iPhone OS 4.0 - The highlights

Apple has finally lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding its newest operating system refresh for the iPhone - iPhone OS 4.0. Here's what to expect:
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Apple has finally lifted the veil of secrecy surrounding its newest operating system refresh for the iPhone - iPhone OS 4.0. Here's what to expect:

Lots of new features

Here is just a small list of the new features you can expect to see in the iPhone OS 4.0:

  • Multitasking: This is the feature that iPhone users have wanted the most, and with OS 4.0 they finally get it. The idea seems dead simple - double tap the Home button and this brings up a task switcher. Select the app you want and it pops into the foreground. Seems simple, but it's taken Apple a long time to get this much-wanted feature to users. As a bonus, some applications such as those playing audio (such as Pandora) will continue to play the audio while in the background much like the iPod part of the iPhone does now.
  • App folders: Group apps into folders.
  • Fast app switching: Background apps aren't really running in the background in the traditional sense, only certain aspects of them. But, when you switch from an app, its state is saved so you can quickly and easily switch back to it.
  • Notifications: A notification system that allows background apps to communicate with the user.
  • Updated mail app: All sorts of updates here, from multiple Exchange accounts to threaded messages.
  • iBooks: Yep, read books on your iPhone and iPad.
  • iAd advertising: Expect apps to get a LOT more cluttered as Apple gives developers a plugin ad module.
  • 5x digital zoom: Get more zoom from your camera ...
  • Game center: A centralized gaming service allowing users to connect with others wanting to play games.

The rub ...

It's not all good news though. Not all iPhones and iPod touch devices will get all the new features. While the iPhone 3GS and 3rd generation iPod touch will get all the new features, but the iPhone 3G and 2nd generation iPod touch will only get a sub-set off these features, and importantly, no multitasking. No multitasking .... ever. Period. Basically with iPhone OS 4.0 Apple is using this opportunity to draw a line under the older devices.

Got an early iPhone or iPod touch? End of the line is is not far off for you I'm afraid.


So when will iPhone OS 4.0 appear? June. Is it likely that we'll see new hardware too? Probably ...

What about the iPad?

The iPad's OS will also see an update, but this won't make an appearance until the Fall.

The bottom line ...

Fanboys are already foaming at the mouth wanting to get their hands on this new update, but I have to admit that I'm underwhelmed. Most of the features (better mail client, improved way to handle and group apps) are long overdue and I'm surprised that Apple has made users wait until OS 4.0 for these basic features. Other stuff (iAd, game center) is basically little more than features that allow Apple and developers too cash in on users.

I'll be honesty with you, I have a bad feeling about iAd. This one "feature" is going to turn the App Store into a bigger wasteland than it already is ... but now you'll have "ad supported" fart machines ... ugh ...

Other random stuff announced (such as digital zoom - otherwise known as cropping - and custom backgrounds and so on) are little more than fluff.

The bottom line with OS 4.0 is that Apple is playing catchup ... most of the core changes should have come in the OS 3.0 update, and this is the first iPhone OS update that feels like it brings more bloat than substance to the iPhone. There's so much more that Apple could have added (a better browser for start ...), but features such as iAd and iBooks make it clear that what Apple wants is to turn the iPhone platform into an even bigger cash cow than it already is.

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