The newest iPhone operating system will bring multitasking, application folders, online gaming and a revolutionary new advertising platform to the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad this summer.
4.0 was announced by Apple today at it’s Cupertino campus to a selection of journalists and while the new operating system will be available to the general public in the summer, developers will have access to it today.
Among 100 other new features, multitasking was the most anticipated in the tech industry. Apple CEO Steve Jobs said:”Now we weren’t the first to this party, but we’re gonna be the best. Just like cut and paste” as the feature was announced.
Multitasking will allow users to run several applications at once, so the popular music streaming service Pandora can be used alongside the Internet browser, or while a sat-nav application is in use. Pressing the home button twice reveals a dock showing which applications are currently active, from here users can tap which app they want to view while the others run in the background.
Video: shamelessly borrowed from Gizmodo:
Steve assured us that multitasking will not reduce battery life or cause the iPad or iPhone to run slowly and, when questioned, he confirmed that there will be no task manager and the user should “shouldn’t ever have to think about” what apps are running. No indication on how the devices will manage themselves with many applications open, but Apple sound confident that it’ll work.
The UI has been tweaked to firstly allow different wallpapers – just like on the iPad – but, more importantly, applications can now be arranged into ‘folders’. By dragging an application icon onto another, a folder is created containing both apps. So one folder – so a single icon – can be used for all of your games. This makes browsing much easier and now an iPhone or iPad can store more than 2,000 applications over its 9 pages, a dramatic increase from the original 180.
Today also saw the announcement of Game Centre and I believe that this will be an absolute game changer. Game Centre is, in layman’s terms, an Xbox Live-style gaming system for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It’s a social gaming network, where users can invite friends to games over the Internet, post high scores to leader boards and unlock achievements. This has the potential to be huge. Imagine playing Real Racing on your iPad against against 7 other players all over the world, to all enter a lobby and chat with each other between races. I’m really looking forward to this.
iBooks will be available in iPhone 4.0, so users will have access to the iBooks store just like iPad owners. This is nice and very expected, not much else to say here.
4.0 brings a few enhancements to the Mail application. You can now have a unified inbox, meaning emails from all accounts come into the same inbox.
Finally, Steve introduced a revolutionary advertisement system; iAd. Developers are currently putting adverts into their applications, but tapping these adverts often takes you out of the app and into the browser, which isn’t much fun. iAd allows developers to install adverts which are emotive and much more interactive. We were shown a couple of examples, one being an advert for the film Toy Story 3 – there’s a surprise, Steve is the largest individual shareholder in Disney.
Anyway, tapping the advert opened a miniature application on top of the app that’s already running. This mini app showed videos and information, even games and downloadable content. A neat feature was the ability to see on a map where the nearest cinema showing Toy Story 3 is; remember, the original app, this advert and the maps app can all be open at once, thanks to multitasking.
While iAd looks great and is without question better than most adverts, I’m not sold on the idea. I don’t want adverts on my iPhone or iPad and I certainly don’t want them interrupting me while I’m playing a game. What’s more, when asked about an approval process for adverts, like there is for applications, Steve answered: “Um… well there’s going to be some process… but these people are paying to run ads. So, I’m not sure it’ll be anything other than a light touch.” This doesn’t sound too great to me, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see these adverts for real.
One feature that wasn’t mentioned directly but was shown on a graphic was the inclusion of bluetooth keyboard support for iPhone and iPod touch. I bet we’ll see a ton of 3rd party manufactures producing small, pocketable bluetooth keyboards for iPhone, probably also with a dock connection, which would be cool.
So there we have it, iPhone OS 4.0. Multitasking was begged for and has been delivered in a comprehensive package; Game Centre will be huge, I’m really looking forward to this.
4.0 will be available in the summer on the iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 3rd generation. Users of the original iPhone and iPhone 3G can upgrade, but will not be able to use some features, such as multitasking. We will almost certainly see a new iPhone in June to coincide with the release of 4.0.
The update will be available to iPad users in the autumn.