New iPhone Software Could be Boon to Comics Readers, Gamers

Apple's iPhone will hit stores shelves on June 29, 2007. Courtesy of Apple

Here at Newsarama, we’ve discussed at length the iPhone and its competition, and what they might mean for comics in the near future. Last week, the details of the upcoming iPhone 3.0 software upgrade were released, and along with many new features, one in particular has implications for both comics and games.

The iPhone 3.0 software will be a free upgrade to current iPhone users, and will be on all new phones this summer. There are a ton of features added that owners of the phone that there is seemingly an app for everything have been asking for. From copy/paste to landscape typing in emails to picture messages (MMS), people have a lot to look forward to. Apple also announced new game partnerships and some high profile ones coming to the phone, including an all new version of the best selling PC series of all time, The Sims.

One new feature in particular, however, has the possibility to change the way the iPhone works for gamers and comic book readers. Starting this summer, you will be able to purchase new items within applications. That may not seem an explosive announcement at first, but it has huge possible ramifications.

Right now, most of the comics you find on the app store are done as individual apps. You buy that app, you can read that comic on your iPhone, usually a panel at a time. If you liked it and want the next issue, you go back into the app store and buy the next one as a separate app. The new process will allow for a new scenario. Now, an individual comic company or a larger central distributor could make an application just called “IDW Comics,” for instance, and within this one application, you could buy individual issues of any IDW book, download free previews, subscribe to specific books or even the whole line. This eliminates a couple of steps, reduces clutter in you App list, and could even allow for what everyone’s been waiting for: a single app that acts as an iTunes style store for comics.

The limitation of the relatively small screen still exists, which requires publishers to uniquely scan/separate/distribute their comics to be viewed in an intuitive manner. However, having an app in place for the eventual (inevitable?) large screen iPod or Apple netbook could help skip a step and have publishers poised to leap into the age of technologically delivered and viewed comics as a norm.

For games, this delivery format allows for things like extra levels, new items in games (look for that with the upcoming Sims, as you’ll surely be able to make microtransactions for new furniture, clothing, etc. until you’re in the poorhouse), and other such upgrades.

The new software will also support third-party hardware accessories that can be used to give additional functionality to individual applications. This is something that’s become common on handheld gaming devices like the Nintendo DS. The DS, for example, has a guitar-grip controller that plugs into it to allow for on-the-go Guitar Heroics, and the upcoming Tony Hawk release for the system will support an accelerometer attachment so gamers can control via motion rather than focusing on the touch screen or button presses. Hardware attachments like joysticks, external buttons, or even mirrors to bring the camera to the face of the iPhone could be added to allow for new functionality in games, and really make the iPhone a viable competitor to systems like the DS and PSP.

Now, the only thing that’s officially announced right now is the upgrade to the iPhone software itself. The rest of the things mentioned here are speculative applications for the new functionality. Things like price (Newsarama note: Click to vote in our digital comic price poll) and format are still up in the air. Pricing itself is getting more muddled, as the iTunes store is now introducing variable pricing for music, no longer providing the gold standard of $.99 per song. This upgrade is putting a lot more of the technologies in place to accurately provide what users have clamored for, however, and it will be interesting to watch how publishers in both these fields respond.


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