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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.

Related iPad Content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d)

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

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

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      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

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      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 !

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  2. Folders, too!

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    1. Jailbreaker4Life 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

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  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.

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  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 ;)

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    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.

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      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.

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      2. Anonymousjerk Tuesday, April 6, 2010

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

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      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.

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      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.

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

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

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  7. 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…???????

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  8. 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.

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  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.

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  10. 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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  11. Corrupted Mind Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    I’m not convinced “true” multi-tasking is coming to any of the Apple family of products. It seems, at least to me that Apple are trying to shift the multi-tasking paradigm that most hardcore techies hold to be true in favour of a one of a time type of process. I expect, that they may permit a limited form of multitasking. Email, IM, Twitter as background apps. But nothing as expansive as photo editing while browsing.

    Additionally, I’m not certain how they can increase the resolution without splintering their OS. When you have millions of users locked into Apps at one resolution leaving them all behind is not easy or straightforward. The question I have been mulling is whether it is possible for iphone users to inherit the ipad resolution but on a smaller screen -reinforcing the ipad app ecosystem and giving users a clear reason to upgrade – again I’m not sure how possible such a solution is to implement and the impact it will have on a rock solid UI experience on the iphone.

    I’m not particularly convinced about the second camera – the 3gs seemed ripe for that. Also, Apple will be unlikely to encourage usage scenarios likely to further minimise the usage envelope, everything tey have done are doing is encouraging longer rather than shorter battery usage scenarios – video calling via, skype, ichat or OTA seem to suggest the opposite. (Most iphone users are only getting 5-6hrs real world usage now – i.e. not a whole day).

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  12. A couple of more iterations and the iPhone OS will have all of the missing features I based my initial rejection on. Bring it on. Then all they will need to do is remove the appstore shackles and they got themselves a new customer. Not that they need my money or anything, but I would like them to grant that I have the intelligence to blame a poorly written app on the developer or that as an adult I can choose to waste money on porn if I really wanted to.

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  13. yes, thats what we can expect…
    I am more interested in the things we don’t expect.
    If nothing more comes than what users wanted from the 3g anyway, It should be easy for Android etc to catchup.
    I think, if apple does not bring up something really new and somehow unexpected – it will get hard for them.

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  14. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if only the iPad gains a multitasking function “

    Considering the iPad has the exact same ammount of RAM of the 3GS (256mb), that makes no sense at all…

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    1. Actually the full quote is: “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.” ;)

      From a hardware perspective, you raise a valid point. However, I was thinking along the lines of usability and Apple’s approach to “guiding” people’s workflow. I use an Android phone and of course use the multitasking ability. But I’m not sold that Apple feels the need for multitasking on a handheld device like the iPhone. The larger iPad however, could be better suited for a multitasking UI due to more real estate.

      Not suggesting you’re incorrect on this, but rather: trying to provide insight since the statement appeared to make no sense. Thx!

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      1. You should distinguish between “multi-tasking” and “programs running in the background” or so it seems to me.

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  15. [...] 6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0 (gigaom.com) [...]

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  16. Apart from Multitasking, I’m expecting to see interactive status bar, and more valuable lock screen (home screen),inbuilt wallpaper, solution to annoying notifications.

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    1. yeah. better experience.

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  17. I didn’t think about Music in the Cloud, but I think that is the best idea. Because 32GB is just enough for apps, and not for Music and Movies. I would love to see that feature!

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  18. What color is the back of the new iPhone 4.0

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  19. Almost all features Android already has. Who’s playing catch up now?

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    1. That’s the point. Then iPhone would have all of the features of Android AS WELL AS better hardware and interface.

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  20. [...] up, according to Kevin C. Tofel, is multitasking, at least on the iPad.  This would help make the iPad more of a netbook/laptop [...]

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  21. I would like to be able to sync Outlook Notes by alpha instead of by creation/modification date, just like they are in Outlook. Imagine a phone directory listing by date of service; try to find something that way. That’s what Outlook’s Notes are like in Apple’s OS

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  22. Not sure about this whole unified inbox business. I really don’t want that at all. I like going in to separate inboxes–I have enough clutter in my life. Mixing my school, work and personal emails into one box would make me end up with “WTF is this email” thoughts too often.

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    1. True, but it could be configurable: unified for those that want it vs separate for those that don’t. Palm’s webOS offers a nice implementation giving you an either/or choice.

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      1. True enough! I guess I didn’t think of it as optional–assuming it would be–I say bring it on!

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  23. All the features you have listed are all practical in nature and much needed to enhance the user experience for the iphone. The one I really want and look forward to is multi tasking

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  24. I can’t believe you missed Notifications. I badly want Android/Pre style slide-in notifications. As soon as you get more than one message at a time on iPhone, it becomes unmanageable.

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  25. The only thing that I would be nice to see on the iPhone is probably a front face camera for iChat. I have a jailbroken iPhone and I am able to have multiple apps going at the same time, so that feature really is not that big of a deal, unless your iPhone is not jailbroken, yet. I’ll wait until the 4.0 is able to be jailbroken to update.

    robcastrillo.wordpress.com

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  26. [iPhone OS 4.0 Beta] Apple will release the iPhone OS 4.0 Beta software on Thrusday to developers only, those who want to try it before it’s official release in the summer can join the beta tester team here: http://bit.ly/91euqY

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  27. [...] 6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0 Less than a week after the introduction of the iPad, Apple plans to share details on “the future of iPhone OS&#822 [...] [...]

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  28. Uh oh, if Apple does add all these features to the iPhone, looks like Google will fall behind on the current tie!

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  29. Hows about an Al Gore Thermal API. I’m thinking an overclocking API that can crank up the A4 CPU a little, specially in those cold winter months when I need a hand warmer.

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  30. [...] 6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0 [...]

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  31. Apple iPad is one of the most anticipated announcements of this year. Like any other web tablet, the Apple iPad more focus on internet and multimedia. We can call iPad as a bigger version of Apple iPhone and iPod. The device includes an enhanced version of Apple iPhone OS (3.2). iPad can almost any any application that iPhone can run with a few minor changes to the application.

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  32. It gives almost life like feeling when reading the book on this application. Another setback is that there is no camera in the iPad so no video recording available. Accelerometer of the device is great and you can have fun playing games o this device. It has Bluetooth connectivity. iPad is available in Black and White colour combination. The Apple device is not flash enabled so flash based website won’t open in iPad.

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  33. One more feature you forgot mentioning is “Easy to unlock for the use of other GSM carriers”

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  34. I’m sceptical that multitasking will become a feature since the iPad wasn’t granted it.

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  35. Which one’s the me-too product now?

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  36. WardenStreets Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    There is a difference between OS 4.0 and the next gen iPhone. Most of the stuff you’re expecting won’t come in the software update. But I agree the next iPhone needs to include most of those features.

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  37. Seriously? A software update that includes as front facing camera? Wow, must be a massive download what with getting that camera across the interwebs …

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  38. All of the feauteres mentioned here would be great. A unified inbox-love it, streaming music would be nice. I’ve also hear about the possibility of video calls which would be interesting.

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  39. Completely agree with you! I think I read somewhere that they might consider Flash but I highly doubt it.

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  40. What I would really like to see is the availability of the Garbage Collector. Applications would benefit from this and will become much more stable. The memory management model in the iPhone/iPad is very complex. For small development shops and/or large project, most of the work is being done post development and either increases deployment timelines or most likely never properly addressed.

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    1. Forgot to add also:
      - Better camera, resolution and flash (not the one you are thinking of…;-)) like the Droid
      - Better home screen estate, here they really should look at what Android has done, it is just great
      - Dynamic widgets on home screen. Apple must have done something similar as the calendar icon is automatically updated with the current date.
      - Removable battery would be nice
      - OLED screen
      - So basically everything Android does but with the quality we are used to with Apple.

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  41. [...] list of six features to expect in iPhone OS 4 includes multitasking, support for a second camera, better voice-to-text features, a higher resolution [...]

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  42. In consideration of one of the characteristics of the digital age, above all, the function of mutitasking should be added.

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  43. Chris K,
    You made a good observation, which not sure Kevin grasped.
    We should note there is a difference between multitasking and external apps running in the background.
    iPHONE has been multitasking(internal housekeeping tasks,etc) though it does not allow multi-native iphone apps to run in the background… For that we have to wait for iPhone 4.0

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    1. Chris did make a good point and I do grasp it. I wrote the piece from an end-user standpoint and didn’t think it would matter if Apple went with true multitasking or state saves of apps. If done right, it would appear to be seamless multitasking. But again, +1 to Chris. ;)

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  44. I just suspect that the new 4.0 update will render the iPhones UI similar albeit the same as the iPads.

    I do not know whether multi tasking will come. If it does it is a clear indicator that Apple knows they ballsed up by not giving the iPad multi tasking.

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  45. [...] didn’t call for Folders in the six features I expected to see out of iPhone OS 4.0, but I did mention a unified inbox. Thankfully, I called it correctly. Apple adds multiple inboxes [...]

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  46. [...] mobile strategy. Although several of the new features, due for release this summer, were on my list of expectations two days ago, the bulk of them are indeed evolutionary — on the surface. But the implementation approach [...]

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  47. Yeah, it’d be great if Apple integrated said features -it’d be better if it grew up and realized how useful it would be to have Flash. As far as I’m concerned, the Nexus One will blow the iPhone out of the water unless Apple starts realizing how valuable Flash technology could be.

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  48. Full Adobe Flash support would be a nice addon.
    Thanks for sharing

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  49. How about an HD-FM tuner.

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  50. [...] mobile strategy. Although several of the new features, due for release this summer, were on my list of expectations two days ago, the bulk of them are indeed evolutionary — on the surface. But the implementation approach [...]

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  51. Sixto sicilia Friday, April 9, 2010

    NO TETHERING?

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  52. “”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.””

    First off, who hired this guy?
    It’s an os update, what, is my iPhone going to grow a front-facing camera?
    I think if you write for a tech blog, know what you are talking about. Or at least have the vocabulary needed to be able to support your topic without making misleading statements.

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    1. I didn’t say that software would create hardware — the first two words in the section you quoted but glossed over are “Support for”.

      I think back to using Skype on a Windows Mobile device for years and how awful it was because the software didn’t have access to certain hardware. In that case, the Skype app couldn’t use the headphone jack, which meant all Skype calls went through the speakerphone, providing a less than optimal experience. Why? Because Microsoft didn’t offer “support for” developers to access the headphone jack.

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  53. Front facing camera for iChat? Can we cause any more distraction on the roads. You just know some jackass will be out there iChatting while driving 80mph down the freeway (most likely more than one person) cause more and more device related accidents and deaths. I’m all for the new upgrades and LOVE the iPhone, it just aways worries my how so many people can be so careless.

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  54. rogers is fast enough to support videochat so it will probably be an option on iphone 4th generation but would be usless on iphone 3g and 3gs

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  55. Hey Ive got an idea.. how about you improve on dropped calls, shitty service, phantom full bars and spotty 3G service. Just a suggestion- its called an iPHONE right?

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  56. This article is garbage. A new screen and a second camera in a software update. OS 4.0. Read your own headline

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  57. just jailbreak your iPhone or iPod and you can have all this without their stupid update the only thing to really look forward to is the resolution thing also the video chatting are you kidding me? but yea out of all these new features where the hell is the one where they fix the battery life?!?!?

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  58. This can useful. A short version of the original iPhone OS 4 presentation. All features in just a 10 minutes video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVbk0Vp-sEU Watch it :-)

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  59. [...] Kevin Tofel on GigaOM as well as some kind of cloud-based music service, though that might just be wishful [...]

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  60. yes they did do that on iPhone 4.

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