iPhone OS 4 Offers Multitasking (Finally), iAds, Improved E-mail, and More
Apple introduced the next generation of its popular phone operating system in a press conference at its Cupertino headquarters today. iPhone OS 4.0 will be available this summer and brings major improvements to Apple’s mobile platform, including multitasking, integrated advertising, and improved e-mail functionality.
In his presentation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced seven ‘tent poles,’ or major sets of features that will drastically change how iPhones are used and how apps are developed for the device. Multitasking is finally a reality and enterprise businesses will be able to manage and secure iPhones on their networks. The Mail application will be much more robust and VOIP applications like Skype will be able to run in the background. Jobs also announced that Apple is also expanding commerce with iPhone OS 4.0 by bundling iBooks, a social gaming platform and a mobile advertising platform.
iPhone OS 4.0 will be available for the iPod Touch and iPhone users this summer while iPad owners will have to wait until fall to update to the new operating system. Multitasking and several other features require the iPhone 3GS or third generation iPod Touch. Earlier models don’t have enough horsepower to handle all of the features.
In this his Stevenote, Jobs referred to 7 “tentpoles” or key features of the new OS. These are:
Steve Jobs admitted that his company isn’t the first to the multitasking party, but insists that Apple’s going to offer the best mobile multitasking experience. They will allow developers to access seven core services to allow iPhone multitasking to be fast and power efficient. From within any application, users will be able to access a dock at the bottom of the screen that displays all open applications. They can switch back and forth between applications without relaunching them or losing progress in games or books.
- Background Audio: iPhone users are currently limited to listening to iPod music while using any other application. With iPhone OS 4, users will be able to listen to any iPhone music application while running other applications. The founder of Pandora demonstrated how he could stream music from Pandora while using various applications and even control his music from the iPhone home screen. These controls were previously limited to the iPod app.
- Voice Over IP (VOIP): Users will be able to run VOIP applications like Skype in the background, making them much more useful than they currently are. This means iPhone users will be able to receive calls while running other applications or while the iPhone is locked. During the press conference, a Skype executive demonstrated how he could use the OpenTable app to make dinner reservations while discussing plans for the night with a friend.
- Location: It will now be possible to run applications like TomTom navigation that require GPS without having a map hog the iPhone’s display. Turn by turn directions will be spoken while you’re in other applications so you don’t get lost. Of course, the GPS radio is an energy hog, but Apple says that isn’t too much of an issue since people generally use GPS apps while their iPhones are charging in their cars. Social networking apps such as Loopt will rely on AT&T tower triangulation for periodic location updates.
- Push Notifications: Developers will be able to easily add push notifications to their apps.
- Local Notifications: Applications can be configured to alert users based on content stored locally on the iPhone. For example, a user can choose to allow the TV Guide app to alert them that their favorite show is about to begin.
- Task Notifications: Apps will be able to finish tasks in the background and alert users when they’re done. Users no longer have to wait for Flickr to finish uploading before moving on to another app.
- Fast app switching: Switching between applications on a present-day iPhone can be a chore since you have to restart them every time. With iPhone 4.0, users will be able to pick up right where they left off since applications are allowed to run the background.
If you’re like a lot of iPhone users, your home screens are probably disorganized. For the first time, iPhone users will be able to organize all of their apps into folders. This will allow users to access their favorite applications much more quickly and to install up to 2160 apps if they turn every available icon into a folder. Currently, iPhone users are limited to having ‘only’ 180 apps installed at once.
The new Mail application will definitely please those who use the iPhone for managing both personal and work e-mail. For the first time, the iPhone will have a unified inbox, which means you won’t have to switch between accounts to check for new emails. Users can also view e-mails by thread rather than date. Multiple Exchange accounts are also supported, which is a big plus for those who work in a corporate environment.
It might not be as luxurious to read books on the iPhone’s small screen as it is on an iPad or Kindle, but there are some nice features within iBooks. Like with the iPad, the application has both a bookshelf for viewing and sorting books, as well as an integrated bookstore. iBooks on the iPhone will sync automatically with your other Apple products, including the iPad. This means readers will be able to move from device to device without losing page numbers.
Many large businesses do not allow employees to use iPhones on their networks because of security and management issues. Apple’s addressing this head on by supporting Exchange Server 2010, allowing multiple Exchange accounts and enabling device deployment solutions.
This means data,including e-mail attachments, can be encrypted. Companies will also be able to wirelessly distribute custom applications to their workforce.
6. Game Center
The iPhone is one of the most popular mobile gaming devices, with more than 10 times the titles of its nearest competitor. Game Center is similar to other gaming platforms’ networking component and allows users to play games with their friends or against strangers with similar skills. Game Center will track iPhone gamers’ gaming achievements.
Apple’s new mobile advertising platform offers advertisers the most interactive marketing experience seen on a mobile device thus far and will allow developers to easily monetize free apps. Apple thinks in-app advertising will trump search advertising over the long term, pointing out that iPhone users spend most of their time within apps rather than searching for things they’d like to buy online. Apple claims it will have an inventory of one billion ad impressions per day.
Rather than simply displaying a banner ad, iAd will allow advertisers to present videos, games, download-able content and more. iPhone users will be able to make purchases within these iAds.
Apple will sell iAds directly to advertisers and share 60% of the revenue with developers.