More details on upcoming iPhone OS 4

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By now I’m sure most Apple/iPhone fans, or general gadgetophiles, are aware that last week Apple unveiled a sneak peak of the this summer’s upcoming iPhone OS 4.  If you’re curious but didn’t feel like taking the time to watch the hour-long keynote, here is some addition info.

Apple iPhone OS 4 Event was held last Thursday (8 April 2010).  Per standard modus operandi, Apple CEO Steve Jobs was master of ceremonies for the event, which also included several additional speakers.  The bulk of the presentation was a sneak peak of the upcoming iPhone OS 4.  A video of the roughly hour-long keynote presentation can be viewed via the Apple website.  For anyone who is curious, many of the talking points from both the Apple website and the keynote presentation itself are below.  Please note that there is currently a lot of speculation and discussion on the web about iPhone OS 4, but this post only includes what was presented in the keynote presentation.

Developer Features

Over 1500 new APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) for application developers in the iPhone OS 4 SDK (Software Development Kit).   A sampling of what was presented:

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  • Calendar access
  • In-app SMS
  • Photo Library access
  • Quick Look
  • Full access to still and video camera data
  • Full map overlays
  • Accelerate
  • Automated testing
  • Power analysis tools
  • iPod remote control accessories

User Features

Over 100 new or updated user features in iPHone OS 4.   A sampling of what was presented:

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  • 5x digital zoom for Camera app
  • Playlists on iPhone
  • Tap to focus on Video app
  • Added places in Photo app for geotagging
  • Change home AND lock screen wallpaper
  • Bluetooth keyboard use
  • Spellchecker
  • Gifting apps
  • Birthday calendar
  • File & Delete email search results

“Tentpole” Features

In addition to the above-mentioned new or updated features, the bulk of the presentation focused on seven so-called “Tentpole” features:

1. Multitasking

Developers will have access to seven multitasking services (listed below), which will allow tasks to be performed in the background while preserving performance of the foreground app and overall battery life.   So you’ll be able to make a Voice over IP call while playing a game or checking email, find a restaurant on Urbanspoon while listening to Pandora, and more.  Per Steve Jobs, “We weren’t the first to this party, but we’re gonna be the best.” It will work by double-clicking the Home button within a running app, which will bring up a bar at bottom (similar in appearance to the row of “dock” icons already at the bottom of the iPhone screen) that displays all apps currently running—scroll to the app you want and tap the icon to select.  Games will have a countdown to give you time to get ready to re-start where you left off.  The seven multitasking services are:

  • Background audio – Think Pandora.  Streaming audio in the background while continuing to perform other tasks.  We’ve always been able to do this with the iPod app and other Apple-native apps, but now we’ll be able to do it with 3rd-party apps too.
  • VoIP – Think Skype.  Similar to the above, streaming Voice over IP in the background while continuing to perform other tasks.  Will also now be able to answer Skype calls when the iPhone is locked.
  • Background location – Two types, GPS for turn-by-turn directions (think TomTom) and cell tower for power preservation (think social networking like Loopt).  Also adding a location indicator to the upper right of the status bar, and users will have the ability to enable/disable location requesting by app, as well as an indicator icon displaying if an app has asked for the user’s location in the last 24 hours.
  • Push notifications – Pushed through an Apple server to your iPhone
  • Local notifications – Sent to you from a local app
  • Task completion – Think flickr.  Say you’re uploading a bunch of pics to flickr, but don’t want to wait for it to finish.  It will continue the upload in the background even if you switch to a different app.
  • Fast app switching – The running foreground app stores its state and preserves it in background for when you return to the app.

2. Folders

Get faster access to your favorites by organizing apps into folders with drag-and-drop simplicity.  And browse and manage up to 2160 apps at once — many more than the current limit of 180 apps.

  • Drag and Drop UI – Touch and hold the icon, drag and drop it to another icon to create a folder.
  • Intelligent naming – OS 4 intelligently auto-names the folder based on the App Store category of the apps that you are grouping.  Folder names are editable.  Folders can be moved just like app icons.
  • 180 –> 2160 apps – The upper limit of apps goes from the current 180 to 2160.

3. Mail

See messages from all your email accounts displayed together in a unified inbox, switch between inboxes more quickly, organize messages by threads, and open attachments in third-party apps.

  • Unified inbox – All of your email addresses come into one inbox
  • Multiple Exchange support – Now supporting more than one Microsoft Exchange email accounts
  • Fast inbox switching – Move quickly between inboxes with just a few taps
  • Threaded messages – A indicator will be displayed for emails that are part of a thread of related messages
  • Open attachments with apps – Open attachments from any App Store app.

4. iBooks

Easily flip through the pages of a book you’ve downloaded from the iBookstore while listening to your music collection. Browse tens of thousands of books — many of them free — by title, author, or genre. You can even check out reviews and read sample pages before you buy.

  • “Delightful” ebook reader – Steve Jobs’ word, not mine!  😉
  • iBookstore – Same as for the iPad
  • Buy once, read anywhere – Buy once on any Apple device, transfer to any other Apple device for no additional charge
  • Sync page and bookmarks – Wirelessly sync your current page and bookmarks between Apple devices
  • Free Winnie the Pooh – Hey, who doesn’t like Winnie the Pooh?

5. Enterprise

iPhone OS 4 offers more useful features for businesses. With enhancements to security, scalability, and compatibility, IT managers have even more reasons to deploy iPhone throughout their enterprises.

  • Even better email protection
  • Mobile Device Management
  • Wireless app distribution
  • Multiple Exchange accounts
  • Exchange Server 2010
  • SSL VPN support

6. Game Center

Later in 2010, Apple will be launching Game Center, with which it hopes to further cash in on the ever-increasing popularity of the online gaming community.

  • Social gaming network – Seems like an obvious combo
  • Invite friends – Challenge your friends to a game over your device
  • Matchmaking – Automatically searches for players of similar ability
  • Leaderboards – Compare your results with your friends
  • Achievements – See how you are progressing through a game and compare to your friends.

7. iAd

iAd is a “breakthrough” mobile advertising platform from Apple. With it, apps can feature rich media ads that combine the emotion of TV with the interactivity of the web. For developers, it means a new, easy-to-implement source of revenue. For advertisers, it creates a new media outlet that offers consumers highly targeted information.

  • Emotion + interactivity – Basically they are going for a combo of TV-quality ads and interactive web ads
  • Ads keep you in your app – Won’t have to find your way back to where you started once you are done with the ad
  • Built into iPhone OS – Ad software is integral to the OS and therefore hopefully quicker and more stable
  • Apple sells & hosts adds – Centralization for simplification (and allows Apple to maintain control)
  • 60% revenues – > developers – $$ in developer’s pocket, $$ in Apple’s pocket.  Pitched as a win-win.

Availability & Compatibility

iPhone OS 4 will begin shipping “this summer” for iPhone 3G and 3GS and iPod touch – 2nd gen and 3rd gen (32 & 64 Gb models).  However, iPhone 3G and iPod touch – 2nd gen hardware will not support Multitasking and possibly some other features.  OS 4 will begin shipping for iPad “this fall.”


As alluded to at the top of this post, I realize that there has been much speculation, excitement and criticism over the iPhone OS 4 announcement.  But as an iPhone 3GS owner, I for one am excited about the new features described above.  Hopefully The Gadgeteer will be able to give a detailed review of iPhone OS 4 this summer.

13 thoughts on “More details on upcoming iPhone OS 4”

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  2. In regards to the lack of availability of multitasking on 3G phones, I must admit that I begrudgingly laud Apple for their stance on forced upgrades. Apple seems to set a very high bar for reliability and maintaining the end user experience. I only own the iPhone 3G and it is the first electronic device I have ever owned that “just worked.” It has got me seriously considering purchasing a Mac computer in the future becuase I have reached the stage in my life where I don’t want to fiddle with computers and all the complicated intricacies of say, installing drivers and rebooting, etc. iPhone OS 4 is another testament of Apple’s vision of “we weren’t the first to do it, but we’ll do it best” and that is what has me willing to hand over my Benjamins for their product. I just don’t see the cohesiveness and end user experience coming from Redmond (in any of their product really) or the Googleplex. Kudos Apple.

  3. Besides the multitasking support, I’m most looking forward to folders!

    I like that the iBooks app will be able to sync bookmarks between devices, but I wonder if this will work with non-purchased books? I need this feature!

  4. @Julie: I have OS 4 beta running on my iPod touch. Works great with only a few minor hiccups. But I will let you know about the iBooks app bookmarks syncing when I get my iPad 3G…whenever that is coming out…lol

  5. Norberto Maldonado

    Any word on new iPhone hardware?
    As in the next-gen iPhone. I would hate to upgrade from 3G to 3Gs only to have a new phone come out shortly thereafter.

  6. @Norberto – Rumors of “iPhone HD” are beginning to ramp up around the web. Predictions thus far are sketchy, but most are figuring that it will have a 960×640 display, front facing camera (for video conferencing) as well as rear, and an A4-class system-on-a-chip. Most are speculating a late June release. And it’s a good bet it will have iPhone OS 4.

  7. @Andy: Just a few “lag” on opening the folders. But I think I just overloaded the folder just to test it out. Multitasking works as advertised. Game Center isn’t fully live yet. Just very minor things which should be fixed on final version.

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