count now at 8,500; another 225,000 iPhone apps are compatible with the iPad. iPad users have downloaded over 35 million apps, or about 17 apps per iPad. Total downloads from the App Store to date from all devices have exceeded 5 billion.
The App Store continues to receive app submissions at an astonishing rate, currently 15,000 apps per week (though many of those are no doubt updates). Of those, Apple claims that 95 percent are approved within a week. Apps from 30 languages are represented.
For some developers, apps are big business even when the apps are free. eBay CEO John Donahoe said that the free eBay app was downloaded 10 million times in 2009 and was used for $600 million worth of sales in its first year. He predicted it would be used for $1.5 to $2 billion this year. On the paid app side, Apple said that it has now distributed over $1 billion to developers, who keep 70 percent of app revenues. That means Apple has made at least $430 million from app sales, which is far from chump change.
The reason for all those app sales? One heck of a lot of users. Apple anticipates selling its 100 millionth iOS device this month. The iPhone is the largest piece of that pie, and it’s doing well against the competition as well, with 28 percent of the smartphone market share in Q1 2010 according to Nielsen. RIM’s BlackBerry remains in the top spot with 35 percent, Windows Mobile is in third with 19 percent, Android in fourth with 9 percent, and everything else accounting for another 9 percent.
But while the BlackBerry may hold the top sales spot, it’s used very differently. Apps aren’t nearly as big a deal, of course, and mobile Web browser usage is radically lower. In this metric, the iPhone has 58.2 percent of the mobile browser market share, followed by Android with 22.7 percent, RIM with 12.7 percent, and everything else combining for 6.4 percent.
Enough of the numbers, let’s move on to the announcements. We’ll cover the smaller announcements here; see Glenn Fleishman’s “New iPhone 4 Still Had Secrets to Reveal” (7 June 2010) for details on the most significant unveiling.
Most notably for many of us, iBooks will now store and display PDFs. A new tab at the top of the iBooks app lets you switch between books you’ve purchased or transferred in the EPUB format, and those in PDF format. PDFs will need to be transferred via iTunes, as with third-party EPUB books, but Apple said you can also store PDFs received as email attachment in iBooks. We don’t yet know if you’ll be able to save PDFs downloaded via Safari in iBooks as well, but it would seem likely. Equally unknown, but less likely, is whether Apple will allow PDFs to be sold in the iBookstore (fingers crossed!).
The new release will also add support for notes – they look like big sticky notes, reminiscent of the Stickies utility – and better bookmarking. A new page has also been added for accessing your notes and bookmarks from the Table of Contents. These features could help the iPad compete better in the academic market (see “Princeton Tests Kindle DX – Could the iPad Do Better?,” 4 June 2010).
Jobs also promised that the upcoming release would allow free and automatic synchronization of bookmarks, notes, and current reading positions across all devices using the same account. Books you purchase on one device can be downloaded again at no cost to any of your other devices. This new infrastructure mimics Amazon’s Whispersync service for Kindle, which was extended to Kindle software, too.
Even with relatively few titles available, the iBookstore is apparently a hit. iPad users have downloaded over 5 million ebooks in the first two months, and while many of those are no doubt free, there have been plenty of sales as well. Jobs said that five of the six biggest publishers in the United States report that Apple accounts for an aggregated 22 percent of their electronic book sales.
iOS 4 — Perhaps the biggest news about iPhone OS 4 to come out of the keynote is its new name: iOS 4. While this change is welcome from a logical standpoint, it’s interesting to note that the legal switch to the term “iPhone OS” happened only in January 2010 (see “iPhone Developer License Points to New Devices?,” 28 January 2010). Presumably we’ll see another update to the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement.
Regardless, now we’ll have “iOS devices,” which is significantly less cumbersome than “iPhone OS devices.” The question is, will the terminology spread more broadly as well, such that we can talk not about “iPhone apps” but “iOS apps,” at least when we’re discussing an app that runs on all of said devices? That would also allow us to talk about iPad apps that are specific to the iPad, and iPhone apps that rely on the iPhone’s unique capability to make voice calls.
Aside from the name, Apple demoed a number of iOS 4 features, but most were revealed two months ago with the iPhone OS 4 announcement (see “Apple Previews Major New Features in iPhone OS 4,” 8 April 2010). The most significant features in iOS 4 include multitasking, folders, and a unified Inbox and threading in Mail. Jobs also touched on the enterprise features of iOS 4, including better data protection (see “Apple Security News: Flash Attacked, iPhone Exposed, Spyware Discovered,” 7 June 2010), mobile device management, wireless app distribution, multiple Exchange accounts, support for Exchange Server 2010, and SSL VPN support. Finally, one new feature was announced: the addition of Microsoft’s Bing to the search engines you can use within Safari’s search bar (for this preference, look in Settings > Safari > Search Engine).
Apple said that iOS 4 will ship on 21 June 2010 as a free upgrade for the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 3GS, and for the second and third generations of the iPod touch, although the iPhone 3G and second generation iPod touch don’t have the hardware to support multitasking. The original iPhone and iPod touch can’t run iOS 4. A change in Apple’s accounting rules allows the upgrade to be free for iPod touch users; previously Apple had to charge for the iPod touch upgrade.
FaceTime — In perhaps the least-surprising “One more thing…” ever in a Steve Jobs keynote, Apple introduced FaceTime on the iPhone 4, a video chatting feature that takes advantage of the front-facing camera that Jobs previously pointed out in his presentation. FaceTime promises to deliver Jetsons-style video calling, but aside from making a few test calls, will people use it, given its iPhone 4 and Wi-Fi requirements? Now if FaceTime were to be integrated with video iChat, usage would skyrocket.
When both participants in a normal phone call are using iPhone 4 devices, a FaceTime button appears on the Phone app’s control screen (replacing the Hold button found there normally). The feature currently works only over Wi-Fi connections; Apple says that cellular connections are an option for the future (which translates to, “We’re waiting for providers to catch up and offer enough bandwidth to maintain call quality”). As with a video chat in iChat, you see the other person in the full screen (either in portrait or landscape orientation), with a small preview of yourself in the corner, captured by the iPhone’s front-facing camera.
Tapping a button lets you switch to the backside camera, so you can send whatever is happening on the other side of the camera. The video about the feature that Apple created makes generous use of families recording babies for grandparents and traveling parents – instead of trying to get your toddler to sit still in front of a laptop, you can switch cameras on the iPhone and point the phone at whatever cute thing the kid is currently doing.