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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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By Inkjammer on 3/11/2010 12:02:20 PM , Rating: 3
Hasn't Apple been saying from the start they can't/didn't do multitasking on the iPhone because of battery life, and battery life alone?

My 3GS' battery barely lasts a day as it is. I can't imagine how much worse this would make it.

RE: Uhm
By FlyBri on 3/11/2010 12:24:24 PM , Rating: 5
You know what, here's a solution -- just have another charged battery ready to...oh wait, that's right, you can't remove the battery in an iPhone. I respect Apple's software development, ease of use, and design cues, but most of their products really are form over function.

RE: Uhm
By Pirks on 3/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: Uhm
By axias41 on 3/11/2010 3:06:37 PM , Rating: 2
It's incredible that such a stupid thing like a battery extender became a better feature that the possibility of change battery.

RE: Uhm
By Pirks on 3/11/10, Rating: -1
RE: Uhm
By Keeir on 3/11/2010 8:19:23 PM , Rating: 2

How are they significant different?

Extra Battery - Remember to Carry. Remember to Charge. Works with only one Device

Battery Extender - Remember to Carry. Remember to Charge. Might (but not likely) work with multiple devices.

That whole issue is overblown

Apple charges around ~80 for a Battery Change... which would be required less than once every 2 years (typical product cycle). Last I checked, if your battery died (less than 50% left) in under one year, they replaced the battery for free.

If your really concerned, you can extend the coverage upto 2 years, for ~70 dollars at time of purchase... and of course get extra coverage not just battery.

I don't like the Apple Battery being non-user replacable in the Iphone either, but I think Apple's Battery policy is industry leading in cell phones. Sony Ericsson and Nokia both will not replace your battery regardless of condition in my experience....

RE: Uhm
By axias41 on 3/12/2010 4:08:52 AM , Rating: 2
My backup battery is much smaller than a battery extender. And I have a phone recharger that can recharge my phone and backup battery at the same time.

RE: Uhm
By Pirks on 3/12/10, Rating: 0
RE: Uhm
By xti on 3/15/2010 10:04:30 AM , Rating: 2
and im sorry, but phones that arent iPhones just look so out of place now-a-days in US culture. maybe you dont care about the "IT" factor, but in the mainstreat its a big deal, like it or hate it, that's just the way it is nowadays.

Style/status is a feature, just like email. Die hard internet people will refuse to ever admit it.

RE: Uhm
By PrinceGaz on 3/11/2010 12:27:49 PM , Rating: 3
Multitasking shouldn't affect battery life much provided those apps you run in the background use minimal CPU power.

Hopefully with OS 4.0 you'll be able to choose which apps close completely when exited, and which continue to run in the background. Personallyme I would be happy to have things like Music, Videos, and Safari close when exited, whilst having some others like Skype remain in the background.

RE: Uhm
By Inkjammer on 3/11/2010 12:31:15 PM , Rating: 4
It shouldn't, but background tasks like IM notifications have a significant impact on the iPhone as it is right now.

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