What Mac OS X Snow Leopard Means for the Future of the iPhone

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard for Mac and iPhone?

On Friday, Apple shipped Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, their latest computer operating system (which is jailbreaker safe!), and for the first time focus wasn't on fabulous new consumer-facing features, but on internal re-architecting, the (far too often quoted) refinements and enhancements.

Many of these advancements, as we've discussed before, were leveraged from work done for the iPhone version of OS X. QuickTime X, with its yellow trim bars and built-in sharing are an obvious example.

We've already seen Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard technology like Data Detectors cross-over to the iPhone, but with this newest, arguably greatest version of Mac OS X now on the market, what can we look forward too for the next generation(s) of iPhone OS X?

Better, faster, easier

The iPhone has already nailed the refined part, and no doubt Snow Leopard benefitted from the compression and other space-saving techniques. Likewise, the aforementioned Quicktime X (and we can't help but notice -- and crow a tad about -- some iPhone inspired UI elements to go with it), as well as the touch input of Chinese characters came from the iPhone. What can we get in return?

The more nimble-finder, while we'd LOVE a way to access the iPhone file-system, doesn't yet seem to be in Apple's roadmap. Stacks, however -- a way for a single dock icon to expand a fan or grid of enclosed apps -- have already made an appearance in the Jailbreak community and given the continuing growth of apps yet confined space of the iPhone screen, it seems a logical bit of technology for Apple to move over.

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Stacks

Next generation technologies

It's a bit early for 64-bit requiring RAM sizes on the iPhone (sigh), and iPhone security, with sandboxed apps and all, is fairly strong already. Likewise, Grand Central-style multi-core process packetization and dispatch may be a way off for our ARM internals (though who knows where Apple's new PA Semi system-on-chips will take us, right?). Open CL, however, a technology that allows GPU's to be used for general-computing, CPU-like tasks when they're not painting pixels or flinging polygons, is something we're definitely looking forward to. Not watching a moving or playing a game? Take that PowerVR chip and speed up everything else!


We're not going to keep going on about QuickTime X, since we already have the H.264, hardware acceleration, trimming, the sharing, and the HTTP live streaming on the iPhone, along with voice recording courtesy of Voice Memo. However, the ability to record video not only off the iPhone 3GS camera, but screen recording as well would be appreciated, especially by those of us who cover iPhones and iPhone apps...



Yeah, we got this with the iPhone 3GS back in June as well, and while it isn't the most widely covered of improvements, we applaud Apple for continuing to raise the bar, both for mobiles and for desktops.

Custom labels for poorly or unlabled screen elements would be a welcome update for the iPhone, however.


Exchange support

Okay, we got this first on the iPhone as well. We even have it better, as while the iPhone supports Exchange 2003, the Mac can only make do with Exchange 2007 or the the upcoming 2010. (We're not sure why, but we feel like blaming MAPI for something and this'll do). exchange_apps_macbook_20090824

And more...

We'd also like to see iPhone Spotlight beefed up to search inside apps that are developed to support the feature, and of course to remember recent searches. Also, syncing photos over from iPhoto, including the Faces and Places metadata, would be nifty to include in search criteria (so we see pictures of Steve Jobs if we search for him, for example.)

System-wide text substitutions, where (c) is replaced with © would be great.

iChat, of course, would be nice to see as a Apple-branded IM app!


Unlike Google or Microsoft, Apple using the same core for their desktop and mobile OS, means more band for their development buck, and more features for users. Win. Win. Since we're still installing and getting used to Snow Leopard, we may have missed some more examples what else we just might see in future iPhone OS. If you've come across any others drop us a comment and let us know!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

More Posts



← Previously

Alive 4-ever, TapDefense, Facebook 3.0, Snow Leopard, Brushes 2.0 - TiPb Picks of the Week!

Next up →

Best of Smartphone Experts, 30 August 2009

Reader comments

What Mac OS X Snow Leopard Means for the Future of the iPhone


Here is one they didn't mention. Battery icon tells you if your battery is healthy, average, week, or just downright not functioning as it should. I'm sure just one of the many with typical Apple style under promise, over deliver. Very impressed to say the least.

There is no "iPhone version of OS X" and it pains me to see an iPhone-centric blog make such a massive mistake. iPhone OS is in no way OS X. Yes, they share features like a Quicktime media layer, but they are totally different OSes.

@ Mike, well, when they introduced the iPhone, they did say it was "OS X" (not full blown OS X of course), but something like that.
Never the less, I'd love to see Apple add stacks to the iPhone, just as one or two of the 4 "dock" apps on the iPhone, would be cool if they could expand and show 4-6 more apps.

@Mike... you are right... but remember... both are based on Darwin... and Apple it self usually refers to iPhone OS as Mac OS X for iPhone... From the user interface stand point they are different... iPhone uses Cocoa Touch and Mac OS X uses Aqua... from the Kernel stand point... same... Hybrid... etc, etc, etc.... oh well it's an honest mistake...

@Mike You are actually quite wrong, the core of the iPhone OS is OSX. Its true. It is OSX. The only thing that makes it different from the desktop version is what you see on top: the GUI. That is different, but everything inside (Core animation, cocoa, graphics, security) Everything that OSX has just with a new GUI on top to fit a mobile device.

I hope Apple comes us with a new consistent UI for the next Mac OS X. It's borrowing a lot from the iPhone, whilst keeping the Aqua elements and mixing it up with a few new bits it built exclusively for iLife and iWork.

for the first time focus wasn’t on fabulous new consumer-facing
features, but on internal re-architecting

This is not the first time. Tiger for Intel had the same approach. If you call Tiger for Intel "Snow Tiger" you get the picture. In Tiger for Intel the core OS was upgraded to deal with new hardware (Intel architecture, Rosetta, EFI, the new disk partitioning format) and there were even fewer consumer-facing features, they specifically left the UI almost exactly the same. Boot Camp was not even included, that is a Leopard feature.
Although Tiger for Intel did not get its own version number, whenever Apple talks about Tiger for Intel they show it as a separate release between Tiger PowerPC and Leopard.
Possibly 10.1 could be put in this category, too, which was a free release for 10.0 users that came out only 6 months later.

while we’d LOVE a way to access the iPhone file-system, doesn’t
yet seem to be in Apple’s roadmap.

I have no idea why you would want to see the file system on the iPhone. Even on the Mac you are not seeing most of the file system in the Finder. But if you want a "Finder" for your iPhone, the closest thing I've seen is Air Sharing. You can browse and view the files you store within Air Sharing itself in a very Mac-like manner, and you can mount Air Sharing's file store as a WebDAV disk on your Mac so you can put files on or take them off. You can also access other servers through Air Sharing, such as an iDisk, and the file viewer is better than in the iDisk app. It really feels like turning your iPhone into a little Mac file server.

I wonder what Mac OS 11's gonna be like. I think it'll be only 3-5 years till 11. Right after 10.8 lion. 11's would be great with 128 bit OLED screen, stunning graphics at huge resolution.... Ahhhh....
Who knows? The world could blow up tmrw.

iphone is os x...simply put...it is its own version of os x and shares everything...like core animation, core audio, to cocoa and multitasking (native apps only of course), but none-the-less...it is the "mobile" version of Mac OS X

I can't wait for an Apple branded iChat app. Video chats over wifi would be awesome on the iPhone. I'm really hoping that the delay for this app is because they want to intigrate it with video calling over 3G. Now that would be a great app!

CheapCaribbean — I recently booked a trip with CC at a "4.5 star" newly opened all inclusive property. After reading numerous very bad reviews about the property AND after they removed this property from their website I called to ask for a refund. My travel date is still a month out, they refused to refund my money, tried to upsell me to an equivalent property for an additional $1000 and were extremely rude. This was my first and LAST time to ever use Cheap Caribbean.