Apple has announced the features that will be in iPhone OS 4.0, an upcoming version of the operating system used by the new iPad. There’s good news and bad news for the tablet: it will be getting a form of multitasking, but not until much later this year.
OS 4.0 will allow third-party apps to perform some tasks in the background, but not have full functionality. It’s a compromise to prevent multitasking from slowing down the app running in the foreground or cutting into the battery life.
Apps will be able to stream audio in the background, and VoIP devices will be able to receive calls, when they are running in the background. And apps will be able to finish tasks the user had already requested, like uploading large files.
Users will be able to easily switch between apps that are running. Double-clicking the Home button is going to bring up a list of icons showing applications that are running, allowing users to choose the one they want.
Because this isn’t “true” multitasking, developers are going to need to modify their software for it to be able to take advantage of this new system.
iPhone OS 4.0 is going to bring other features, too. Near the top of the list if folders in the in the application launcher. They can replace the multiple homescreens used now to organize apps.
Business users might be happy to learn that the next version of the OS is going to support more than one Exchange account. It will also have a unified email inbox that brings together messages from a variety of sources, but still lets users switch between messages from different sources.
Apple’s iBooks app on the iPad now will be extended to the company’s smartphones and handhelds.
In addition, the company is creating a social networking service for mobile gamers.
There is plenty on users’ wish lists that won’t be included in iPhone OS 4.0. It won’t support Adobe Flash, and CEO Steve Jobs has said that he has no intention of adding it.
The file system is still not exposed to users, and Jobs isn’t a fan of styli, so pen-based input continues to be unlikely.
Coming this Fall
Apple’s recent smartphones and handhelds are getting an operating system upgrade this summer, but iPad owners are going to have to wait until fall.
There is no word yet on whether Apple will charge for the upgrade.