iPhone users are eagerly awaiting a flood of new accessories for current and future models of popular Apple phone, coming thanks to a sweeping set of upgrades for the iPhone’s operating system.
Meanwhile, there’s a whole shadow industry of hardware hackers who can’t wait to get their hands dirty with the iPhone’s new capabilities.
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) recently unveiled a beta release of its latest iPhone software development kit (SDK) that enables greater connectivity to accessory devices and other hardware. New push notification services, along with improvements to the App Store that let iPhone users purchase content and services within applications, grabbed most of the headlines at the iPhone 3.0 SDK launch event.
But the changes in hardware options were also significant. With the SDK, Apple is letting developers create applications that can communicate with accessories wirelessly via Bluetooth or via the 30-pin dock connector on the device.
Damien Stolarz is one hacker looking forward to the changes. He’s the chief technology officer and partner at Perceptive Development, an engineering consulting company that’s worked to get around the iPhone’s current limitations. He’s also a co-author of the book “iPhone Hacks: Pushing the iPhone and iPod Touch Beyond Their Limits,” due out later next month.
But “Hacks” is a misnomer if you think the term means something illegal. Stolarz said everything in the book, and the work his company does, conforms to Apple’s guidelines and doesn’t risk breaking the warranty.
The book’s instructions include tips like how to connect an external keyboard to the iPhone, record full-motion video, remotely access your home network to control a desktop computer, and print to a fax machine when, for example, you need to print something while at a hotel.
Stolarz claims there’s plenty in the book of which less-technical iPhone users can take ready advantage. “If you can download an application from the App Store, you’ll find something useful in the book,” he said.
As for the changes coming with the 3.0 release, Stolarz says he’s overjoyed because Perceptive has plenty of clients working on iPhone accessories. “No one with a legitimate business wants to go to market without Apple’s blessing,” he told InternetNews.com. “We have a running start with some of the stuff we’ve been able to do already.”
For example, Perceptive was able to use the iPhone’s microphone port like a modem to connect an external keyboard. “You get the modem screech, but it connects and works rock-solid,” he said.
Stolarz won’t give too many specifics about what he’s working on for clients, but said the 3.0 release enables a wide range of accessories via Bluetooth and the dock connector. “The iPhone could do a great job as being the user interface for all sorts of measurement devices,” he said.
In fact, at the 3.0 release event, several medical device companies showed monitoring devices hooked to an iPhone.
There are lots of opportunities in home automation, which is generally pretty boring but I think will be a lot more exciting and sexier on the iPhone,” Stolarz said.
“Plug in your power meter and you get a Prius-like display of all your home energy use and maybe something that tells you which lights are on or off. There’s also potential for integrating with home security systems and cars.”