Apple's iPhone 4.0 software to deliver multitasking support

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple this summer will go a long way towards silencing critics and catering to one of the most prevalent demands of its iPhone user base, when it introduces a multitasking solution through the handset's 4.0 software update that will finally allow several third party apps to run concurrently and in the background.



People with a proven track record in predicting Apple's technological advances tell AppleInsider that the Cupertino-based company has developed a "full-on solution" to multitasking on the iPhone OS but offered no specifics on how the technology would optimize resource conservation and battery life -- two of the most critical issues surrounding the matter, alongside security.



From a user-facing perspective, Apple plans to deliver a multi-tasking manager that leverages interface technology already bundled with its Mac OS X operating system, according to those same people. It was requested that specifics be withheld at this time, as the iPhone Software 4.0 remains under development and reportedly has a quite 'way to go' before it's ready for prime time.



Today's iPhone 3.x software is a fully preemptive multitasking operating system, but it artificially restricts apps (other than specific ones bundled with the system by Apple) from running in the background.



Not a technical issue



Controversy over "multitasking" within the iPhone OS has been brewing ever since Apple launched iPhone 2.0 with the ability to run third party software titles. While often reported as begin a technical flaw, the iPhone OS really has no problem with multitasking.



The system's phone, SMS, email, iPod, voice recorder, Nike+, and certain other bundled apps can continue in the background while the user launches another app. However, third party titles obtained from the App Store (including apps from Apple, such as Remote or iDisk) can not be launched at the same time.



This behavior is prevented by the iPhone OS' security model, which is designed to close the current app whenever the user returns to the Home screen or accepts an incoming call. This design prevents apps from being able to run in the background without the user knowing, and therefore erases any real potential for spyware, adware and viruses.



Enabling multitasking



By jailbreaking the system, the iPhone OS security model is compromised via an exploit, allowing the user to launch and run multiple apps. This also opens the door to both malware and widespread piracy, both of which have been contained by the default security system put in place by Apple.



While this has resulted in a secure platform and a commercially viable App Store for both users and developers, many vocal critics have cited a variety of examples of apps or features that can't work within these constrains.



Among these apps begging for background execution are: Pandora-style Internet radio; third party instant messaging features that are available at all times just like SMS or email; and Loopt or Google Latitude type apps that report the user's location at regular intervals.



New in iPhone 4.0



There are a number of ways Apple can address these needs. First is by allowing third parties to launch apps that actually run all the time in the background, just like the bundled Mail, SMS, iPod, or Voice Memos.



This isn't a technical problem for the multitasking iPhone OS, but does introduce new issues for users. Because the iPhone OS doesn't present a conventional windowing user interface, launching multiple apps requires the addition of a new interface mechanism that allows users to intuitively switch between apps without introducing too much new complexity.



The iPhone OS is intended to create mobile devices that are easy to use, not just small versions of the complex PC model of the 1990s. Apple mocked the unfriendly and complex Task Manager of Windows Mobile at the launch of iPhone 2.0. Today's Android users similarly find themselves diddling with resource and memory management to optimize battery life and performance.



Existing background-capable apps in iPhone 3.x paint a bar across the top of the screen that allows the user to return to that background app (such as a phone call, voice memo, or Nike+ session) when finished with their secondary foreground app. But that solution isn't going to scale to multiple apps all running at once.



Other multitasking issues to fix



In addition to a new graphical interface for switching (handled by the Dock in Mac OS X), a multitasking third party app model would also require a way for apps to communicate with each other or prioritize resource allocation. One reason why the iPhone and iPod touch are emerging as a successful mobile games platform is due to the fact that the iPhone OS' one-app model means that games can be more complex and sophisticated and yet still perform well on a mobile device.



Gaming has largely failed to take off on other mobile platforms because titles are limited to simplistic experiences, as they must either run in a poorly-performing layer of abstraction (such as the Adobe Flash/Flash Lite, Microsoft Silverlight, or Sun Java/Android Dalvik runtimes), or target a native platform that lacks an installed base big enough to attract significant development.



Installing lots of background processes will inevitably eat up battery life and performance, so adding multitasking features that are valuable without creating a mess for users to deal with requires solving a variety of non-obvious problems that are very apparent on other mobile platforms that claim to deliver functional multitasking.



Potential solutions include saving the state of and parking the foreground app, or scaling down the execution of a background app, so that multiple app execution does not overwhelm the limited resources available on mobile devices. Either one would allow the user to quickly switch between running apps without seeing much downside. Today's iPhone OS requires a brief layover to the Home screen before jumping from the current app to launch another one.



More system RAM and faster processors will also help to improve the experience of users who want to quickly switch between multiple apps.



One of the most requested features for the iPhone, multitasking has been falsely rumored to arrive on Apple's handset numerous times (1, 2,
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 481
    igeniusigenius Posts: 1,240member
    What the heck is taking them so long? In the meantime, Android is surging in popularity and the iOS is stagnating.
  • Reply 2 of 481
    Whoa... Am i really reading this? I cant believe my eyes!...
  • Reply 3 of 481
    g3prog3pro Posts: 669member
    Finally Apple is getting close to catching up to competitors which have long had multitasking.



    They are still lagging behind on screen resolution.
  • Reply 4 of 481
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    I'll believe it when I see it.
  • Reply 5 of 481
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ghostface147 View Post


    I'll believe it when I see it.



    I share your reaction but also words like "reportedly", "rumored" etc. are missing from the title so i guess they really have some confirmed insider information here.
  • Reply 6 of 481
    sandausandau Posts: 1,230member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iGenius View Post


    What the heck is taking them so long? In the meantime, Android is surging in popularity and the iOS is stagnating.



    yeah, android is so far ahead... even plays flash. oh wait....I guess it doesn't... dang.



    android is turning out to be an OS nightmare with how it's fragmenting into different OS's with different UIs. I don't predict it will end well... iOS is looking very solid in comparison.



    I find android very similar to the iPhone but with some very confusing UI elements.... and it's multitouch is pretty funky, especially in maps. It's 'good' but not great. But each phone is now becoming a different Android, and that can't be good in the long run for apps, stores, and UI consistency.



    so iOS stagnating? I beg to differ. It's a solid platform that keeps getting better.
  • Reply 7 of 481
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iGenius View Post


    What the heck is taking them so long? In the meantime, Android is surging in popularity and the iOS is stagnating.



    i received my nexus one yesterday, fiddled with it till late in the evening and here's my take on it vs iphone (used it too and i support too many people with them...)



    if you want the MOST intuitive, easy to use smartphone iphone wins. if you want the most consistent touchscreen, iphone wins. if you want to use exchange with your smartphone iphone wins. why you say? don't they both use activsync? because as best i can find, google and htc did not include exchange calendar sync on nexus one. it has it on droid but not on n1. i hope i am mistaken and just overlooking something cuz it is stupid.

    i guess i will have to sync exchange calendar to google cal cuz it does sync on n1.



    short of it is....if you like to tinker and figure things out on your own (think ubuntu vs mac os x) nexus one ain't bad.

    majority of people and what i would recommend to buyers is....get an iphone.
  • Reply 8 of 481
    rob55rob55 Posts: 1,255member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sandau View Post


    ...so iOS stagnating? I beg to differ. It's a solid platform that keeps getting better.



    Totally agree with you here. There is nothing that I find stagnant about the iOS.
  • Reply 9 of 481
    COME ON AT&T........ how about free tethering for our $30.00 data plan!!
  • Reply 10 of 481
    Cool. That means the iPad (how I hate that name!) will get it too via a software fix.



    That was my one source of buyer's regret with the device.



    Now, there's none!
  • Reply 11 of 481
    igeniusigenius Posts: 1,240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by g3pro View Post


    Finally Apple is getting close to catching up to competitors which have long had multitasking.



    They are still lagging behind on screen resolution.



    That's not the only area in which they are behind the curve.
  • Reply 12 of 481
    mr. kmr. k Posts: 114member
    I'm thinking that they could incorporate a system sorta like a cross between Spaces and Expose; punch four fingers together on the screen to enter it and see all applications running, tap on an application to select and access it.
  • Reply 13 of 481
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sandau View Post


    yeah, android is so far ahead... even plays flash. oh wait....I guess it doesn't... dang.



    android is turning out to be an OS nightmare with how it's fragmenting into different OS's with different UIs. I don't predict it will end well... iOS is looking very solid in comparison.



    I find android very similar to the iPhone but with some very confusing UI elements.... and it's multitouch is pretty funky, especially in maps. It's 'good' but not great. But each phone is now becoming a different Android, and that can't be good in the long run for apps, stores, and UI consistency.



    so iOS stagnating? I beg to differ. It's a solid platform that keeps getting better.



    Well, I don't agree that the android OS is going to end badly, primarily because it's free to license for phone manufacturers vs the licensing fees they would incur for Windows Mobile and of course they cant license IOS. That being said, I DO agree that the Android UI is horrible.



    As far as the IOS stagnating, I agree that's completely off base. They have clearly been growing it just as they have OSX, with regular steady updates. Ironically, I do think they should spend MORE time on the OSX UI which feels rather dated to me compared to Win 7.
  • Reply 14 of 481
    igeniusigenius Posts: 1,240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sandau View Post


    yeah, android is so far ahead... even plays flash. oh wait....I guess it doesn't... dang.



    android is turning out to be an OS nightmare with how it's fragmenting into different OS's with different UIs. I don't predict it will end well... iOS is looking very solid in comparison.



    I find android very similar to the iPhone but with some very confusing UI elements.... and it's multitouch is pretty funky, especially in maps. It's 'good' but not great. But each phone is now becoming a different Android, and that can't be good in the long run for apps, stores, and UI consistency.



    so iOS stagnating? I beg to differ. It's a solid platform that keeps getting better.



    Some reality: http://gizmodo.com/5490299/android-s...one-stalls-out



    Android much more than doubled in usage since October. RIM is pulling even further ahead of Apple in users. And the proportion of iOS users has gone nowhere in that time period.



    Some folks don't like facts.
  • Reply 15 of 481
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Apple will also need to rethink the interface/usability of switching between multiple running apps. Hitting the home button each time, will get old very quickly (as it does now...).
  • Reply 16 of 481
    rob55rob55 Posts: 1,255member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. K View Post


    I'm thinking that they could incorporate a system sorta like a cross between Spaces and Expose; punch four fingers together on the screen to enter it and see all applications running, tap on an application to select and access it.



    That's a good idea. I can totally see that working on the iPhone. Truth is, the iPhone's screen isn't that much smaller that the touchpad on the MBP.
  • Reply 17 of 481
    Silence critics? Puh-leeze, they'll find something else to bib-dribble about.
  • Reply 18 of 481
    igeniusigenius Posts: 1,240member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by screamingfist View Post




    majority of people and what i would recommend to buyers is....get an iphone.



    But what about The Rest Of Us?
  • Reply 19 of 481
    sandausandau Posts: 1,230member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dave K. View Post


    Apple will also need to rethink the interface/usability of switching between multiple running apps. Hitting the home button each time, will get old very quickly (as it does now...).



    two fingers on the screen and click home button?
  • Reply 20 of 481
    I highly doubt that if there is multi-tasking, it will be true multi-tasking. (Then again, one could argue there is multi-tasking in the current iPhone OS, able to play music in the background, receive notifications in the background, etc... even that most coveted "Talk and Surf" feature. :P)



    Anyhow, my guess is that they will suspend programs that are not on the screen, except for any notifications or messages. There may be the possibility of having a small interactive part with the notification system, but that would be the extent of it. Essentially, they would suspend a program so you can use something else, then come back to it when you want and pick up where you left off. We all know the iPhone OS won't have multiple windows open on the screen at once (I doubt it ever would since any handheld device's screen is so small) so something like this would be perfect and give the sense that we are multi-tasking. Even if this were the case, that would still be a HUGE step forward for so many people! (Some programs currently remember the last state you were in and when launched, go back to that state.)
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