Apple Introduces the Next iPhone -- But Have They Split the Platform?

Apple iPhone 3G S Mailer

Apple has begun their direct email campaign for the iPhone 3G S saying:

Phone 3G S features a remarkable new video camera and hands-free Voice Control. It's a revolutionary phone, a great widescreen iPod, and a breakthrough Internet device in one. And it opens up a whole new world of applications. All that and more makes it the best iPhone yet.

It's that second to last sentence that drew our attention. New world of applications? What does that mean for the old world? More after the break...

Up until now, pretty much every application released for the iPhone worked on all models of the iPhone, 2G and 3G. Sure, 3G had GPS where 2G did not, but thanks to CoreLocation, apps could fall back on cell tower triangulation or Wi-Fi router mapping to get by.

Things are a bit trickier when we include iPod touch, as both generations also lack GPS (but have Wi-Fi router mapping at least) and a built in microphone (though a headset mic will get you by), the first gen lacks Bluetooth (3.0 will unlock the previously hidden Bluetooth in the second gen), and the second gen adds Nike+.

iPhone 3G S also adds Nike+, to the aforementioned video recording and voice control, along with faster processors, accessibility options like VoiceOver, faster processors, and the digital compass.

Video will still downgrade to still camera, voice control to physical screen taps, and the digital compass to accelerometer and CoreLocation voodoo, and the faster processor to, well, slower processing. But the question becomes, when will the differences be enough?

So far we haven't seen developers or users have to worry too much about app compatibility between devices, but at some point that will change more significantly. For example, if some developers -- especially game developers -- start targeting the faster processors to get better quality games, will that encourage users to upgrade to the latest hardware or just p!$$ them off?

It'll happen eventually. One year Apple will release a future iPhone that's so different from the original iPhone 2G that -- like with the Mac today -- we'll see "only compatible with..." start to appear even on iPhone OS firmware. Heck, Apple already says iPhone 2G and iPhone 3G hardware are different enough that they're not devoting resources to putting MMS or A2DP Stereo Bluetooth on the original iPhone.

Is iPhone 3G S one more step down the platform splitting path?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 21 comments. Add yours.

JBaby_9783 says:

That's a tech issue in general not just the iPhone. You can't innovate if you are always having to look behind. At some point people are going to have to poop or get the pot. I know that's harsh but that's just the way it is. Change is inevitable.

sting7k says:

I expect this year many developers will try to squeeze more out of the iPhone 3Gs. But I am very hopeful they will not forget us iPhone 3G owners during their development as there are millions more iPhone 3G units in the wild as potential buyers.
Has anyone confirmed just how much faster the processor is and how much more RAM there is? The thought of just buying one on ebay and not using my upgrade until next year is slowly creeping into my head.

JBaby_9783 says:

sting7k, that's an excellent idea.

Jellotime91 says:

Well it's bound to happen. And I'm sure the 4.0 firmware won't support the first gen iPhone.
By then everyone who bought one will have already ended their contract.

lordzod01 says:

@sting7k
I'm with you on that one, it's a good idea, if things start to leave us behind. I bet developers will take several months to step beyond 3G, so it wont leave long anyway till the 2010 release.

lordzod01 says:

@Adam
Another good point....

OmariJames says:

I said something like this when they released the 3G S. That the new phone it self is a reason to upgrade because apps will begin to take advantage of the new features and processor.
I could imagine apps saying " suggested to be used on iPhone 3G S ".
Eventually the 2G and 3G will be phased out based on processor limitations since the processor in Both are the same. But I guess all the 3G owners feel like 2G owners when the 3G was released. ^_^
When is the iPhone version of the site going back up ? This thing always deletes more words and typing is laggy --- frustrating.

iDavey says:

The main thing I've read about there being the major problem with is the difference between Open GL ES 1.1/2.0 on the device since they're not compatible in any way. So that would cause a splintering in apps beween the two devices
As an earlier poster said, there are still nore 2G/3G users...so processor woes wouldn't be too much of a big deal. It's more so the Open GL problems.
It seems more and more that Apple is just trying to make ways for people to spend more money...

iDavey says:

Oh...and I bet within the month, they'll have a very similar voice control and video editing available through jailbreak

ForbiddenB says:

Guess its time for most iphone user who can't afford to upgrade to move over to the Android platform? Since it predictable that the future appstore will have most application meant for 3GS rather than 2G/3G since the processing and rendering is faster in 3GS, and will only result in lag-ness in the 2G/3G.

thekevinmonster says:

If they didn't do it already, it's coming, and that's just how things work.
I would say that apps using the new OpenGL features are probably going to be the 'split'. Fart apps probably won't be affected unless they produce a 3D rendering of the gas cloud, or allow you to overlay a 3D fart on a live video image from the camera.
:)

thekevinmonster says:

Wow, the censoring makes my comment look like it's about naughty things! it was just about flatulence simulators.

Big Willie says:

We won't see a drastic change in app compatibility between iPhones until next year. What someone mentioned about OS 4.0 is exactly right. This OS will be such a departure from the remainder of the platform that only then will developers have an INCENTIVE to release apps that exclude older builds. Right now the market saturation of 3G iPhones is too dominant. Profit-wise, many developers won't want to make the gamble to release it for a newer platform unless and until that device using said platform is prevalent enough to yield a considerable profit. Besides, if the processor in the 3GS was that much more powerful the 3G, it definitely would have warranted a new design to set it a part from older processor. The appeal of looks and appearance mentally create at least a "difference" in people's minds to where it alerts them to something new and possibly more advanced internally. The fact that the design is the same speaks volumes, at least in perception.
However, obviously some developers will release applications that utilize the video recorder, for instance. Someone may make an app that further enhances, crops or processes video in some way, maybe even adding subtitles - that is, if Apple will allow it and open that part of the code up to developers.

jstrickland says:

Another factor that might encourage developers to continue making Apps that are still compatible with the 3G is the fact that Apple is still actively selling that line of phones. There would be a lot of angry customers if they bought new phones just to realize Apps were no longer being developed for them.

ldc_mobile says:

This is where it will start to get tricky for Apple. Maybe the folks who read TiPB will always try to upgrade to the latest and greatest, but many folks will stick with their iPhone for 3 or 4 years.

Stuartino says:

There is already a problem, I have a 2G phone and there are a number of apps will only work on 3G phones. I bought 2 apps which won't install on 2G. When I re-read the app store details it did say at the bottom, that it was 3G only. it wasn't easy to spot. So I guess the consumer will just have to watch out for this happening more often.

iDutch says:

Right now on 3.0 in app store, you can hit more on the bottom tabs, so you can edit/arrange which tabs you want to show, so when thins get really crowded (phone-wise), they could add a tab that only shows 2G/3G/x apps. I don't know if it's ok to compare, but like some people still use really old pc/mac models, there will always be people on a old(er) iPhone then the current model.

frog says:

Simple I think. Some future apps will be OS 4.0 compatible only, iPhone 3G/2G won't get that firmware update. The 3Gs and a future iPhone will.

ForbiddenB says:

iPhone success because of it pro-gaming platform, but with the new catch up of iPhone 3GS, it unlikely for iPhone 3G to keep up to the new graphic engine in 3GS, thus iPhone 3G will be very likely to become obsolete to games available by big game company such as Gameloft, EA Games...

Benne says:

No, Gameloft and EA would be rather stupid if they won't release their games for both platforms. They can't afford just publishing it on 3Gs.