Apple is updating its software for iPhones so that users can cut, copy and paste text - a basic computing feature that was missing from the gadget that seems to do everything.
At an iPhone event for journalists Tuesday at Apple headquarters, the company also pledged to broaden the way that third-party software programmers can build and sell content for the device.
Among other things, software developers now will be able to create applications that have items for sale within them, such as electronic books or additional levels of a video game. And developers will be able to access the music within users' iPhone libraries, so songs they own can be included in games, for example.
Despite the adulation over the iPhone, which shook up the smart phone market after launching in 2007, many users wondered why it couldn't cut and paste text. Scott Forstall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, said it was "not obvious" how to overcome several hurdles, including getting cut and paste to work with the device's touch-screen interface.
Now, Apple said, the third generation of iPhone software, due to be released this summer, will let users copy information from notes and web pages, and let people move text between different applications. Users who erroneously paste text can shake the iPhone to get an option to cut it.
The new software will be available in a free download for iPhones. Getting the software on the iPod Touch will cost $9.95 in the US.
In another effort to make the device more useful, Apple promises a search function called "Spotlight" that lets people hunt for information in multiple applications at once, including notes, the calendar and iTunes.
Other twists in the new iPhone software include the shake-to-shuffle-songs capability first introduced on the latest iPod Nano; a voice memo application; and a function that will let the iPhone work with Bluetooth headphones and speakers - a boon to people who want more options for playing the music stored on their iPhones. Apple is adding the ability to send multimedia messages like photos and audio clips, too.
Overall, the new software will include more than 100 new features, Apple said. Some functions will not work on all devices, though - the multimedia messaging feature, for example, will be available only on the second-generation iPhones that were released last year.
Mike McGuire, an analyst with Gartner Inc. said the new software features "were neat to see."
"I think we're all relieved to see cut, paste and copy," said McGuire, who also called the ability to search across multiple applications "very cool."
Apple is still working on a way to let people funnel wireless internet access to a computer by connecting it to an iPhone. Some rival smart phones, such as several BlackBerry devices made by Research In Motion, already allow such "tethering," though it usually costs consumers extra, on top of their regular monthly cell phone bills. Forstall did not offer a release date for that feature.
One highly-requested feature has still not found its way onto the device - the ability to view Flash content.
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