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iPhone 4.0 to bring multitasking, keyboard support, more

updated 02:30 pm EDT, Thu April 8, 2010

Over 100 new user features

Presenting from an event at its Cupertino headquarters, Apple has formally unveiled iPhone 4.0, the next iteration of firmware for its portable devices. The major emphasis of the code is on multitasking, allowing third-party apps to run simultaneously for the first time. People can double-tap a Home button on their device to bring up a switching interface, similar to the iPhone's homescreen dock. They then scroll through a list to load one of the running apps.

Extensions of multitasking will allow people to interact with background apps, for instance controlling Pandora music streams from the lock screen, or conducting Skype VoIP calls accepted via a pop-up. A background location service will allow people to run GPS and other positioning-based apps while handling other tasks. Similarly, apps can now send local push notifications, rather than just rely on Apple's servers.

The firmware includes over 100 new user-end features in total, such as gift apps, geotagging, playlist creation, a spellchecker, 5x digital zoom and tap-to-focus for video. iPad features carrying over include support for Bluetooth keyboards, and a separate homescreen wallpaper that persists behind icons. Privacy controls have been made more fine-grained, with the ability to disable location data per-app and see what requests have been made in the last 24 hours.

The Mail app has been improved with a unified inbox, fast inbox switching, and message threads. Users can now also connect to multiple Exchange accounts, and open attachments using outside apps. Enterprise enhancements include device management, better data security, wireless app distribution and support for Exchange Server 2010 as well as SSL VPNs.

An important interface change is the ability to create homescreen folders by dragging icons on top of each other. Folders are automatically named to match their shared categories, but manual names can be assigned as well. Apple notes that folders can be moved into the dock, and that as a consequence of the feature, the maximum number of apps has been expanded to 2,160.

A developer preview of the firmware is being made available today, giving programmers access to more than 1,500 new APIs. The actual iPhone and iPod touch firmware is set to release this summer, with some features being limited exclusively to the iPhone 3GS and third-gen Touch, including multitasking. An iPad distribution is due in the fall for reasons unknown.

by MacNN Staff



  1. JimiMac

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Video iChat?

    Can't believe no one asked Jobs if we will EVER get it, or about the space in the iPad frame where front facing camera is obviously missing!

  1. MChieh

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: Video iChat?

    As if they're gonna give the answer you wanna hear anyway.

  1. WiseWeasel

    Joined: Dec 1969



    These are some awesome additions! Examining the services they've added to enable multi-tasking behavior, it seems like it may still be missing one critical service in particular which would allow certain apps to work. There are seven services that are available in iPhone OS 4 to allow multitasking behavior, at least sufficiently to re-create the behavior of Apple's built-in apps. The seven services are:
    1) background audio streaming
    2) VoIP calls more like regular cell phone service
    3) background GPS location updates
    4) push notifications (not new, but there are implementation improvements)
    5) local notifications - "background" processes can send a notification based on scheduled time, or possibly as the result of an event in the location, audio streaming or VoIP service
    6) task completion - a specific task that your application is performing can run until completion, and then stop
    7) fast app switching - save application state rapidly to be able to give the appearance of switching back to your previous state when you launch it again

    So what's glaringly missing is the ability to run a continuous background task, or even a brief scheduled task every time interval. This means that an IM client, for example, couldn't continue running in the background.

    It's unclear if there's a time limit to the 'task completion' service, or if you could make it "complete" your IM session task for extended durations, maybe notifying you when it's about to log out so you can switch back and stay logged in longer. Otherwise, we're stuck with having remote IM sessions run on some 3rd party server, which makes you give your potentially private conversations and IM account information to an additional party. In any case, these are all some welcome improvements, and I can see how they allow you to re-create the multitasking behavior of each of Apple's default apps.

    Oh, and WOOOHOOO! App folders!!!!! 2000 apps max!

  1. carloblackmore

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Notifications and Bookmarks still ugly...

    It's a little surprising that Apple refuses to improve the look of their notification pop-ups. They're kinda bulky and ugly. Same thing for the Bookmarks folders in Safari - they don't even do basic expand/collapse - they just sit there with indentations. Very un-Apple ugly.

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