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Thursday, 8 April 2010

iPhone OS 4: Does it tick all the boxes?? (Updated)

So all the drama of the iPhone OS4 announcement is over, lets have a look at the 7 major features 'tentpoles' and see if non-believers will be swayed...

In my Why I don't have a Jesus phone post in January my 3 main software issues with the iPhone OS were:
  • Lack of Multitasking
  • Obtrusive Notifications
  • Limited Homescreen 
So lets have a look at the 7 so called 'tentpoles' of iPhone OS4 and see if they address my issues:

#1 Multitasking:
Hurray! At long last the iPhone does indeed have multitasking. While there are some commentators arguing whether Apple's implementation is 'true' multitasking or advanced process switching, it really only matters if it works or not.
So how does it work?
From a user perspective, two clicks of the 'Home' button displays running applications on the iPhones dock. This is scrollable and one click switches to that application. Not the expose eye candy i expected (or Palm's cards for that matter) but effective and more importantly it's multitasking on an iPhone! Interestingly on the Q&A after the event Jobs was asked how to kill open applications:

Q: How do you close applications when multitasking?
A: (Scott Forstall) You don't have to. The user just uses things and doesn't ever have to worry about it.
A: (Steve Jobs) It's like we said on the iPad, if you see a stylus, they blew it. In multitasking, if you see a task manager... they blew it. Users shouldn't ever have to think about it.

I have to say I love that attitude and there is a lot to be said for this method, multitasking without the headaches, Apple say's they are late to the multitasking party, but "like copy and paste... (they) will be the best" but how do they do it?
iPhone OS4 basically pauses the main application (as any Unix app is capable of) but allows 7 key services to run in the background, which Apple claims allows multitasking without the battery drain.
  • Background Audio (Think Spotify/Pandora while browsing)
  • VOIP (Allows Skype to work as a phone replacement without being at the forefront) 
  • Background Location (GPS background navidation)
  • Push Notifications (as before)
  • Local Notifications (as above, however without the need to come through Apples servers, think Alarm Clock)
  • Task Completion (allows downloads/uploads to work in the background)
  • Fast App Switching (because of the multitasking, apps are now quicler to resume and dont need to relaunch)
So what about IM chats/ Twitter notifications? You are stuck with push notifications I'm afraid, which still feels quite limiting.
Don't get me wrong these are all nice features, however most of them seem so obvious and widely available elsewhere it kinda feels like copy and paste all over again and with the notifications seemingly as obtrusive as ever, it still seems half baked to me.

#2 App Folders:
Wow! Imagine the concept of a folder you can virtually keep things in, it seems so obvious that you'd think it had been around for 30 years.....oh wait, it has!
Sure it has a nice little animation for creating them and sure users have wanted this for a while and sure they are dockable, but come on,  is this really a major feature for organising the Homescreen clutter?? Weak Apple, weak.

#3 Enhanced Email:
Allows consolidation of multiple accounts in a unified Inbox with support for multiple Exchange accounts, threaded messaging and in-app attachment viewing. Wow, nothing says 'buy me' like a unified Inbox! Again nice features, however if you take Android for example, this is the kind of update that Google would just put on the Marketplace with a new version of Gmail. Is it really a major feature??

#4 iBooks:
iPad's iBooks comes to iPhone, iGiveup.

#5 Enterprise:
Essential features like remote management and application distribution, will keep the IT departments of the world smiling and RIM crying. Great..

#6 Game Center:
Social gaming network that includes matchmaking, leaderboards and achievements, sound familiar? It should as it is a total rip off of Xbox Live. It will be interesting to see if this is a gamechanger (pardon the pun) as while there are 85M iPhone OS users out there and a huge variety of 'games' available, it doesn't have the integration and synergy of a proper gaming platform.

#7 iAd:
Just when you thought Apple's Flashless vision of the internet would spare you from those awful Viagra  adverts they introduce iAd. Basically the idea here is a more immersive advert that is compelling and interesting to the user, prescribed every 3 mins. It is completely done in HTML 5 and seems like an advert App within an App. While I'm sure this will help developers make money and keep apps free, it makes me shudder at the prospect of the lines blurring between app and advert.
Jobs seemed more excited by this than any other feature and it felt more like a big middle finger to Google (Google is massive in online advertising and snatched Admob from Apples grasp) than anything else.

So there we have it, iPhone OS 4. But did it address my (and many others) Jesus phone software issues?
Lets recap:

  • Lack of Multitasking (B+, some functionality missing, but if it works as good as they say and with little performance drain, this is a winner for me.)
  • Obtrusive Notifications (D-, almost completely unaddressed, however with multitasking enabled, the notifications should be less prevalent)
  • Limited Homescreen (F+, Folders just don't cut it I'm afraid, where are my Widgets??)
Overall Score, D , Must try Harder.


Update: As commenter Chris points out, I neglected to mention that many features including multitasking will not be available on the iPhone 3G or any iPod touch except the late 2009 models


  1. LAME update!

    My Jailbroken iPhone has been doing the multitasking and folders for ages and a hell of a lot more.

    Also no multitasking on the 3G apparently (unless you jailbreak it of course)

    Apple are becoming so disappointing

  2. Yeah, forgot to mention the lack of iPhone 3G/older ipod touch love.Updated the post. It's not so much disappointment as lowering my expectations of them bringing a revolutionary product EVERY time.