Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 3.0 software preview this afternoon didn’t introduce any bold, revolutionary new features. (And Apple didn’t show off any new gadgets today. But no one expected any.) Instead, Apple showed off a lot of little improvements that will make the iPhone significantly better this summer — and the mobile race significantly harder for its rivals.
The most important: Some 1,000 new hooks into the iPhone for third-party hardware and software developers. This will allow companies to make iPhone accessories that can tap into the phone’s features, apps to more easily include built-in maps, and a real-time “push” notification service so that apps still work while you’re not actively using them. (For example, so you can receive IMs in a messaging app while you’re browsing the Web.)
Apple also fixed a lot of the little things that made the iPhone less useful than other phones: For example, you will now be able to send picture messages, copy and paste text, use your iPhone as a laptop modem, subscribe to calendars, and search your email.
These missing features didn’t stop people from buying more than 30 million iPhones and iPod touches to date. But they gave rivals like RIM (RIMM) and Palm (PALM) steam. With today’s new features, the iPhone still convincingly has the best, most powerful mobile software, which is increasingly important. (Also important: It’s a free upgrade for all iPhone users, coming this summer.)
Why does this matter? Since Apple blindsided the mobile industry two years ago when the iPhone was first introduced, competitors have started to catch up. There’s no denial that Palm’s Web OS and Google’s Android are much stronger rivals to the iPhone than the first wave of competitors like Palm OS and Windows Mobile. Apple will still need to make some bolder upgrades, such as video recording and faster processing. And it will have to continue improving its iPhone hardware.
But that’s the kind of stuff we expect the company to show off at its WWDC conference this summer. In the meantime, some encouraging — if not earth-shattering — progress on the software front.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.