iPhone 3G, New SDK Features

Sometime in March, my Razr was on its last legs and I wasn't held down to any contract, so I started my search for a phone that would let me install software on it. The iPhone was the closest thing to it--the Palm and Blackberry options didn't appeal to my programming tastes and I was intrigued by the touch interface. Knowing the SDK was coming out, I took the plunge and bought it. However, it appears I bought my iPhone prematurely.

Although I wouldn't call myself a Mac zealot, I watched the live keynote updates on macrumorslive.com just like everyone else. Most of what was revealed was expected. There were three pieces I was most interested in: an addition to the SDK that was an attempt at pleasing those who wanted background processes, a way of adding applications to the iPhone without having to use the App Store or have an enterprise SDK license, and the addition of a GPS chip.

The push notification service, as they call it, is pretty neat. It does take care of a good 75% of use cases for background processes on a mobile device--but not all. Say you wanted to create a service that sent severe weather updates to a user's phone based on their location. If you assume the user is stationary, the push notification service will work.

However, if they're mobile, they could be driving 70 MPH into a dangerous situation and there's nothing you can do to warn them (although the large line of dark clouds will probably tip them off). Apple missed the boat in not doing an information pull at the same time as they do the information push. There's not a whole lot of other data that would change over time while the user is not utilizing their phone--and I'm sure there are other uses for live user location data. Maybe they'll work on that after September.

The ability to add your own applications to the iPhone (and 99 of your closest friends) without having to go through the App Store or shell out for the enterprise license is awesome. I figured that they would at least allow personal applications to be put on the iPhone, but the ability to send them to friends, family, co-workers, or whatever is great news. I guess others expected this, but I found it to be a nice surprise.

Then there's the addition of a true GPS receiver. Being an amateur radio operator (K0WMS), it was at this point that an idea slapped me in the face so hard that I have to try and get to work. Now that the iPhone has a GPS, you can write custom software for it, and there will be an easier to use headphone jack--it seems that it would make for the perfect APRS unit. Just connect the iPhone's headphone jack to the packet radio adapter on your trusty VX-7R using the sound card to generate both the data stream and PTT signal and you're set.

As strange as it sounds, this might be the killer feature that will push me over the edge (no pun intended) to upgrade, rather than the better internet data speeds afforded by 3G. I will say that I have found EDGE to be an annoyingly slow service. If AT&T is reasonable about upgrading to the iPhone 3G, I may have to consider it. I hate you, Steve Jobs.

This post was originally posted on Log Burning, a personal blog I had on the University of Minnesota's now defunct UThink platform. Its content and formatting have been edited.