iPhone gets its multitasking mojo with OS 4.0

8 Apr

Apple has just taken the covers off the new OS for the iPhone and we have fallen in love with the fruity smartphone all over again. But before we get into the gory details, bear with me spending some time at the altar for some Godphone worship.

It never ceases to amaze me how one device can evolve so quickly and retain its relevance when competition is throwing higher specs and bigger displays at comparatively cheaper price points. Apple’s secret sauce has been to refresh the OS rather than the hardware regularly. And in my mind, that’s really how it should be – give the consumer more bang for his buck, so what if it comes in instalments. With every major OS update, iPhone users have found themselves a new device without buying another phone. Yes, Apple would still want you to change your phone once a year (or once in two years for the non-techie sorts). And the new iPhone OS 4.0 illustrates that fact in all its glory.

Ever since the iPhone was launched naysayers have been quick to point out its deficiencies – no 3G, no text forwarding, no MMS, no video recording, no copy/paste…the list is endless. And with every OS update Apple has addressed most of them. Yes, it should have been there in the first place and Apple has no qualms admitting that they haven’t been the first to introduce those features. But what really matters in the end is how these features are implemented and to be honest, Apple has, most often than not, come up with innovative ways to tackle them. Think of it, when was the last time you were tempted to edit your video on your phone?

So here’s what OS 4.0 offers:

1.       Multitasking

2.       Folders

3.       Enhanced email handling

4.       iBooks

5.       Homescreen wallpapers

6.       Social networked gaming

7.       iAds

8.       Other miscellaneous stuff

Multitasking: iPhone OS 4.0 tackles, among other things, one of the basic features that one expects to have in a smartphone – the ability to multitask. Yup, the inability to run multiple apps and juggle from one to the other led me to use my iPhone as an app machine and shift my loyalty to Android. With iPhone OS 4.0, Apple has made me fall in love with the iPhone all over again. Now to multitask, simply press the home button twice and a dock pops up on the lower part of the display that shows what apps are running. You know what to do next, don’t you?

So was Apple just buying time when it said multitasking on the iPhone was not possible due to battery constraints? Not really. You see, this ain’t multitasking like other platforms, where all open apps keep consuming the phone’s resources even when you just want to simply stay alive and do nothing while you shower your attention on other stuff. Instead, Apple now offers developers the option to selectively choose functions that they want their app to do while it is running in the background – Pandora to keep playing music while you browse a website, for instance. Or developers can choose to simply save the state of their app and resume it from where it was left when the user returns to it. Not true multitasking, but I’d call it a smarter way to multitask.

Folders: Another neat trick, which has been around on Symbian. You can now create folders on the homescreen and place apps in them. What’s unique though  is  how you do that – press the screen till the app placeholders start shaking and start piling apps that you want in one folder on top of each other. That’s it! You have made yourself a new folder! Worth the wait, I believe, rather than having the long winded way one can do the same thing in Symbian (or for that matter any other platform).

Enhanced email handling: With the new OS, multiple email inboxes get unified under a single inbox. Plus you can configure multiple Exchange mail accounts. That’s not it, you can even open attachments using third party apps – opening a document file using Docs2Go rather than the iPhone’s file viewer. We are not sure whether you can save those attachments as well (hopefully, you should be).

iBooks: Yup, the iPhone becomes an e-book reader too. The same bookstore as the iPad, you will be able to purchase books on either device, have the same bookmarks…

Homescreen wallpapers: You won’t have to jailbreak your iPhone to be able to have wallpapers on the homescreen.

Social networked games: Basically invite other players to play games, meet people in your area online and play with them… No integration with Facebook or any other popular social media, yet.

iAds: You guessed it, Apple’s mobile advertising network. Apple claims that it will have more interesting, interactive ads that will eventually get more clicks and make more money. Clicking on an ad won’t take a user outside the app but would open a video, animation, web page etc within the app. Developers will get 60 per cent of the revenue generated. Apple will host and manage ads, for which it will keep the remaining 40 per cent.

Other miscellaneous stuff: Bluetooth keyboards are coming. You will be able to gift apps to other people. Developers will get access to more than 1,500 new APIs.

So when can you get it? If you are a developer, you can get it right away, Users will have to wait for some more time. However, there is a caveat. Users of iPhone 3G and iPod touch second generation won’t get all the features, most importantly multitasking. So if you are an iPhone 3G user, get rid of your phone ASAP and pick up an iPhone 3GS now!

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