Apple Shows off iPhone OS 4.0, Includes Multitasking, Folders, Better Mail, Shipping in Summer

Today Apple announced a developer preview of iPhone OS 4.0. The new OS will be available for developers later today and to consumers this summer. The update provides over 1,500 new APIs for developers and over 100 new user features. Apple focused on seven new iPhone OS 4 features, first and most noteworthy is the ability to run 3rd-party applications in the background via the use of new multitasking APIs.

Apple stated that the reason they held off on multitasking was to avoid performance losses and significant battery drain, and 4.0 provides multitasking features without most of the negative aspects. The multitasking APIs allow applications to run specific services in the background while the full application is suspended. Photos follow below.

Double-clicking the Home button provides access to all of your running applications by moving the current app up to reveal a dock-like interface. Icons of running apps are placed in the dock and can be scrolled through with a swipe.

The APIs available allow the following:

  1. Background audio for applications like Pandora. Lock screen controls work with audio-based apps.
  2. Voice over IP - maintain a connection in the background so you can receive calls while the app is closed. You can also leave the app while remaining on a call. When you want to return to the call, tapping the red status bar returns you to the app. Just like the phone app.
  3. Background location provides location information to apps like TomTom for navigation in the background and status updates for apps like Loopt. Whenever an application is requesting your location in the background, a new icon is placed in the status bar.
  4. Push notifications, which we already know about
  5. Local notifications show notifications from applications without needing a server
  6. Task completion apps such as uploading a file to Flickr
  7. Fast app switching which lets an app idle in the background, requiring very little CPU


The second new feature in 4.0 is Home Screen folders. You can now arrange apps on your home screen through the use of folders. By dragging an app atop another app, a folder is created. Folders appear on the home screen as an app icon with many smaller app icons within it. Tapping a folder shows a pop-over containing all of the apps within.

Third new feature is an enhanced Mail. The inbox is unified, so all of your accounts can be seen in one window. Messages are now threaded, so a whole conversation can be viewed together. Attachments can be viewed with third party apps, not just Apple’s apps. And for you Exchange users, you can now have multiple Exchange accounts.

Fourth, iBooks is also coming to the iPhone and iPod touch in 4.0. It’s basically a shrunken down version of iBooks on the iPad, but book progress is synced wirelessly to all of your devices with iBooks.

Fifth, Apple is also adding a bunch of new enterprise features. They’re now including better data protection; allowing you to encrypt email and attachments with your pin code, and providing APIs for developers to encrypt data within their apps. They also have mobile device management, wireless app distribution, multiple exchange accounts, Exchange server 2010 support, and SSL VPN support.

Sixth, Apple is providing a preview version of a new feature called Game Center. This allows developers to easily add features to their games. Features include the ability to challenge friends to games with automatic match making, automatically find others of similar ability, leader boards, and achievement logging. It’ll be available sometime next year.

Seventh, Apple unveiled their new ad network dubbed “iAd.” iAd will provide rich, interactive ads for developers to use in their applications. The platform allows advertisers to create interactive experiences that pop up over the application when tapped by the user. Advertisers can use many iPhone OS features such as audio and video. One demo even showed a game within the ad. Once the user is finished viewing the ad, they can tap a close button and return to the application. The app does not exit while viewing an ad.

iPhone OS 4.0 is available today for developers to begin using and creating apps on. It’ll be available for iPhone and iPod touch users this summer and to iPad customers in the fall. Multitasking will only run on the iPhone 3GS and 3rd generation iPod touch. iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2g owners can use iPhone OS 4.0, minus multitasking. Original iPhone and iPod touch owners will not be able to run iPhone OS 4.0.

[Big thanks to Gizmodo for the photos!]

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