6 Features to Expect in iPhone OS 4.0

78 Comments

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 Comments

san23

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?!?!?

Ben

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

Joe

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?

doctor nick

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

nick

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.

MacFetish

“”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.

Kevin C. Tofel

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.

scheppel

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

TooBad

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.

Jakk Ogden

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.

Ed Pimentel

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

Kevin C. Tofel

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. ;)

touchyourdream

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

Olivier

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.

Olivier

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.

Juan

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

iphone

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.

HAHAHA

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

WardenStreets

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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