UPDATE (June 7, 2010): Apple has renamed its mobile operating system. What was previously iPhone OS 4.0 is now iOS 4.0.
iOS 4.0 was unveiled to the world in April by Steve Jobs, with a launch expected sometime in June. Immediately after the announcement of this new version, it was released to registered iPhone developers to begin testing their applications ahead of the launch.
I have been using iOS 4.0 on my iPhone 3GS on a daily basis now, and I am pleased at what it has to offer. Here is a glimpse at the new features you can expect.
Note: As this review is based on a beta version, some features may be added / removed before iOS 4.0 is released.
At the unveiling of iOS 4.0, Steve Jobs said, “[Apple] wasn’t the first to this party [multi-tasking], but we’re going to be the best.” It took Apple quite a length of time to include this feature — 2 or 3 years depending on how you look at it — and the company tried a Push Notification service to cover over previous versions of this operating system not having the ability to keep more than one third-party app active at once. Even though Push Notifications are good for some things, Apple’s new multi-tasking feature is much, much better.
When you hit the Home button twice, the current page you are looking at shifts upward, and up from the bottom rises icons for four applications that are already running. From here you can just tap one of those applications and be taken to it, while the apps you were just using will remain in the state you left them.
There is a nice transitioning effect when you switch between applications which has given the whole user interface a more streamlined feeling.
To close apps, you bring up the multi-tasking dock and then tap and hold an icon for a few seconds, which will give all the currently-running applications a red circle and a minus sign. Tap on the one you want to close, or you can swipe to the left or right to quit all applications.
Let’s look at an example: say you are using the Skype application to make a phone call. What happens if you get a text message while still on a Skype call? Before, you would have to close the Skype application, go to the messaging app, read the message, leave the app, return to the Skype app, and start the phone call again. Now, Skype can simply be running in the background while you respond to a text message, check baseball scores, or even while taking a picture. This feature really allows you to get more done at once, and is extremely easy to use.
Say the music streaming application Pandora is being used to play songs in the background. Let’s say you leave your iPhone in your pocket for a few minutes, and a new song starts playing and you want to skip to the next song. You can double tap the home button from the clock screen, and change the song like you would with the standard iPod controls.
Developers will need to build their applications to work with the multi-tasking system and the other new built-in iPhone controls Apple is adding.
The pop-up windows also gives you the ability to lock the screen orientation. As of now it will only let you lock the screen in portrait mode. This software feature seems to be the answer to the iPad’s physical lock screen orientation switch.
Keep in mind, though, that this will not be “true” multi-tasking, in which all apps continue to run in the background. If it was, all the apps would use way too many resources and eventually will bog down the phone. Apple’s multi-tasking method is a little different. The applications is essentially paused, and only some special service tasks will be truly running in the background.
According to Apple, these services are: Background audio, Voice over IP, Background location, Push notifications, Local notifications, Task completion, and Fast app switching.
Although iOS 4.0 doesn’t offer true multi-tasking, it’s pretty effective, I must say.
The email application in this operating system hasn’t really been touched since the first iPhone’s introduction back in 2007. This is about to change. The upcoming version features a unified inbox, which means that all your messages from your various email accounts will be displayed on the same screen.
This is a great feature for anyone that has multiple email accounts, and they want to see all their new messages at once, rather than going into each account looking for new mail, which can take quite a bit of extra time for someone that emails frequently.
Other new features in the email app include support for multiple Microsoft Exchange accounts, threaded messages, resizing photos embedded in emails, and the ability to have contact pictures in emails if you are sending/receiving an email from a contact in your phone.
These features are not ground-breaking in any way; they are just nice little improvements to make the iPhone faster and easier to use.