Print 77 comment(s) - last by corduroygt.. on Apr 12 at 1:02 PM

Third-party multitasking finally makes an appearance on the iPhone

It's been just over a year since Apple last held an event touting the latest and greatest version of its iPhone OS. In March 2009, the big features that Apple brought to the table with iPhone OS 3.0 included copy/paste, push notifications, and push notifications (to make up for the lack of third-party multitasking).

Today, Apple is back at it again with iPhone OS 4.0. As has been widely speculated for the quite some time now, Apple is finally enabling third-party multitasking on the iPhone OS (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad). As the rumors suggested, double tapping the home button now brings up a “multitasking dock” which shows up to four programs running at once (here's a video of multitasking in action). The user then selects the application they want and "boom", you're there. As you would expect, the current application state is saved as you're double tapping in and out of apps.

For a demo, Apple's Scott Forstall showed off an app that has probably been the poster child for the multitasking movement on the iPhone: Pandora. Previously, if you wanted to listen to streaming music in Pandora while performing another task, it wasn't possible (without jailbreaking). The new multitasking APIs of iPhone OS 4.0 now make what seems like a no-brainer feature possible. As an added bonus, Pandora can now be controlled from the lock screen.

Multitasking also now integrates with background audio and VoIP. As a result, users can now receive Skype calls without running the program in the foreground and "exiting" the program will still allow you to receive calls. A locked iPhone can also receive Skype calls.

IPhone OS 4.0 will bring 100 new features for the end-user along with 1,500 new APIs for developers. Some of the more mundane features include iBooks, in-app SMS, home screen wallpapers (as seen on the iPad), Bluetooth keyboard support (another iPad donation), and “tap to focus” for video.

Another feature that has been asked for is a Folder feature for iPhone OS 4.0. This allows you to group similarly-themed apps together instead of having to sprawl across pages and pages of apps. You can name the folders whatever you want, and place them anywhere including on the dock. 

Moving on, another rumor that has been confirmed is a universal inbox for the Mail app. Mail from multiple accounts (Gmail, Yahoo!, Exchange, etc.) can now be viewed in a single unified inbox. Other new features of the Mail app include multiple Exchange accounts, fast inbox switching, threaded messages, and the ability to open attachments with their respective apps. 

Apple is also looking to court more business users with better data protection, mobile device management, Exchange Server 2010 support, and SSL VPN support.

For the gamers out there, Apple is really trying to bring gaming and social networking together. The new social gaming network, Game Center, is taking a page from Microsoft's book (re: Xbox 360) with friend invites, matchmaking, achievements, and leaderboards.

In another move that's new for Apple, the company is introducing iAd which allows developers to quickly and efficiently delivers ads to users through apps. Apple will host and sells the ads -- it will also take a 40 percent cut of the revenue in return. The ads are completely interactive and use HTML5 -- Apple is really pushing for the industry to move past Adobe Flash. Apple's purchase of Quattro Wireless now makes sense.

IPhone and iPod touch users will get the update this Summer, however, there are a few caveats. IPhone 3GS and 3G iPod touch users will get the full update. IPhone 3G owners and 2G iPod touch users will get a reduced feature set (no multitasking) due to lower hardware specifications. First generation iPhone and iPod touch users are just SOL. IPad users will have to wait until the Fall for the update.

Other items of note today include that fact that has sold an additional 150,000 iPads since launch day bringing the total number sold to 450,000. In addition, 600,000 iBooks have been downloaded and over 3.5 million iPad apps (3,500 iPad-specific apps are currently available in the iTunes App Store) have been downloaded since launch day.

Steve Jobs likes to talk numbers, and he continued adding that 50 million iPhones have been sold to date, while 35 million iPod touches have been sold.

With iPhone OS 4.0, Apple is looking to maintain its lead over Microsoft, Google, and Palm in the smartphone OS arena, while at the same time nip at the heels of RIM. Considering that Microsoft chose to go with Apple's "old" approach to copy/paste and push notifications (instead of true multitasking) with Windows Phone 7, it should be interesting to see what Microsoft's response will be now that Apple has charted a new course.

With iPhone OS 4.0, Android, and webOS now supporting these two basic features that a lot of mobile users today simply take for granted, Microsoft might have to rethink its strategy going forward.

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RE: Great Scott!
By Brandon Hill on 4/8/2010 2:30:50 PM , Rating: 2
I understand their decision though. The 3G has 128MB of RAM. The 3GS has 256MB. Multitasking would probably be craptastic on the 3G.

RE: Great Scott!
By 67STANG on 4/8/2010 2:42:50 PM , Rating: 4
Strange... I have friends with jail-broken 3G phones and they multi-task just fine... This is forced obsolescence. Period.

RE: Great Scott!
By Brandon Hill on 4/8/10, Rating: 0
RE: Great Scott!
By ksherman on 4/8/2010 2:55:09 PM , Rating: 2
No kidding, look at the Android product lineup.

RE: Great Scott!
By JediJeb on 4/8/2010 2:54:46 PM , Rating: 2
As long as they are in service, or else unlock them all once they stop putting out updates so other people can. If you aren't going to support something anymore it should become open source. Just like Ford doesn't make parts any longer for a Model T, but other companies do to fill the niche market that still exists.

RE: Great Scott!
By omnicronx on 4/8/2010 3:49:45 PM , Rating: 1
What are you smoking.. Name me one phone that has EVER been supported for 3 years of updates (let alone made opensource after support had ended).

You are bying a proprietary closed source product, get that through your head. If you want openess, buy an Android Phone, but don't make it out as though you did not know what you were getting into buying a closed source product.

RE: Great Scott!
By soloman02 on 4/8/2010 8:06:37 PM , Rating: 3
What are you smoking.. Name me one phone that has EVER been supported for 3 years of updates (let alone made opensource after support had ended). You are bying a proprietary closed source product, get that through your head. If you want openess, buy an Android Phone, but don't make it out as though you did not know what you were getting into buying a closed source product.

RIM still supports their phones for at least 3 years. The 8800 was released in February 2007. The latest OS was made available on February 21 2010. Three years of OS support.

RE: Great Scott!
By 67STANG on 4/8/2010 3:04:33 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know... maybe for as long as they wanted me to continue making purchases from iTunes and their app store?

Do they actually think I'm going to buy a newer product from them when I see how they treat customers with products that they feel are outdated? Sorry.

I'll be selling my deactivated iPhone on eBay to pay off the remainder of my AT&T contract. I guess the bright side is that I won't have many dropped calls anymore.

RE: Great Scott!
By corduroygt on 4/12/2010 1:02:08 PM , Rating: 2
You will be able to install 4.0 on your phone and use all of its features except for the multitasking feature. Your phone is not obsolete, it actually has more features than when you bought it, so why are you complaining?

RE: Great Scott!
By aharris on 4/8/2010 5:51:05 PM , Rating: 3
My jailbroken 3G with Backgrounder (the aforementioned multitasking app) 'mostly' works. It's by no means the same level of multitasking that Apple sounds like they want to implement, and the memory usage is absolutely a key factor in why Pandora is the only app I really use for multitasking.

...though even Pandora crashes frequently due to a lack of memory when I'm running it in the background. I hate forced obsolescence just as much as the rest of us, but it's a necessary evil in the tech industry.

RE: Great Scott!
By rocky12345 on 4/8/2010 11:58:16 PM , Rating: 2
maybe people expect support because those 2 year old iphone 3g models are still under contract for another year if the customer got a 3 year contract. Also you can still buy the 3g as a new phone so I don't know if I just bought one I sure would be pissed if the next day the support stopped. If this is the case all phone companies need to stop selling them pretty much now & toss them out...

RE: Great Scott!
By PrinceGaz on 4/8/2010 2:55:13 PM , Rating: 4
Agreed, but I must admit I was not at all surprised the much-rumored third-party multi-tasking support in iPhone OS 4.x would be limited to those devices with 256MB of memory, simply to avoid potential problems with apps crashing due to insufficient memory on those with 128MB (like my iTouch 2nd gen).

People who jailbreak know the potential problems multi-tasking may cause especially on 128MB models, whereas normal Apple customers just expect everything to work, and everything is likely not to work if they start multi-tasking anything heavy-duty on 128MB devices unaware of just how limited on memory it is to start with.

Apple made the right call here with iPhone OS 4.x and 128MB devices. Those of us with those devices who want to multi-task and are aware of the pitfalls can always fall back on talented guys in the community to help us out.

RE: Great Scott!
By HrilL on 4/8/2010 4:46:23 PM , Rating: 2
Makes sense to not include it even if it would work fine. Most of our 2 year contracts are up or will be by the time the 4th gen is release. I bet At&t also suggested to Apple that they should not include it for the older phones.

Though I think this is complete hog wash. Jailbreaking is the only way to go. Apple always does things like this. They add software features that can run on older devices but won't let them because they want more sales of their new hardware.

RE: Great Scott!
By aharris on 4/8/2010 6:01:19 PM , Rating: 1
Or because the new features would run like crap on old hardware? Aero limitations for computers without dedicated GPUs, anyone?

There's a reason you don't see those^ running Windows 7, although I saw a few try to run XP and it wasn't pretty.

RE: Great Scott!
By genzai on 4/8/2010 7:48:02 PM , Rating: 3
Well actually i have a 3G and i use jailbreak back-grounding and yes, it does work and i thank god for it but...

My phone creeps to a crawl very often, so i have been waiting very anxiously for an updated hardware set as is supposed to come with the next iPhone. 3GS is also a LOT faster when i have used it compared to my phone but now with the next version around the corner i will skip the S.

Also of note is that some of the apps i run most in the background tend to be larger memory users, like skype, ooTunes, etc. Not only does this cause the phone to run frustratingly slow, but once it runs out of memory it just closes an app for you without any notice.

In any case, while i have enjoyed having slow multitasking than none at all, i can understand why it wont be a sanctioned feature on pre 3GS hardware cause it runs pretty crappy.

RE: Great Scott!
By ksherman on 4/8/2010 2:59:08 PM , Rating: 2
I have an iPhone 3G, which already runs INCREDIBLY slow, and as I was watching the new features roll in, I'm pretty sure my phone curled up in the corner and cried.

Now, new hardware!!! Even the screenshots from the presentation showed the current screen resolution and everything looked very very cramped.

I was also hoping for some innovative "Home" screen widgets, like agenda feeds from the Calendar, email previews, call logs or something similar. Would also have been nice to see shortcuts to oft-used-but-buried settings (Bluetooth, I'm looking at you...).

RE: Great Scott!
By omnicronx on 4/8/2010 3:42:44 PM , Rating: 2
CPU is also a deal breaker too, the Cortex A8 found in the 3GS is much faster than the 3G. If RAM was the only issue, there is no reason they could not have implemented multitasking, they could have just limited the multiple apps to two, not four.. My guess is half the RAM, and almost half the CPU speed makes the 3G less than ideal for multitasking.

As for those saying multitasking works fine on their Jailbroken 3G, its not even close to seamless, expect Apples solution to be, or very very close.

RE: Great Scott!
By T2k on 4/9/2010 2:08:03 AM , Rating: 2

it's the CPU, not (only) the amount of RAM - though several Android or WinMo phone does multitasking just fine with less than 256MB and it's really a typical lame crap from Apple if iPOS needs at least 256MB memory, ROFL...

...but 3GS is *significantly* (~50%) faster than 3G when it comes to CPU - and in ARM world that's a LOT, trust me.

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