You won’t have to buy a new iPhone to get a new iPhone.
Millions of current iPhone owners can download the phone’s free 2.0 software Friday that will let them use Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, as well as access Apple’s new App Store, which "opened" Thursday, and could ultimately offer thousands of programs.
The App Store, available through Apple's iTunes Store, has more than 500 programs in tow, about 20 percent of them available for free. Many more programs are coming in the weeks and months ahead.
“I don’t believe we’ll be seeing a real ramp-up in applications until this fall,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies market analysts, which also does technology consulting.
Apple says there have been more than 250,000 downloads of its development kit that allows software creators to make programs for the iPhone. It’s not known yet how many games, business, productivity, finance, health and education programs will come to fruition.
“Some developers have had the iPhone software development kit for a little over four months,” since March, when Apple unveiled its “software road map” for the iPhone, Bajarin said.
“But, to be really fair, the majority of software developers probably didn’t get aggressive until after the Mac developers’ conference last month, where Apple had teaching sessions on how to write software for the iPhone.”
Among the top free "apps," or applications listed Thursday morning: Remote, a program that lets you control the music on your computer or Apple TV device from the iPhone or an iPod Touch; or iPhone; MySpace Mobile; TypePad, which lets iPhone users blog and share pictures.
Also expect to see some programs in the days and weeks ahead that may fill iin the gaps in areas of iPhone usability where Apple has not.
For example, the iPhone does not offer voice dialing. But a European company called Makayama does. It makes voice-dialing software for various phones, including the first-generation iPhone.
The difference is, to use its $24.95 VoiceDial for iPhone program on a pre-2.0 iPhone, you have to “jailbreak,” or unlock, the phone.
It’s not something for the faint of heart and it can result in voiding your iPhone’s warranty. But until now, jailbreaking the iPhone has been a way that some users have gotten third-party programs onto their iPhones.
However, there will an Apple-approved version of VoiceDial for iPhone 2.0 that can be purchased through the new App Store, at the same cost. As of Thursday, it was not posted.
Makayama also makes other programs for iPhone 2.0 that will be sold through the App Store, including PhotoDial ($14.99), which lets you tap on a friend’s photo to dial their number, and Camera Pro ($19.95), which improves the functions of the iPhone’s 2-megapixel camera by including a self-timer and 20x digital zoom, among other features.
It’s these kinds of programs that will make the iPhone even more of a “general-purpose, mobile computing platform” than it already is, said Avi Greengart, Current Analysis’ research director for mobile devices.
No Flash — yet
2.0 does not include Adobe Flash, a program widely used for Web video and animation. With Web browsing being one of the iPhone’s most used and praised features, Flash would be an enhancement. But the program’s current slower performance on mobile devices has been an issue for Apple.
Still, an Adobe spokesman said this week that the company is “committed to bringing Flash Player to the iPhone,” although no timeline was given.
“While the development work has begun, we can't share more details at this point,” said Stefan Offermann of Adobe.
“We do need to work with Apple beyond what is available through the SDK … to bring the full capabilities of Flash to the iPhone,” he said. “We think Flash availability on the iPhone benefits the millions of joint Apple and Adobe customers, and we want to work with Apple to bring these capabilities to the device.”
For many current and prospective iPhone users, Apple’s inclusion of Microsoft Exchange, which can synchronize with a workplace computer for e-mail, calendar and contact information, is one of 2.0’s most important programs, and is included in the free 2.0 upgrade. (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)
The use of Exchange is vital to getting more iPhones into the business world, one of Apple’s goals as it takes aim at Research In Motion’s line of BlackBerrys, considered the corporate standard for smartphones.
2.0 will also let users move and delete multiple e-mail messages at once, as well as search for contacts, “usability improvements” that are important, said Greengart of Current Analysis.
“With the original iPhone, you had to delete each e-mail individually; now you’ll be able to select multiple items together and delete them en masse,” he said.
Still lacking from 2.0 is the ability to copy-and-paste items, and something that likely won’t be created by a third-party developer.
“You’d need it to attach to every application, and Apple’s not allowing applications that can run in the background,” Greengart said.
“If you’re creating your own separate e-mail application, like Gmail for iPhone, you can include copy-and-paste within your own program, but you wouldn’t be able to create a copy-and-paste that works on the iPhone notepad, for example.”
Also likely to be in abundance at the App Store are GPS mapping and location programs that will work with the iPhone 3G’s GPS receiver, something the original iPhone does not have. Most of these programs will be for purchase, and some will be subscription-based, as they are for other smartphones, at a cost of around $10 a month.
Two free location programs available Thursday were Urbanspoon and iFob. Urbanspoon, uses GPS to help find nearby restaurants, as well as offers ratings and reviews from bloggers and newspapers. The iFob program is a social networking application that communicates directly with other nearby copies of iFob, "enabling people in coffee shops, airports and at any other public hotspot to exchange taglines and easy-to-edit micro profiles," according to the developer, iCloseBy.com.
America Online made available its free AIM instant messaging program. Last week, Google released a version of Google Talk instant messaging for the iPhone.
Another popular instant messaging program, Meebo, is already available through Apple’s Web apps, or applications, site, where there are more than 1,700 programs available for download. As with the App Store, some are free, some are not.
Many have been added in recent days to coincide with the launch of the 2.0 software and the new iPhone. Among them are games, such as PongMAX, and Keypoint, which lets users create, edit, view and share presentations using the iPhone or iPod Touch. Another program, Blood Sugar, which is free, allows you to track your glucose levels and insulin doses.
Apple is also hoping iPhone users will take to MobileMe, part of the 2.0 software which pushes Web-based e-mail, contacts and calendar information to the iPhone, Macs, PCs and the iPod Touch. Cost of the subscription-based service is $99 a year, and includes 20 gigabytes of online storage. A free, 60-day trial is available.