Make sure to check out the Seadragon photo viewer for iPhone that just came out this weekend. Extremely cool stuff, and perfectly suited for multi-touch. The only thing it’s missing is rotation, which isn’t critical, but would be cool. Here’s the iTunes link.
I’ve previously written about how great Google Earth for iPhone is. However, not every mapping technology is well suited for this format. Streetview for iPhone, for example, is missing the mark, which may be why it’s kind of buried in the UI — someone was evidently having second thoughts about putting it out there as a first class feature.
The problem: apart from driving directions and mere curiosity, I’m not yet finding much value in looking at a place as if I’m on the street while I’m actually on the street. It’s not exactly augmented reality when I’m getting a lesser experience overall. However, this is not easy to get right, even on the desktop, and I give them a lot of credit for just getting the basics to work right. I’m interested to see where they take it down the road, so to speak.
All of the most interesting iPhone apps, the ones that really leverage the GPS, for example, are still sadly on the horizon, waiting for Apple to allow either background tasks to wake up or to allow "push" updates for 3rd party apps. Calendar uses the push approach already and works very well. For some reason, I can only get my exchange email to pull updates when I press the button, which makes the iPhone only half useful for the purpose I intended. (it’s probably an internal IT issue — possibly solved if I used an outside exchage relay, which I’m not inclined to do — let me know if you know a safer workaround…).
My guess as to why Apple has delayed the promised "push" feature is simply scalability. A thousand different apps simulating background tasking with timely push updates (i.e., just to wake up) is arguably worse than allowing true background tasking, as it burns both CPU and modem cycles instead of just CPU (unless the true background tasks are polling the network, which is probably what Apple and AT&T are most concerned about — think P2P…)
Apple seems to want "push" to come from only their servers, which adds an incredible burden on them as well. I’m guessing the idea is that they can better control the number and timing (and, I’d expect, the relative importance) of push updates with this limitation. But the cost, I’m also guessing, is very high for them, hence the delay.
If it were me, I’d just allow background tasks on the CPU directly and make apps accountable for how much battery & bandwidth they use. If the app store is a true ecosystem, then consumers will balance those things against utility for any given app, and the best will rise to the top. At least they should. People don’t always do what we want, now do they?