Rumor Has It: iPhone OS 4.0 Details Leaked Early

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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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