Image Source: gdgt iPhone OS 4.0 will allow far greater multitasking abilities for the iPhone, give us folders for better app organization, a universal Inbox, the iBooks app and bookstore, and a whole lot more. One of my first thoughts in watching the liveblog was that Apple did a heck of a job at ticking […]
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The iPhone OS 4.0 Preview – Some Quick Thoughts

iPhone OS 4 launch Summer 2010

Image Source: gdgt

iPhone OS 4.0 will allow far greater multitasking abilities for the iPhone, give us folders for better app organization, a universal Inbox, the iBooks app and bookstore, and a whole lot more.

One of my first thoughts in watching the liveblog was that Apple did a heck of a job at ticking off some very big wish list items today.  I’m still feeling that way after following the whole thing and having a little while this afternoon to ponder on it.  More quick thoughts after the break

Crazy Big iPhone Numbers

iPhone US Mobile Browser Usage share

We always get a healthy dose of these at iPhone-related events – and today’s were plenty impressive:

Over 185,000 apps in the App Store now

Do people still love using the iPhone?

If we take a look at market share, one way to look at that is share of use. iPhone has a 64% mobile browser user share.

Do people still love buying the iPhone?

How many iPhones have we sold to date? Over 50 million. If you add iPod touches into that, it ‘s over 85 million. If you ‘re a software developer, that is a plum market to go after.

And one from the Pandora speaker:

and we add almost 30k new listeners a day on the iPhone


I think it’s fair to say this was the star of today’s show, and rightly so.  It has been a long time coming.  Getting copy&paste in OS 3.0 was very nice, but getting much better multitasking capabilities has been top of my wish list, and many others’, for a long while.

Steve Jobs certainly talked the talk on this subject:

We weren ‘t the first to this party, but we ‘re going to be the best. Like cut and paste ” it ‘s better than any other implementation. It ‘s really easy to implement it in a way that really drains battery life. And, it ‘s really easy to implement it in a way that reduces the performance of the foreground app and makes your phone feel sluggish. ‘

If you don ‘t do it right, your phone will feel sluggish and your battery life will go down. We ‘ve figured out how to avoid those things, and that ‘s what took us a little longer, and I think we ‘ve nailed it. We ‘ve got a great UI for it, I think you ‘ll like it.

If the new OS is as good as he bills it, then I’ll be a very happy camper, as will tons of others.  And I have to say, their implementation of copy&paste is elegant and effective.

The demo shots showing switching between running apps were hard to judge much on, but they looked a little ugly to me – when compared to jailbreak app switchers I’ve used at least.

iPhone multitasking demo

The method shown for browsing and switching between running apps was said to be invoked via a double-tap of the home button.  I hope – but doubt – that there may be other options for this invocation method.  I’d love to see at least one screen gesture be allowed, again as we have with several jailbreak apps.  I much prefer a double-tap or hold on the status bar, or a swipe down from the top of the screen, to a constant beating on the home button.

In their liveblog coverage of the event, gdgt commented on the multitasking demo:

He ‘s moving back and forth between apps fairly quickly, but we ‘re not seeing how this is actually multitasking though ” what Steve is showing right now is just app switching.

I would think if there are several apps running concurrently – and especially 3rd party apps – that’s going to be a good enough rendition of multitasking for most (though of course not all) people’s needs and wants.

As we’ve talked about before here on several occasions, rapid and easy app switching was always right there as an essential part of any good extension to multitasking for the iPhone.

The list of examples of multitasking in action had some big hitters on it:

  • background audio streaming for apps like Pandora
  • Skype in the background – able to receive a call while in the background and popup an alert
  • background location – for apps like TomTom

Apple iPhone OS 4.0 preview event

Two other bits of good news on multitasking:

Background task completion

The next is task completion. One is like Flickr: sometimes photos can take a while to upload. With task completion, Flickr can continue to upload those photos in the background when you browse away

The OS remembers the state of apps (another one we’ve talked about being a key part of all this):

All of the state is stored and preserved instantly, the app no longer uses resources

And they reckon they’ve pulled all this off while preserving battery life.  If all of this is true, and it is elegantly executed like copy&paste, this is such a huge win for the iPhone OS.  Even if it’s close to as they say, it’s a big win.

Here’s an interesting answer from the Q&A after the presentations finished:

Q: How do you close apps?

Scott: You don ‘t even have to worry about closing apps.




Better ways to organize apps and home screens was right there at Number 2 on my iPhone OS wish list.  Folders is a step in that direction.  It’s a major one, and a long overdue one – though I’m not sure how well it will work and how much more is needed.  I’m keen to play around with this though – anything to get past the idea of 11 home screens.

Here’s some of what Apple had to say about folders:

Drag and drop apps onto one another to create folders ” the name auto-populates but you can edit it.

Folders can live in the dock, too.  An incredibly great drag and drop UI with intelligent naming. You used to be able to see 180 apps in your phone over those 11 pages. If you replaced every one of those with a folder, it ‘s over 2,000!

Enhanced Email

Universal Inbox and support for more than one Exchange account are two more big items that got ticked off in this area. 

The Rest

iBooks will be coming to the iPhone with OS 4.0.  Cool I guess – I haven’t played with it much on the iPad yet, but it looks nice.

There was a quick mention of some more goodies for enterprise – mostly added security features it looked like.

Very cool to see D-Wade smack in the middle of all this iPhone stuff


I know some people are not happy seeing Apple talk about the iAd mobile advertising stuff. I’m not too fussed about this for now.  I figure mobile is becoming a big battleground for ad dollars, so somebody going to be throwing ads us no matter which way it goes, Apple may as well be one of the somebodies – as long a they don’t go killing off all the other ad networks.

The Q&A revealed that multitasking will not be implemented on older iPhone / Touch models:

We are releasing it to end users this summer, and that ‘s for the iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 3rd gen. They will run pretty much everything.  For iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2nd gen, they will run many things, but not everything ” they will not support multitasking, the hardware just can ‘t do it.

Oh, and for anyone who was wondering on two old subjects – a couple more Q&A answers:

Q: Any change in Apple position on Flash and Java?

Steve: No.

I asked whether Apple will enable unsigned applications like Android and Palm OS.

Steve: There ‘s a porn store for Android you can download it, your kids can download it. That ‘s a place we don ‘t want to go, so we ‘re not going to.

Overall, I think it’s tough to feel disappointed by anything we heard today – unless you were hoping for Steve to say he is now jailbreaking his own iPhone and would be rolling out Cydia soon. 🙂 The toughest part now – as always with Apple it seems – is waiting to get our hands on the new OS.

What do you all think?  Happy with what we heard?  Disappointed?  If so, what were the big misses for you?

Source – for quotes and images – the excellent liveblog coverage from Ryan Block and his gdgt site

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