Apple

Multitasking finally a reality, plus over 100 new features in iPhone OS 4

Iphoneos4_bp Today was an exciting one for iPhone users on the software front, as Apple outdid themselves once again with the introduction of iPhone OS 4, scheduled for availability this summer. We can only wonder at the moment if this date was chosen to coincide with the release of the next-gen iPhone, but all signs seem to point that way. In the meantime, here's a quick overview of what we can expect as the best mobile OS on the planet gets even better.

While multitasking is the most eagerly-awaited feature, it's only the first of seven "tentpoles" that Apple has developed, which also includes app folders, enhanced mail with a unified inbox, iBooks, interactive in-app ads with iAd, enhanced enterprise features, and Game Center. The ability to organize common apps into folders is long overdue and will help with app clutter, plus allow for more icons without the current page restriction. A few other additions are a 5x digital zoom for the camera and Bluetooth keyboard support. Some of the new features, such as multitasking, will only be compatible with the iPhone 3GS and the third-gen iPod touch.

All of those are welcome changes, but that first tentpole is what will take the iPhone to the next gear and cause Apple holdouts to find something else to harp on. Multitasking will be handled by seven unique services, which include background audio, VoIP, background location, as well as push and local notifications, task completion, and finally, fast app switching. For those of us who have resorted to jailbreaking to be able to listen to Pandora while browsing or make a Skype call while typing an email, iPhone OS 4 can't get here soon enough. For developers, the iPhone SDK 4 beta is available now.

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Chris King

Chris King is a former contributing editor at Pocketables.

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23 thoughts on “Multitasking finally a reality, plus over 100 new features in iPhone OS 4

  • In the wise words of the Starcraft Marine;(trailer for starcraft 2) “It’s about damn time.”

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  • Exactly…each OS update seems to make the case for jailbreaking less and less. Now if they could just duplicate the functionality of SBSettings…

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  • We got 1 piece of the puzzle. Now I wanna know what iPhone HD is.

    Someone had discovered 3 new function for the 4.0 OS. This are the files. AVCaptureDevice.hasFlash, AVCaptureDevice.flashMode, and AVCaptureDevice.hasTorch. According to Gizmodo, It might be for the Flash on the camera. iPhone 4G has a camera flash? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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  • Honestly, the jailbroken multitasking is much more powerful than this. The Apple official multitasking model only lets 7 very specific tasks run in the background, and the application has to be updated to use those new services.

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  • Avatar of Joseph G. Mitzen

    So, the iPhone OS is the best mobile OS on the planet, but many of these features are adding things that are already in other OSes or in the “jailbroken” version? :-)

    Joe took the words out of my mouth. I kept hearing about the addition of multitasking, but thanks to this article I’ve just learned that Apple is still controlling the phone rather than the user, dictating exactly what can and can’t be multitasked.

    I don’t know how non-jailbroken users put up with that. It wasn’t quite the tipping point, but I did quit a job after six months when I needed an extra half an inch of screen to view the summary field of some report columns without constantly doing page-up-page-down and IT wouldn’t allow me to set my Windows XP task bar to auto-hide for “security reasons”. :-)

    Will iPhone users finally be able to change their screen color/wallpaper? (Yes, those Droid web ads anti-sold me on the iPhone and took it out of the running in my hunt for my first smartphone.)

    Jethro, I’m more intrigued by the hasTorch function. Maybe it has a built-in cigarette lighter or some rather enhanced “flash mob” functions! :-)

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  • Avatar of Joseph G. Mitzen

    ” interactive in-app ads with iAd”

    What’s this? It’s a feature that the phone can now serve ads? Is this like the embedded advertising some shareware programs include to generate revenue to allow iPhone app developers to add to their programs?

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  • Avatar of DarkPotato

    there isnt the option to close apps that you arent using in the multitasking feature as of right now i think.

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  • Right, I believe it will work the same way that Android does where it’ll close unused programs for you as needed. Of course, most people (like me) using Android probably downloaded a third-party task manager, which kind of defeats the purpose of letting the system take care of things for you.

    I don’t suppose Apple will approve task manager apps…

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  • You can remove them from the background list by tapping and holding on it, then the icon will jiggle with the minus sign.

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  • I’m sure many of the apps will updated to use the new framework, and they’ll probably be ready to go on the OS release day. But I agree, the jailbreak multitask has no restrictions, and with Circuitous and it’s pop-up side dock, it’s very smooth.

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  • I don’t see how Apple can skip the LED flash this time around, unless they’re waiting until they can put a hot shoe on the back of the phone :-)

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  • Avatar of yamete888

    I was wondering, there was no mentioning of OS 4 and older devices like the iphone 2G or the 1st gen ipod touch…so are they just out of luck, or still upgradable to OS 4, but having even more features not available? hmmm….

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  • Iphone 2G, 3G and iPod Touch 2G will be limited to the updates. Multitasking is 1 that will not go to them.

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  • Steve said that if the features like multitasking will make you upgrade, Then that will be terrific. *kaching*

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  • When I say “best mobile OS”, I’m talking about the total package of features, UI, and ease of use for the largest group of users. I guess that could even extend to the fact that the iPhone has proven easy enough to jailbreak and hack so even more apps can take advantage of the unigue hardware.

    One thing in particular is the video out feature of the dock connector, which Apple restricts to it’s video player, but JB apps like TVOut Landscape let you route any app through there. Should come in handy when the Netflix app for iPhone is released, and it already lets me watch the NBA League Pass games and uWatch movies on my TV.

    As for the “hasTorch”, it must be so the iPhone is ready for battle when it finds a Droid ;-)

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  • It’s basically little ads at the bottom that the user can click to get an “app within an app” experience without losing their place in their current working app. There can be small games, video clips, or even a link to the App Store. The current embedded ads close whatever program you’re in, then launch the browser to take you somewhere else…iAd will get rid of that.

    The revenue is shared with the developers, with the devs getting 60% of it.

    As long as they are unobtrusive, I can learn to ignore them…

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  • Yeah, I’m sure a lot of applications will be updated. However, some of this stuff hasn’t been updated in years. Is every developer going to go back and update all of their old applications for this? We’ll see.

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  • Shouldn’t be much longer before it’s available for download…he might be waiting for the 3G model to ship so he can make sure it is compatible with the new radio hardware.

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  • Not really; as the primary reason for jailbreaking is that Apple is a closed platform and environment; and with the disabling of being able to use flash as a development platform among other ways; they’re only going further down that path with this update.

    If I know one thing from experience it’s that Devs dislike being locked in and closed.. prime example is with the PSP; where it’s a pain to create a title for it in comparison to other platforms. (Better results; but more difficult)

    With this new update; any dev that used a flash-based platform or a few of the other cross-compilers are going to be stuck to learning C & rewriting everything; This in turn makes multi-platform apps for both the android/windows market much more difficult… and that’s exactly how Apple wants it. As Steve said; they want developers targeting their platform, not all platforms.

    Seems pretty selfish.. and Adobe’s going to sue soon. We’ll see how it goes, I’ll still never purchase an Apple product so long as they have that mindset. (Except for maybe the Magic Mouse.)

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  • Proper multitasking?

    Seems like it was the perfect time to get a 3Gs then.
    I’m not overly bothered about the lack of flash, I can use my Vaio P for heavy browsing but being able to have a skype call going on whilst checking my mail or other things will be a very useful addition to the device.

    I just wish they had a front camera, I had stuck with my K610i for years until I finally switched and that had one.

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