WWDC flashback 2009: iPhone 3GS, iPhone OS 3, Snow Leopard, better MacBook batteries

As we head towards WWDC 2016 we're looking back at the last few years of Apple's World Wide Developer Conference and the impact each has made. Today, we're all about WWDC 2009. Starting off on June 8, 2009, with Apple's annual keynote, we got new MacBook batteries, iPhone OS 3.0, Snow Leopard, and the iPhone 3GS.

iPhone OS 3

Apple had already released a beta version of iPhone OS 3 — the name that predated iOS — for developers in March, adding a new Software Development Kit (SDK), more than 1,000 Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and 100 new consumer-facing features. But WWDC in June marked Apple's official public introduction, and the announcement that it would be released the following week.

Key improvements included support for In-App Purchases, peer-to-peer connections, an app interface for accessories, access to the iPod music library, a new Maps API and the first implementation of push notifications.

iPhone 3GS

Accompanying iPhone OS 3 was a new iPhone to run it on — the iPhone 3GS. "The S simply stands for speed," explained Apple VP Phil Schiller when he introduced it.

While it looked the same as previous iPhone models, the iPhone 3GS was very different under the skin: Faster silicon for twice-as-fast processing performance, improved storage (up to 32 GB), a much faster cellular radio and other features, like an oleophobic coating on the screen to resist fingerprints, a digital compass and more. The iPhone 3GS was also the first iPhone to support video recording.

OS X Snow Leopard

Apple also took the wraps off of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard at WWDC. The software wouldn't ship until later that year, but it was an important step forward for OS X, reworking much of the operating system and its core applications to run in 64-bit mode. Improved performance and reliability were key attributes of Snow Leopard, along with a new version of Safari (version 4) with dramatically improved JavaScript performance and better plug-in crash resistance. Mail, Address Book, and iCal gained support for MS Exchange Server 2007, making the Mac a better corporate citizen, all this at a staggeringly low price compared to previous releases: $29.

New MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro also got an overhaul at WWDC. LED-backlit displays, glass Multi-Touch trackpads, illuminated keyboards, Firewire 800 and Nvidia graphics came standard across the line. The 13-inch and 15-inch models both gained SD card slots while the 17-inch sported an ExpressCard slot. The 13 and 15-inch models also gained new battery technology initially introduced with the 17-inch model earlier that year that netted up to 40 percent longer battery life. What's more, Apple dropped the price as much as $300 to make them more affordable than before.


Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the event's primary keynote showman for years, had already taken a medical leave of absence that started in January of that year. We'd learn eventually that Jobs had a liver transplant. That left WWDC in the capable hands of senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller and the rest of the team. They did Jobs proud.

iPhone 3GS was a smash success, iPhone OS 3 an important next step, and OS X Snow Leopard a long time coming but a welcome arrival. The new MacBook Pros, though, continued what had started with the MacBook Air and showed where Apple was going with all laptops in the future. The days of the computing appliance had begun.

What did you think of WWDC 2009? Share your memories in the comments below!

Peter Cohen