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Summary:

I’m pretty sure that late January is traditionally that time of the year when the Apple rumor mill starts heating-up in anticipation of the impending iPhone OS update. A young tradition, to be sure, but a tradition nonetheless. This year, however, the media frenzy around the […]

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I’m pretty sure that late January is traditionally that time of the year when the Apple rumor mill starts heating-up in anticipation of the impending iPhone OS update. A young tradition, to be sure, but a tradition nonetheless.

This year, however, the media frenzy around the mythical-but-completely-certainly-probably-real Tablet seems to be getting all the attention — rather like a new born baby stealing the limelight from its three year old sibling.

At least BoyGeniusReport — in the past a reasonably accurate source of information on upcoming iPhone OS updates — hasn’t forgotten the tradition and, even though no one is paying the least bit of attention, they resolutely committed to web-page what they think they now know about iPhone 4.0.

So what’s the latest? From BGR:

“There will be multi-touch gestures OS-wide. (Would make sense […] as the rumored OS for the iTablet is close if not the same as the iPhone)

I’m not sure I understand what this means if I’m honest with you. I mean, the few multi-touch gestures we get now in apps like Photos and Safari are sensible enough, (double-tap and pinch zooming are useful in those apps) but do we need multi-touch everywhere? How will the addition of OS-wide gestures make the OS more elegant, more intuitive and easier to use? Now, I’m not suggesting any sort of major calamity; I’m just experiencing something of an imagination-failure here.

“A few new ways” to run applications in the background — multitasking.”

So, the elusive Multitasking is coming to iPhone? I’m not convinced. Speaking from my many years of experience using Windows Mobile, it seems to me that Apple’s approach to memory management on the iPhone is pretty much perfect. Sure, it doesn’t multitask — but in almost three years of iPhone ownership, that has never presented an insurmountable problem for me. And the (ahem- late) introduction of Push Notification Services was a very welcome compromise.

I have since discovered, however, that I don’t need Facebook to notify me about every poke or thrown sheep, and I especially don’t want to be notified of every tweet from my Twitter stream. No thank you.

Perhaps the “few new ways” refers to a sandboxed memory “space” that runs in the background, sort of like an app for keeping-alive portions of other apps, even when they’re not currently front-and-center. Maybe. Whatever it is, you can be sure there won’t be a task manager.

“Many graphical and UI changes to make navigating through the OS easier and more efficient. We haven’t had this broken down, but we can only hope for improved notifications, a refreshed homescreen, etc.”

What do you think? A new, refreshed UI style, perhaps? Or an iPhone version of Exposé? The latter sounds horrid, but still, Soptlight can’t be the only solution to quickly navigating through 10 pages of apps.

“The update will supposedly be available for only the iPhone 3G and 3GS, but will “put them ahead in the smartphone market because it will make them more like full-fledged computers” more than any other phone to date. Everyone is “really excited.”

Makes sense. The 3G and 3GS have more memory than the venerable first generation iPhone. Consider how sluggish the latest build of the iPhone OS (3.1.2) can be on first generation iPhones. Apple is so concerned with guaranteeing a consistent, elegant user experience they kept cut & paste out of the OS for years before they felt the solution was good-enough to publish. So they’re hardly going to support their latest and greatest OS on the ageing first-generation iPhone because the experience will be terrible.

I would wager, too, that core location services have been greatly expanded and even more tightly integrated with the entire OS, making the original location-ignorant iPhone a bit of a silly platform for 4.0. (Don’t forget that patent for a location-aware home screen…)

“The last piece of information is the most vague, but apparently there will be some brand new syncing ability for the contacts and calendar applications.”

Since I’m one of the five or six people in this world who pays for a MobileMe subscription I never really think about contacts/calendar syncing. It just happens for me, quietly, no fuss. I’ve never synced any other way, so I have no experience of the perils and pitfalls of syncing via different methods. I’ll leave you to tell me what you think this means and why I should care.

And Then There’s That Tablet (Again)

Don’t forget that the established wisdom of the Rumor Mill has it that iPhone OS 4.0 and the Tablet’s operating system are pretty much built upon the same core code — hence the reason for Apple’s delay in seeding the 4.0 build to developers. (Since the code is so similar it’s pretty likely that tablet functionality will be easily discovered by a few minutes spent digging through iPhone OS 4.0’s bundled APIs. Apple has held-back on seeding the next major iPhone OS build for this very reason — they don’t want to give away clues as to what’s in store with the Tablet — that sort of information will leak fast.)

So while the world’s press salivates over the upcoming tablet and forgets completely about Apple’s other major products, spare a thought for iPhone OS 4.0. It’s likely to be the most important — and impressive — update in the iPhone’s history. And, unless you have your money ready to splash on the Tablet, iPhone OS 4.0 is the most likely next “new thing” you’re going to get from Cupertino.

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  1. I think Apple wil make OS 4 possible on the 3Gs. The 3g will be left behind this time (or many feature will be unavailable).

  2. If OS 4.0 is only for the latest two iPhones, Apple will face the fury of recent iPod touch users. Mine is only a few months old, and I will not be happy if it doesn’t even run the first major OS upgrade after I bought it.

    1. One more BIG vote, I will sue Steve :D

  3. Still no Flash support, I see

  4. “Makes sense. The 3G and 3GS have more memory than the venerable first generation iPhone”
    FTW Are talking about?? Original Iphone and IPhone 3G have exactly same processor and same amount of RAM. While 3G offers models with 16Gb flash for storage it have no effect whatsoever on performance…

    It’s the 3GS the one with faster CPU and more ram.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_iPhone_and_iPod_Touch_models

    If update will exclude only original model – it will not be done due to technical issues….

  5. “The 3G and 3GS have more memory than the venerable first generation iPhone.”

    The 3G uses the same SoC (412Mhz CPU) and the has the same amount of memory (128MB) as the original iPhone.

    “If OS 4.0 is only for the latest two iPhones”

    The OS will be available for ALL iPhones, however, not all features of the new version will be. For instance, with only 128MB of memory on all pre-3GS devices, multitasking will not be practical or available.

  6. @MikePerry The two most recent generations of the iPod Touch are pretty much equivalent in processing specs as the 3G and 3GS. It will most likely be available to those as well, but you will probably be forced to pay the traditional $10 upgrade fee that is waived for iPhone users.

    1. I certainly hope so. But Apple should revisit their decision to charge iTouch users for updates. Given the margins Apple makes off the device and ongoing App purchases, it’s really kinda petty. And it sends a message that iTouch users are somehow less valued.

    2. Matthew Frederick Adam Thursday, January 21, 2010

      The accounting issue that required Apple to charge for the updates is now resolved. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if 4.0 is announced as a free update for iPods as well.

    3. I know its a bit off task, but im already wondering how long its gunna be until someone jailbreaks it

  7. Matthew Frederick Thursday, January 21, 2010

    There are a number of ways that Apple could implement limited multitasking that would allow for lots of exciting new apps without being much of a burden on the phone and without complicating things for the user. For example:

    Timers: Allow apps to set timers that run even after the app has shut down. These timers could do things like notify the user that app X would like to launch, could play a sound with a notification, or run a small bit of code in the background with low priority and limited resources that gets killed it it’s taking too long. In the last case, said app could then do something like store the user’s current geolocation, check the internet for a bit of data, check the camera for a light level or a change from a stored image, etc.

    While it sounds very limited, and it’s certainly not multitasking the way we think of it, the possibilities are tremendous.

    1. Nice insight! The cross-fertilization is what’s needed, especially with alerts.

      Also, we can hope that OS 4 comes up with a better system for handling alerts– unlock the device and the alert vanishes! It’s a really poor system compared to the Palm. With i-devices, I’m always concerned I’m losing appointments–with the Palms, that never happened!

      Apple could still lear a lot from 10 year Palms!

  8. “Sure, it doesn’t multitask — but in almost three years of iPhone ownership, that has never presented an insurmountable problem for me. And the (ahem- late) introduction of Push Notification Services was a very welcome compromise.”

    Why can’t I have a streaming audio app (Pandora, Last.fm, Stitcher) running in the background all the time just like the bult in iPod app does and access a turn by turn GPS app? That is a HUGE drawback in my opinion and is a reason for multitasking. I could care less about battery drain because I want this capability in the car where I always have my iPhone plugged into a power outlet.

    1. I tend to agree, and suspect we will see precisely this functionality enabled. I also except enabling this kind of functionality will be a setting the user has to toggle to “On”. And the toggle button will be accompanied with a line of text that reads, “If enabled, this setting may greatly reduce battery life”…

      Just a thought.

  9. “Sure, it doesn’t multitask — but in almost three years of iPhone ownership, that has never presented an insurmountable problem for me.”Y’know, I’ve been a long time Mac user. And I remember when co-operative multitasking was good enough. It never presented an insurmountable problem for me. If the computer froze up, it was probably doing something important and it wasn’t an “insurmountable problem” to wait 30 seconds or so for it to finish. And the advantage was that it finished faster because it didn’t have to swap other tasks around!

    Of course, then Mac OS X came along and co-operative multitasking was for the birds.

    You’ve been using an iPhone for three years? Try using something else, like Android or WebOS, for three weeks and see if you don’t change your mind.

    1. I agree totally Peter.

    2. +1

      It’s amazing how iPhone users have their heads buried in the sand. We have a Touch, and it’s annoying to have to lose all context when flipping between apps. Also, why can’t I have an IM app running so people can ping me when they’re online? The list of scenarios could go on…

  10. No mention of the demise of the ATT contract with Apple… That’s the most disappointing aspect of all this. Really wanted to purchase an iPhone this year and I need a phone now. My ATT contract is over. I’m ready to buy, BUT no, I won’t purchase an iPhone with an ATT contract. The service is terrible, sorry Apple. I’ve been a Mac fan and loyal customer since the 80’s, but there’s no sense in purchasing a phone, no matter how great if you CAN’T GET CELL SERVICE at your home.

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