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Multitasking in Symbian OS 5.0 (on the S60)  (Source: Maximum PC)

Both the Palm Pre (shown here) and the Symbian OS 5.0 (above) support full multi-tasking. The iPhone does not. That offers some gaming and security benefits for the iPhone, but prevents some useful apps. Full multi-tasking is rumored to be coming with iPhone OS 4.0 this summer.  (Source: TechSource)
Might Apple be cooking up a counter to its competitors by at last bring multi-tasking to its smartphone?

If it can't sue its rival smartphone makers out of existence, it appears that Apple plans to at least catch up to them.

According to 
AppleInsider, Apple will finally be bringing a "full-on solution" to multi-tasking with iPhone OS 4.0 which is set to debut this summer.  Presumably that means that third-party apps will finally be allowed to run in the background on the phone.  The sources were scant on details about how it would remedy performance, battery life, and security issues, but they did say that the multi-tasking would use an interface similar to that in the Mac versions of OS X.

Apple's iPhone is among the best-selling smartphones and is second in market volume only to the incredible successful Blackberries from Research in Motion.  Apple's massive developer community and gigantic collection of apps make a phone that would otherwise be seen as just beneath top hardware offerings seem like the top of the pack.

However, Apple has slipped behind the bleeding edge of the competition, even as its app offerings have flourished.  Its competitors -- Palm, Symbian, Research in Motion, and Google (makers of Android OS) – all support multi-tasking in their smartphone operating systems.  Apple's OS X distribution on the iPhone artificially prevents third-party application backgrounding (multi-tasking), only allowing push notifications as of iPhone OS 3.0.

There have been a few major exceptions.  Currently, the iPhone's phone, SMS, email, iPod, voice recorder, Nike+ apps and a handful of others can run in the background.  This means, for example, that you can use apps and play music at the same time (but only using Apple's built in music player).

Apple has previously stated that backgrounding apps represents a security risk.  The iPhone's OS kills apps when you accept calls or return to the home screen, rather than sending them to the background.  That makes it harder for spyware, adware, or viruses to run on the phone without the user's knowledge.

The security comes at a cost though -- third-party apps that are available at all times (run in the background) like instant messaging, location-aware apps, internet radio, etc. are not able to be supported unless you "jailbreak" your iPhone, running software to hack the OS and remove Apple's restrictions.

One of the big problems is that multi-tasking could hurt gaming on the iPhone if resource management isn't implemented perfectly.  Currently the iPhone rivals the PSP Go and Nintendo DSi as a mobile gaming platform.  Its smartphone rivals though have been unable to muster much gaming success -- titles tend to be limited by either inefficient multi-tasking and/or by requiring the apps to be run by abstraction layers, such as Adobe Flash/Flash Lite, Microsoft Silverlight, or Sun Java/Android Dalvik runtimes.

Despite these shortcomings, many iPhone users have demanded multi-tasking.  Multi-tasking was rumored to be coming both in iPhone OS 2.0 and iPhone OS 3.0, but never came in full form.  Thus its reasonable to be wary about whether iPhone OS 4.0 will truly bring multi-tasking to the table at last.

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My idea for multi-tasking on iPhone
By ksherman on 3/11/2010 11:51:44 AM , Rating: 2
What about using the bar at the bottom as a dock more like the one in OS X? with a higher resolution display, which HAS to be coming to the iPhone, you could easily fit 5-6 applications down there.

Instead of it being only for your most-used applications, it could be for running apps.

Make the first home page for those most-used apps (especially with that first page being quickly accessed by tapping the home button already).

Close an app? Hold it down, the apps wiggle and you hit the x to close it (open applications have a red 'x' instead of a black one, so you don't think you're deleting the app).

BAM. Multitasking. I should be an 'analyst'

RE: My idea for multi-tasking on iPhone
By Pirks on 3/11/10, Rating: -1
By ksherman on 3/11/2010 12:03:25 PM , Rating: 2
Use that to assign a program to run in the background. Say you open Pandora, choose a station, three-finger-swipe to return to the home screen while it runs in the background.

Alternatively, since many people that have been using an iPhone going on two-three years, three-finger-swipe is what actually closes the app if you have it open. Just hitting the home button leaves the app running... Either one could work.

There should also likely be a cap at 5-6 running applications, though I could see it really being limited to 3 (who needs THAT many apps running all the time anyway?!)

RE: My idea for multi-tasking on iPhone
By PrinceGaz on 3/11/2010 12:19:32 PM , Rating: 2
Why not make apps running in the background switchable to with a swipe along the bottom of the screen instead, leaving the current layout unchanged but allowing a quick switch to another running app.

By a swipe along the bottom, I mean in the same way a swipe along the top already opens SBSettings in a drop-down window (presumably they would use a rise-up window showing running apps).

btw I know SBSettings is not official, but it is a good example of an interface Apple should adopt for its official Settings app.

By ksherman on 3/11/2010 12:28:52 PM , Rating: 2
I'd never heard of SBSettings... If you start having to swipe in particular regions for things, it makes the device more complicated to use for the average bloke.

However, maybe this is Apple's way of using the bezel area for some touch-based features. Might mean that the current iPhone models would not support multi-tasking, which makes sense to me. My iPhone 3G is already soooo slow I could imagine running Pandora in the background while trying to send a text message or sending an email... Ugh.

By psenechal on 3/11/2010 12:38:01 PM , Rating: 1
Make sure you patent that and then sue Apple when they implement it ;)

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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