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iPhone 4.0 Adds Multitasking, Folders and Ads

Apple (s aapl) introduced the next major revision of it’s mobile operating system today, with a press event to highlight the changes in its iPhone OS 4.0. The developer preview of iPhone OS 4.0 will be released today, with the OS proper seeing a summer ship time.

First up — and possibly demanded the most — is a method of multitasking without a significant hit on the battery life. Apple is offering seven multitasking APIs that developers can utilize, so an app like Pandora, for example, can run in the background, much like Apple’s native apps do today. The APIs include support for audio apps, VoIP (think Skype) (s ebay), location by cell-tower triangulation for directions and LBS apps, local push notifications and task completion in the background.

In typical Apple fashion, the implementation to switch apps is reminiscent of existing design. Tapping the home button twice on an iPhone OS 4.0 device brings a dock-like interface up from the bottom of the screen. Simply tap and switch. From the early sounds of the functionality, the implementation doesn’t appear to be multitasking in the traditional “run multiple apps all the time” vein. Instead, as I read it so far, it’s a very controlled form of task switching, APIs and saving the state of closed apps to reopen them as they were left. Some may find it amusing that the iPhone gets multitasking as Windows Phone 7 loses it.

Now that you can run more apps, how about installing more apps? iPhone OS 4.0 bumps up the allowable number of apps from 180 to 2,160 titles. Well, that would be a mess to muddle through, so Cupertino is providing Folder functionality for organizational purposes. These folders can even be on the Dock, making it easy to get at the most used app groups.

I 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 in a single view as well as support for multiple Microsoft (s msft) Exchange accounts — that’s useful to me because I use Exchange to sync my Google (s goog) contacts and calendars. Up to now I could only do that for work or personal accounts, but with the new OS, that limitation appears to be gone. Also in the mail app is support for threaded conversations and opening attachments in other installed applications. That should be pretty handy if I was say, trying to open an iPad document attachment for editing in Google Docs with a third-party app.

I’m not surprised that Apple brings iBooks to the new operating system. The company makes money on every paid iBooks content purchase, so why not bring that business model to all iPhone OS devices? Similar to Amazon’s (s amzn) Whispersync functionality, iBooks will pick up where you left off on different devices.

The support for multiple Exchange email accounts will appeal to the enterprise, and that goes hand in hand with new features focused squarely on the corporate environment. The new iPhone OS brings mobile device management and data protection improvements, which will please IT departments with iPhones deployed.

There are already 50,000 games in the App Store according to Apple, and the introduction of the new Game Center puts Microsoft squarely in Apple’s sights. The Game Center is a social gaming network that is similar to Xbox Live from Microsoft. It will be possible for Game Center members to interact with each other to share leaderboards, achievements and play in matches.  The Game Center will go live later this year.

Perhaps the biggest announcement today is the launch of the iAd mobile advertising service. Apple demonstrated fully interactive ads that are placed inside apps to engage the consumer. The ads can stream video, audio and even have full games within the apps that contain the ads. We might see a lot more free apps in the App Store, with iAd content onboard used to generate revenue for the developers in place of app sales. The iAd service takes direct aim at Google’s intent to dominate mobile advertising with the purchase of AdMob. Apple will make a 60/40 split with developers for ad revenues generated by iAd.

The ads will leverage existing capabilities of the iPhone OS. Apple demonstrated a movie ad that interactively showed where the movie was playing locally using the Maps API. This opens up a broad realm of hyper-local ads for products. The ads are like separate apps that live within other apps with the sole intent of selling something to the user. Apple redefines mobile advertising with iAd.

The new OS will appear in the summer, so that is likely when we will see the next generation of iPhone hardware. Apple did not discuss the new phone at the press event. Surprisingly, the new OS will not appear on the iPad until the fall. It is fair to say that most of the new features of iPhone OS 4.0 are particularly applicable to the iPad. Multitasking, app folders and the email improvements will be very welcome on the larger screen.

Older iPhones may not get to upgrade to OS 4.0; they can’t handle it according to a statement from Apple. When asked how multitasking might further impact AT&T’s data network problems, Steve Jobs indicated it might happen, but Apple didn’t foresee multitasking causing greater data usage. That might be wishful thinking.

29 Responses to “iPhone 4.0 Adds Multitasking, Folders and Ads”

  1. anjalin

    multitasking and flash are the two features of iPhone 4 I like the
    most. I have been thinking to switch to nexus from my iPhone 3G but
    now I will stay with iPhone and wait for its release. Thanks Apple for
    adding those great features.

    I will queue up one day before so I believe I can buy one on June 24.
    I will have to buy a case in advance but not so many choices at the
    moment. This seems the only option,

    If anyone knows any case for iPhone 4, please share.

  2. Mark McIntosh

    iPhone OS 4.0 is looking very strong after this announcement. I hope the Android community is watching because Apple just punched you in yo face pretty hard. Maybe not a knockout punch but Android looks punch drunk about now (kinda wobbly if you know what i mean).

  3. Rumor has it… Its not ‘true’ multitasking… Actually the better term Multitasking-lite should have been coined, since each application already in the wild must be adjusted to fit the 7-OS background layers it supports.. anyways, welcome to the multi-tasking(-lite) club. — A WebOS user.

    • Mark McIntosh

      Could be the user interrupts are thread-based while Apple retains process-based preemptive multitasking for itself. Note: A single process can have many threads (remember this is a Unix-based OS). For security and performance the user threads are automatically sandboxed and cannot affect Apple’s background processes. Those Cupertino Engineers are crazy good.

      • yeah, it’s really multitasking-lite perfected by Palm years ago. But that way, Apple controls the performance and battery life. It’s all about control! They believe it optimizes the Apple experience.

  4. Denkie

    The new iPhone 4.0 makes Windows Phone 7 completely uncompetitive. Microsoft is really going to have to delay WP7 to bring it up to standard before releasing it. If Microsoft releases WP7 with its current list of missing features, it is going to go down in flames in the first round. No choice but to delay, and then release something competitive.

    • I think they might as well just put it out. WP7 will always be steps behind the iPhone. That’s never going to change. MS can delay release of WP7 to implement iPhone 4.0 features, but by the time it’s ready iPhone 5.0 will be here.

      Just release it and make it a second tier product. It’s MS’s mistake to make an iPhone clone and peg it to an aging version of the OS.

  5. Multitasking is not coming to any on-the-market iPhone except the 3GS. I’m looking forward to jkontherun’s “iPhone fragmentation” article, considering the amount of lament I’ve seen in these pages regarding Android fragmentation.

    • Gavin Miller

      Well, with respect there’s 3 models of iPhone, whereas there’s dozens of Android hand sets. Whilst I agree it’s a bit harsh for 3G owners, as a long time WinMo user there were hardly ever any updates for handsets, at least all models of iPhone and iPod touch are getting something.

    • It could indeed be an issue for us to watch develop. I’ll be interested to see how many of the older models are in use after iPhone OS 4 comes out though. Part of the Android problem is that until recently, there were more 1.5 & 1.6 devices than 2.x devices.

    • There’s a difference between phones released within months (or even weeks) of each other running wildly varying OS versions with disparate hardware features and software shells, and updated versions of the same phone released at 1-year intervals.

      Do you expect the next Nexus One to be exactly the same as the current model? Is it fragmentation to release an updated version of it at all?

      If you think the iPhone market is fragmented then you don’t understand the context of the term when used to describe the Android market.

      • A little harsher than I was, but that was the point I was trying to make. ;) I suspect less of a fragmentation issue because very few (relatively speaking) original iPhones are likely in use. And the 3G units are due for their 2 year contract upgrade — not that everyone will do that, nor did everyone buy in the summer of 2008, but the refresh cycle will minimize the device fragmentation. Quite a clever approach, when you think about it.

  6. Gavin Miller

    Really pleased at the announcements today. Many reasons I jailbroke my iPhone have been dealt with here.

    I think the multitasking approach being taken is very intelligent, minimising the performance hit, battery hit, but adding a lot of flexibility.


    I guess it’s all about timing. Concentrate on getting the iPad out with a tested OS, and then very quickly announce OS 4 to appease the ‘on the fencers’. I was one of those on the fence but now hear a 32Gb 3G iPad calling my name. If we ever get them in the UK! End of the month hopefully.

  7. The so-far unreported bombshell here is that iAds are in fact mini-apps coded in HTML5. Isn’t “fully interactive online media” the reason that HTML5 couldn’t kill Flash? And making ads == making money, so developers have an incentive to get up to speed quickly.

    Meet the Death of Flash, Part II.

  8. Jahan Khan Rashid

    i love that game bragging chart. 50000 iphone games vs 2000-4000 from the psp and nintendo ds. I wonder how many of those 50000 games are any good!! I also wonder how many people thought “god apple must be better theres 10 times the amount of games than nintendo!!”
    Let me know when a game on the iphone sells as wll as a game for the ds, ie 17 million mario kart ds games sold at a high price of at least $20 per unit vs a 3 million of doodle jump on the iphone at 99 cents!!

    Anyway a nice os update indeed, hopefully a hi res iphone with a decent camera announcement to round it off and i could be interested, but for now its the x10 for me

  9. herman

    I’m a bit disappointed and curious why they released the iPad but the OS upgrade won’t be available until fall. Especially after all the “iTouch XL” criticism. I’m still waiting for the iPhone 4G announcement.

    • Herman,

      I suspect a lot of it has to do with the iPhone team being as “in the dark” abut the iPad as everyone else was. Come the Fall, I believe it’ll be a “.1” release that brings it to the iPad. That will likely be the first unified release.

      If you want further evidence of this, note that the iPad’s 3.2 is not yet available for the iPhone.

      • herman

        Keeping the development teams in the dark makes sense. I hope AT&T can keep up with the data and will offer a better tethering plan than Verizon for the next iPhone. Then I may consider buying an iPad….or I’ll wait for 2.0.