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Summary:

Apple unveils “the future of iPhone OS” this Thursday in Cupertino. As nice as the iPhone operating system is, there’s always room for improvement. I expect these six features to make their way into iPhone 4.0 as Apple finds elegant solutions to inelegant problems.

Less than a week after the introduction of the iPad, Apple plans to share details on “the future of iPhone OS” at a press event this Thursday, where the company is widely expected to lift the wraps off version 4.0 of Apple’s mobile operating system, which will add new functionality to current iPod touch, iPhone and iPad devices. The event will also shed light on what you can expect from Apple’s next-generation iPhone handset. Although Apple has sold a large number of devices running the iPhone OS — an estimated 40 million iPhones, more than 20 million iPod touches and now 300,000 iPads — there’s always room for improvement in the operating system. Here’s a short list of what to expect (including what I’d like to see!) from iPhone OS 4.0.

Multitasking — The ability to run more than one third-party application at a given time has long been a user request from the masses. The iPhone OS of today is capable of multitasking because the feature is currently supported on some native Apple applications – listening to music in the iPod app while web surfing or checking mail is a good example. So while the OS supports multiple apps running concurrently, it imposes limits to help ensure a positive experience with core functionality. But as some consumers look to the iPad as a potential laptop replacement, multitasking with non-Apple software titles is desirable (not everyone, of course, but for certain people). My own blogging activities would be far easier on the iPad if I could multitask to get web links and edit pictures while creating posts, for example. And I wouldn’t be surprised if only the iPad gains a multitasking function — or one that’s considered less constrained than on an iPhone.

Higher resolution — Let’s face it: The iPhone’s HVGA display was nice back in 2007, but it’s a little dated now. Many new handsets at the same price point offer generous 800×480 (or better) displays over the iPhone’s 480×320 screen. Look for iPhone 4.0 to support higher resolutions for the next-generation devices expected in a few months. This could help iPad owners as well. iPhone apps do work on the iPad today, but the pixel doubling of lower-resolution software makes apps look blocky and blurry.

Support for a second camera — Surely, the camera in the next iPhone will be bumped higher than the current 3-megapixel sensor. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see a second, front-facing camera for video chatting in iPhone OS 4.0 — it’s a feature we’ve been calling for since late last year. Perhaps it would be similar to iChat’s video offering on a Mac. We could even see third-party apps take advantage of such a change, although Apple may not allow access to such hardware for non-native apps.

A unified inbox — While I like to keep my work and personal lives separate most of the time, the one place I want them together is in my email. iPhone 4.0 should be bringing us a unified inbox so we don’t have to tap, tap, tap our way from one mailbox to another. Perhaps, like the once-missing copy-and-paste feature, Apple is still developing an elegant solution to the problem.

Enhanced voice-to-text features — Google added this highly useful function to Android 2.1 and it ought to be a staple in any modern smartphone. Apple added Voice Control in version 3 of the iPhone OS, but it’s limited by comparison — all you can use it for is to call a contact or control your iPod. Google’s implementation integrates throughout the operating system, making it easy to search the web, create a text message or even compose an email simply by speaking. Such a function could give Apple more insight to what iPhone OS users are searching for on the web — and would support a rumored Apple move into the search market.

Music in the clouds — iPhone 4.0 could be the first time we see the benefit of Apple’s LaLa purchase, which took place in December of last year. As I said in a GigaOM Pro report (subscription required) just days before the deal, if Apple doesn’t offer iTunes streaming over the web, others like Amazon could easily jump in the game. Consumers don’t mind carrying their music around, but storing content in the cloud offers nearly limitless capacity to hold media. And if Apple decides this isn’t a feature for the iPhone OS, I’ll just keep doing what I do today — store and stream my music with a cloud storage service like SugarSync or another provider.

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  1. let’s just hope that apple implements all those feature then. :-)

    1. Sure they will. Haven’t you seen the commercials: “My name is Kevin, and iPhone OS 4.0 was my idea.” ;)

      1. Hey, not trying to “burst your bubble” or anything but i doubt we will see an iChatt feature. Maybe a camera in the frint but thats it, ATT’s network is no where near ready for live video chatting. the coverage is great but what good is that when its not very fast? not hating on apple or iPhone or anything because i own one too. Just my oPinion

      2. come to think of it.. whats really missing is multi user accounts support for the iPad, iphone os 4.0.
        iPad makes use of the iphone operation system in a socail enviorment like in your living room at home, sharing it with your familey and friends, just like Steve jobs showed it sitting on a coach.

        any ways until apple will release multi user support for the ipad. i found this :

        see multiPad – http://www.themultipad.com

        Cheers !

  2. Folders, too!

    1. Jailbreaker4Life Zatz Wednesday, April 7, 2010

      Just jailbreak your iphone and you can have access to options like folders :)

      Apple puts to many restrictions on the iphone.

      Jailbreaker4Life

  3. Some of these features sound very appealing, especially the multitasking, and maybe the video chatting would be interesting. Although Ill still wait until the os 4.0 is jailbroken before updating.

  4. I just think it’s stupid that they don’t have a camera on the iPad! That would be so useful and make the product a lot more convenient. I still love it, though.

    The iPhone 4.0 OS will hopefully do all of this and more, because my iPod Touch is getting quite boring ;)

    1. I’m sick of complaints on the lack of camera. Where to put it? On the LCD side? or the back? If on the LCD side, it’s only good for video conferencing. How many people really do that? and how often? Not too many, and not too often, my friend. The 3G network won’t scale to the demand for upstream traffic either.

      And on the back you say? It’s then only good for taking pics and video. But most Ipad folks have a phone with a camera in their pockets already. Why not just use the phone? It’s more convenient than Ipad in such use case. Isn’t it redundant then?

      So please think twice before spreading such complaints.

      1. The other problem is image stability. If you have the iPad in your hands or lap, the person at the other end of the video chat will get motion sickness.

      2. Video chat would be great. How else I going to have C2C cybersex?? Wait, thinking twice.. Yes, valid complaint.

      3. Totally agree with you. I get the same feeling no one thinks any request through. They just look at their computers and want whatever the computer has whether they really use it or not.

      4. Just because you don’t want a front-facng camera doesn’t mean other people don’t. I wish you thought twice about your complaints about complaints ;-) When travelling I like to video-Skype with my wife – so I’ll stick with my netbook until Apple decide to make a usable product. Oh, and a USB port would be nice too.

  5. All these would be very nice. I’m with @Zatz – need external I/O for backup!

  6. links for 2010-04-05 « Brain Music – Gadgets, Neuroscience & More Monday, April 5, 2010

    [...] 6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0 (tags: Apple iphone iPad) [...]

  7. iPhone App Reviews Monday, April 5, 2010

    Well………multitasking is really one of the good feature of iPhone But i think if there is multitasking is done on iPhone then may be the battery backup problem arise…???????

  8. Brian S Hall Monday, April 5, 2010

    A second camera?!

    Hey, I’d love to videochat on my iPhone (and iPad!). Not unless there’s been a revolution in lithium-ion batteries that I didn’t hear about.

  9. white guy dancing Monday, April 5, 2010

    good call on cloud storage. i had to reinstall my windows and erase a lot of data on my phone. not to mention i have two computers (desktop, laptop) that i use a lot.

  10. Håvard Pedersen Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Why on earth do people still want a front facing camera? Are you aware of how stupid you look when trying to do video calls on a mobile phone, holding it in the air in front of your face? And this, in turn makes the image of the other part in your conversation look like a small thumbnail?

    It’s completely useless. That’s why fewer and fewer 3G phones contain dual cameras. Europe has had these phones for years, and still no-one uses them.

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