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6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0

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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 (s aapl) 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 (s goog) 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 (s amzn) 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)

78 Responses to “6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Duke Nukem

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. Steven

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. Superharas

    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!

  9. antonio

    “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…

    • 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!

  10. alobar72

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. Corrupted Mind

    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).

  13. 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.

  14. white guy dancing

    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.

  15. 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 ;)

    • Fafafaya

      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.

      • KiltBear

        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.

      • Chris K

        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.

      • thenikjones

        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.

  16. 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.

    • Jailbreaker4Life

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

      Apple puts to many restrictions on the iphone.


      • Randall Re

        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

      • 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 –

        Cheers !