Now users just need the right hardware to go with it...
A form of multitasking is finally on the cards for iPhone users - courtesy of the next iPhone OS update, due this summer.
The update was announced yesterday in the US by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
During the developer preview of iPhone 4.0, Jobs said there will be 100 new features included in the update - including enterprise-friendly additions and other tweaks such as Bluetooth keyboards, spell check, folders for apps on the homescreen, customisable homescreen wallpapers as well as multitasking.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs giving developers a sneak preview of iPhone OS 4.0
(Photo credit: James Martin/CNET)
The upcoming implementation of multitasking allows iPhone users to switch between apps by double-clicking the home button to bring up a screen displaying all the apps currently running.
Apple's version of multitasking is not true multiprocessing but instead provides dedicated APIs for a series of "big services" to run in the background - VoIP for apps such as Skype; audio streaming for apps such as Pandora; background location for the likes of TomTom or apps with location-based elements; along with push and local notification, task completion and fast app switching - to enable apps to hibernate.
However second-generation iPhone and iPod Touch owners will have to continue to do without simultaneous app action as Apple said not all updates in iPhone OS 4.0 will work on existing hardware. New Apple hardware is due around June - in the form of a third-generation iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch.
New features for enterprise users were also introduced in iPhone 4.0. Among them improved data protection with email encryption; mobile device management; and the ability for companies to push custom apps out to iPhone users over the air, rather than via iTunes sync - the forced union with iTunes being a common gripe for businesses contemplating using Apple's smartphones.
There's also support for Exchange server 2010 and multiple Exchange accounts, along with SSL VPN support from Juniper and Cisco. Another addition is a unified inbox coming in an updated mail app, which includes the ability to organise mails by thread.
According to Apple, 80 per cent of Fortune 100 companies are now using iPhones.
Forrester principal analyst Charles Golvin noted in his blog: "Apple has addressed [multitasking] using their typical 'we did this the right way and provided the best experience for our customers' approach. The interface is typically elegant; other improvements such as a richer mail application, a drag and drop solution for managing applications, and many improvements for enterprises will be welcomed with enthusiasm."
Apple also announced a new mobile ad platform will be included in the OS update - called iAd - which looks set to put Google's nose even further out of joint as the tech heavyweights battle to dominate small screen advertising. Jobs said smartphone users are focused on apps rather than web searches - meaning the mobile ad opportunity is in-app, rather than via search.
Developers will be able to add iAds to their apps for a 60 per cent share of revenue, with Apple taking the rest and handling sales and inventory. According to Jobs the average iPhone user spends 30 minutes per day using apps - which he said would translate into 10 ads per device or one every three minutes. "We want to get one billion ad impressions per day by the end of the year," he added.
According to Forrester analyst Ian Fogg, the platform is likely to encourage more apps to be created as it helps developers monetise their wares - describing it as a "virtuous circle".
Another update in iPhone 4.0 is the extension of Apple's iBook e-reader app - currently running on the iPad - to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Apple also previewed a social networking gaming platform called Game Center along the lines of X-Box live and is said to be coming later this year.
Apple said it has now sold more than 50 million iPhones to-date, with app downloads from its iTunes App Store exceeding four billion. There are now 185,000 apps in the store - with more than 3,500 being dedicated iPad apps.
Jobs added that 450,000 iPads had sold as of yesterday, up from 300,000 on its launch day. iPhone OS 4.0 will be coming to the iPad in autumn, the company added.
The CEO also confirmed there will be no Java or Flash in iPhone OS 4.0.