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Apple granted patent for iOS multitasking user interface

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Apple on Tuesday was awarded a patent for a method which allows smartphone users to quickly switch between multiple open apps, a feature many iOS device owners have come to find indispensable.

Multitasking
Source: USPTO


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,291,344 for a "Device, method, and graphical user interface for managing concurrently open software applications," otherwise known as multitasking.

While switching between apps running in the background has become part of the iOS experience, and possibly taken for granted for those new to the operating system, the feature wasn't available until version 4.0 of what was then called the iPhone OS.

Apple's first steps into multitasking actually came with app switching on the iPad in early 2010, though at the time, the system still limited third party apps to run in the background. It was only until iPhone OS 4.0 that true multitasking was allowed for apps made by outside developers.

Apple was well aware of the constraints seen in iPhone OS, especially as titles in the App Store grew exponentially, and in September of 2010 filed a patent application outlining its solution to bring multitasking to its mobile platform.

From the '344 patent's background:

For portable electronic devices, existing methods for managing concurrently open applications are cumbersome and inefficient. For example, portable devices with small screens (e.g., smart phones and other pocket-sized devices) typically display a single application at a time, even though multiple applications may be running on the device. With such devices, a user may have difficulty seeing and managing the currently open applications. This situation creates a significant cognitive burden on a user. In addition, existing methods for managing currently open applications take longer than necessary, thereby wasting energy. This latter consideration is particularly important in battery-operated devices.


The comprehensive patent goes on to describe a number of embodiments, each focusing on a device first displaying an open application, which is then replaced by a second open app that takes the place of the first. A slew of user interface options are described, including a number of solutions resembling Apple's Time Machine "three-dimensional stack" GUI, except with representations of open apps.

Multitasking Stack
Illustration of "three-dimensional stack" UI.


In another embodiment, the app windows are downsized and represented as a linear strip that can be scrolled through, much like mobile Safari's multi-pane GUI.

Multitasking Strip
Illustration of scrollable linear strip embodiment.


Ultimately, the patent describes the system iOS users have come to know, which is the double tapping of an iDevice's home button, which brings up a row of icons on the bottom of the screen. Each icon in the multitasking bar represents a recently opened app, and can be scrolled through and selected as wanted by the user.

The '344 patent also accommodates gesture-driven multitasking, as is seen on the iPad when a four-finger swipe up reveals the multitasking bar. Basically every instance and embodiment seen in modern iOS iterations, meaning iOS 4 or later, are covered in the invention, including the multitasking bar's orientation rotation lock and music player controls.

Multitasking Controls
Illustration of multitasking bar device controls.


It should be noted that the Expos?-like iOS multitasking bar does not technically represent a list of running apps, but instead shows those programs that were recently opened by the user. Background tasks are still managed by the OS itself, and usually have a max time limit in which to complete a task. For example, a podcast downloader may be run in the background while a user is browsing the web, but if the selected media does not download in the specified amount of time, iOS will suspend the app's CPU access. There are instances when this time limit does not apply, such as when music player apps or first-party software are functioning.
post #2 of 15
I wish they'd have a three finger swipe for the iPhone and touch to bring up the multitasking bar (like the iPads 4 finger swipe). I hate pushing my home button so much.

2012 27" iMac i7, 2010 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, (2) iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5
Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

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2012 27" iMac i7, 2010 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, (2) iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5
Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

Reply
post #3 of 15
I too wish, they'd have the toggles for not only screen lock but wifi and bluetooth and a few other power toggles just as they show in the picture. Once they add that I would no longer have to jailbreak the iPhone I'd own to get sbsettings on it and iOS would be absolutely perfect in my opinion. Hopefully by the time I get rid of Android phone they will have that in iOS.
post #4 of 15
I never liked the multitasking bar as it is way too small. From a UX perspective, why only show one row and force the user to scroll through? Not smart.

I really like the swiping on the IPAD to switch between apps and wish they would enable it on the iPhone/iPod Touch too.

I would also add the settings in the multitasking bar too.

Hope someone from Apple is reading this:)
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jivanile View Post

I too wish, they'd have the toggles for not only screen lock but wifi and bluetooth and a few other power toggles just as they show in the picture. Once they add that I would no longer have to jailbreak the iPhone I'd own to get sbsettings on it and iOS would be absolutely perfect in my opinion. Hopefully by the time I get rid of Android phone they will have that in iOS.


That's a nice thing android does have- from notification bar you can have Bluetooth, wifi, and GPS to turn on or off. Now- when I'm done with maps, I have to double click the home button, hold down maps, hit the - button, then the home button again. Whew... And it still shows GPS as on for a good 5 mins

2012 27" iMac i7, 2010 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, (2) iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5
Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

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2012 27" iMac i7, 2010 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, (2) iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5
Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

Reply
post #6 of 15
I'm starting to feel a little envious when I see Android commercials and Windows 8 videos with true multifunction features. The split screen feature seems really cool. Also the ability to watch a video on one half and read your email on the other is pretty cool too. On the other hand, I suppose this is a big drain on battery life and may not be an often used feature, especially on a phone. But it could be useful on a tablet.

Speaking of battery life, wouldn't it be cool, if one day Apple didn't make the next iOS device smaller/slimmer with the same battery life and instead kept the size the same, but added 25% longer battery life? All of a sudden, 10 hours becomes 12.5 hours. This would really be a differential feature between other mobile devices.
post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andysol View Post


That's a nice thing android does have- from notification bar you can have Bluetooth, wifi, and GPS to turn on or off. Now- when I'm done with maps, I have to double click the home button, hold down maps, hit the - button, then the home button again. Whew... And it still shows GPS as on for a good 5 mins

Yes - I have no idea why bluetooth is not more readily accessible. Whenever I want to use my Bose Soundlink I have to go several layers down in order to pair it up. 

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by djmikeo View Post

I'm starting to feel a little envious when I see Android commercials and Windows 8 videos with true multifunction features. The split screen feature seems really cool. Also the ability to watch a video on one half and read your email on the other is pretty cool too. On the other hand, I suppose this is a big drain on battery life and may not be an often used feature, especially on a phone. But it could be useful on a tablet.
Speaking of battery life, wouldn't it be cool, if one day Apple didn't make the next iOS device smaller/slimmer with the same battery life and instead kept the size the same, but added 25% longer battery life? All of a sudden, 10 hours becomes 12.5 hours. This would really be a differential feature between other mobile devices.

Ya- the multi-tasking on the phone seems a bit too much on Android- and yes- it would kill battery life.  Tablets, on the other hand, you're right- that would be nice.  Really, gestures would make a big difference... I couldn't imagine using a mouse normally like I used to before the Magic Mouse (which I still like more than my trackpad- although I use that almost exclusively for zooming).  Gestures really do put you in another realm- why they haven't done it yet on the phone is beyond me.

 

In terms of your second point, ya, battery life would be nice- but after having the iPhone 5 several weeks, personally, I am glad they went thinner and lighter.  It's absolutely astonishing.  Pictures and words cant describe why it's better like that, you just have to use it.

2012 27" iMac i7, 2010 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, (2) iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5
Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

Reply

2012 27" iMac i7, 2010 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, (2) iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5
Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

Reply
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by djmikeo View Post

I'm starting to feel a little envious when I see Android commercials and Windows 8 videos with true multifunction features. The split screen feature seems really cool. Also the ability to watch a video on one half and read your email on the other is pretty cool too. On the other hand, I suppose this is a big drain on battery life and may not be an often used feature, especially on a phone. But it could be useful on a tablet....

 

I thought this too when I was looking at the marketing materials for Windows 8, but on reflection I think I only want it as a sort of "tech-lust."  It serves no actual purpose.  

 

When it comes right down to it, you can't *really* watch a movie and read an email at the same time.  You can't *really* read two things at the same time, and you can't *really* watch two things at the same time either.  The only time "multi-tasking" becomes relevant for the average user, is when it's merely the ability to see multiple documents at the same time.  

 

When you are doing research, or writing for example, both on a real desktop as well as it's computer virtualisation, you may want to have multiple pictures, documents, books etc. open all at the same time on the desktop.  This is not really the same thing as having multiple apps open or "multi-tasking" in the sense of doing two things at once.  This is just a broader view on one's documents.  This is already possible. 

 

I think "true multitasking" is arguably a very rare and mostly unnecessary thing for most users.  Those that need it, (video production, art production, computer coding, software design, etc.), are probably better off on a desktop computer anyway.  Multitasking in the sense of merely being able to switch back and forth between multiple tasks quickly and effectively, is already here, and for the most part, it's all anyone needs. 

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andysol View Post

In terms of your second point, ya, battery life would be nice- but after having the iPhone 5 several weeks, personally, I am glad they went thinner and lighter.  It's absolutely astonishing.  Pictures and words cant describe why it's better like that, you just have to use it.

 

I agree.  The 5 feels incredibly good in my hand and I just don't think the battery life on the iPad needs improvement.  I'll take thinner and lighter, please, thank you.

 

What we really need is radically new battery technology.  Li-ion seems to be getting quite mature and suffering from diminishing returns.  

post #11 of 15

FWIW

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

When it comes right down to it, you can't *really* watch a movie and read an email at the same time.  You can't *really* read two things at the same time, and you can't *really* watch two things at the same time either.  

 

A split window might not make too much sense for a movie that you really want to pay close attention to.  For anything else, I think it does.

 

My home office has a TV that I watch while working.   It's often tuned to the news or documentaries or even old films.   It's nice to keep up with breaking news(*), and it's nice to have a distraction while long compiles are going on.

 

(*) For example, the shuttle disasters, 9/11, the jet in the Hudson, etc.  I suppose a scrolling widget works too, but the split window can be thought of as simply a more media intensive widget :)

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by replicant View Post

I never liked the multitasking bar as it is way too small. From a UX perspective, why only show one row and force the user to scroll through? Not smart.
I really like the swiping on the IPAD to switch between apps and wish they would enable it on the iPhone/iPod Touch too.
I would also add the settings in the multitasking bar too.

Hope someone from Apple is reading this:)


Wouldnt it be _GREAT_ if the OS would actually show the app icons scrolling left or right depending which way your heading/swiping? I mean like os X when switching applications with tabulator so you know which way you want to go (on mac how many tabs you want to press). Now you have to back and forth because you dont have an effing clue where your app sits. Its allways a lottery when the app showing agfter the swipe only shows the borders and no text so your thinking is this the right one or not (and after a few seconds when it loads its content you notice it aint what you want).

 

Hope someone from Apple is reading this++

post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by KDarling View Post

 

A split window might not make too much sense for a movie that you really want to pay close attention to.  For anything else, I think it does.

 

My home office has a TV that I watch while working.   It's often tuned to the news or documentaries or even old films.   It's nice to keep up with breaking news(*), and it's nice to have a distraction while long compiles are going on.

 

(*) For example, the shuttle disasters, 9/11, the jet in the Hudson, etc.  I suppose a scrolling widget works too, but the split window can be thought of as simply a more media intensive widget :)


i++

 

Try making a mail on ios and copy pictures from camera roll and information from web and links. You cant do it any way you like. You have to go to the camera roll and take the pics that you want and then copy paste information from some other source. This is annoying since i usually want to type my message and after that think about what I want to attach.... This is specially problematic if you want to forward just an attached file from an email but not the email but want to add some pictures from camera roll. Obviously you can send many emails but that is not a nice solution.

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post



I think "true multitasking" is arguably a very rare and mostly unnecessary thing for most users.  Those that need it, (video production, art production, computer coding, software design, etc.), are probably better off on a desktop computer anyway.  Multitasking in the sense of merely being able to switch back and forth between multiple tasks quickly and effectively, is already here, and for the most part, it's all anyone needs. 

I think you missed the most important aspect of multitasking which is downloading/uploading something that takes a lot or atleast more of th time than you want and would like to do something more productive in the meantime. Most iOS apps really suck here even if I think it should be possible to have the download Finnish before exiting into te background but most app makers don't cover this aspect and downloads will break when the screenlock goes one or you by mistake press the home button( or someone else presses it)

The ony option is jailbreakin which you have backgrounder which in you can force an app to override to force bein run in the background!
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