Apple announces iPhone OS 4 with multitasking


Alas. Our prayers have been answered. Apple announced the next iteration of its iPhone OS – version 4 yesterday. And finally, succumbing to criticism around the lack of multitasking, they have added the feature in this version.

First, here is a full list of features in the next version:

  • Multitasking – Run multiple apps simultaneously.
  • App folders – To arrange apps in folders on the home screen.
  • Game Center – An online gaming network like Xbox live.
  • iBooks– The iPad app ported to the iPhone.
  • Custom backgrounds – Yes, you can now have a wallpaper even on the home screen.
  • Unified Mail – See emails from multiple account in one unified Inbox.
  • iAd – Apple’s mobile advertising platform for the iPhone OS.
  • 5x digital zoom
  • Bluetooth keyboard support

That is a neat set of features. According to Apple, their approach to multitasking is way more efficient and smarter than traditional ones. In the iPhone OS, when an app is running in background, it will only be allowed to carry out a few tasks. These tasks, according to Apple, cover all that most background apps need to do. This saves battery life and memory as the app is not running in its full fraternity. The allowed tasks are:

  • Audio
  • VoIP
  • Location
  • Push notifications
  • Local notifications – Apps can notify other apps when then need focus.
  • Task completion – To complete an ongoing task such as upload a bunch of photos.
  • Fast app switching – Something to make switching to any of the running apps really fast.


The new OS will be available to iPhone and iPod Touch users this summer (June-July). Here is the compatibility list:

  • iPhone 3GS & iPod Touch 3rd gen – Full support.
  • iPhone 3G & iPod Touch 2G – Partial support. No multitasking. Yes :(.
  • iPhone 2G & iPod Touch 1G – No support (Time to upgrade!)

Not supporting the original iPhone and the iPod Touch is understandable as they are really very old devices and probably do not have the necessary hardware. However, iPhone 3G is currently being sold by Apple and there might be people who have bought it in the recent past. They are going to be furious over the lack of multitasking. Apple’s stand on this is – ‘the iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2G both have only 128 MB of RAM which is not enough to support multitasking smoothly’. Can’t blame them for ensuring that their customers have a smooth OS, but if this is the case, they should’ve really stopped selling iPhone 3G a few months back.

The iPad will support all the above mentioned features. However, the update won’t be available until Fall 2010 for iPad. This is probably because the iPhone OS is built for the iPhone and then customized for other devices which takes some time.

No word on pricing, but analysts are expecting the same pricing model – free for iPhone and 10$ for iPod Touch for this one as well. The update for iPad should ideally be free as well.

You can watch the event here and get a sneak peak here. Here are some screenshots of the latest OS from TUAW:

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Head on to TUAW for more.

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3 Responses to this post

  1. Bandan says:

    It's a bit wrong to say "iPhone OS 4 now supports multitasking". Even your current version of iPhone OS has multitasking support, kernel threads and apple provided applications(apple music player ?) all compete for CPU time simultaneously. What the new OS will do is add "multitasking like" features for *third party applications*. Mostly it will be in the form of adding ability to run them in the background.

    >>Apple’s stand on this is – ‘the iPhone 3G >>and iPod Touch 2G both have only 128 MB of >>RAM ..

    This is preposterous! 128 MB in an embedded system is more than enough for multitasking. I am sure the reasons were more political than technical.

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