It appears increasingly likely that the next generation of Apple’s iPhone OS will offer complete multitasking support. This highly-requested feature will allow users of Apple’s smartphones, handhelds and the new iPad to run several third-party applications at the same time.
As it stands now, Apple’s own apps are able to run in the background, but software created by other companies closes when the user switches to another app.
According to new information supposedly slipping out of Apple, iPhone OS 4.0 will not include this limitation. Instead, it will allow users to double-click the Home button to bring up a screen showing icons for currently running applications. Tapping on one of these will bring that app to the fore.
This agrees with several earlier reports, though the latest includes new details.
Coming this Summer?
Apple is expected to introduce iPhone OS 4.0 as well as a new smartphone model to run it late this spring, or early in the summer.
It’s not clear at this point if the current iPhone 3G and iPod touch will get operating system upgrades, but Apple is still releasing system software upgrades for its original smartphone and handheld models that came out in 2007, and this trend seems likely to continue.
However, there is also the possibility that current models might not be able to take advantage of all new features in iPhone OS 4.0. Hardware limitations prevent the original iPhone from supporting some of the features in iPhone OS 3.1, the current version. Unconfirmed indicate reports the next-generation iPhone is going to have a much faster processor, and it’s possible that Apple will decide that only models with this chip will have the power needed for multitasking.
A Welcome Change
The iPhone OS has been technically capable of offering multitasking from its inception, but this feature has been disabled by Apple. Running a half dozen apps simultaneously puts a strain on the smartphone, degrading performance and using up battery life.
It’s not clear at this point why Apple has decided to reverse course and allow support for multitasking in iPhone OS 4.0 — assuming that’s what it is doing, of course. But Apple is surely feeling pressure from competitors like Google’s Android OS, which offers full support for multitasking.