The Good News
Today’s release of the iPhone OS 3.0 has added what is really two new features that will benefit public Wi-Fi users:
- Automated login to any carrier provided Wi-Fi networks (e.g. all of AT&T’s Wi-Fi locations here in the US);
- An integrated mechanism for logging in to other public Wi-Fi networks via a web form.
Obviously, iPod touch users don’t benefit from the carrier network feature (they don’t have a carrier!), but they do get the integrated web form login mechanism.
The Bad News
As with the good news above, there are two bits of bad news here too:
- The integrated mechanism, at least for me, does not remember what I entered, forcing me to retype the information each time. The new autofill button is always unavailable even though I have the feature turned on in the Safari settings.
- When this form fails, or when you tap cancel to skip it, rather than leaving you connected the OS disconnects from the Wi-Fi network. That prevents you from using a third party smart-client like Devicescape’s Easy Wi-Fi.
Given that our apps are unable to serve their purpose in this new version of the OS, we took the difficult decision to remove them from sale in the App Store last night. That’s very disappointing for us as we’ve been ardent supporters of the iPhone platform since the beginning. We had a version of our app for jailbroken phones long before the SDK was ever announced. We even demoed that version to the iPhone management team at Apple to illustrate how important we felt public Wi-Fi access would become for the iPhone and iPod touch devices.
While we are obviously disappointed that our apps have been disabled by this new release, we’re also hopeful that the message about the importance of public Wi-Fi has been understood at Apple. Hotspot login clients are not as simple to write as one might think at first glance, especially not ones that must support thousands of different networks. It has taken us several years to get to the point where we can connect to that many networks, and even now there are still some networks that surprise us with a new trick.
For Devicescape, the fact that we don’t have an opportunity to help our valued users connect to their preferred hotspots effortlessly is frustrating. But, we’re not giving up on the iPhone platform! Far from it in fact. We have been working very hard since we discovered the problem to find out how we can re-enable our apps, and as soon as we can make them valuable again they will come back onto the store. We also have new features in the works, ironically enabled by the 3.0 version of the OS, that will make them even better.
In closing, we’d like to thank our iPhone and iPod touch users for their support to date, and ask you to hang on to your apps while we sort out what we can and cannot do in this new 3.0 world. We have big plans for our applications on all our platforms, and while we’re temporarily out of the App Store, we will be back. We’d also love to hear from you about your experiences with the Wi-Fi in the new OS, either via the comments here on the blog or through our forum.