The 'Multi-Tasking' Myth - Debate

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Can someone please explain the value of the much-hyped Palm Pre's 'multi-tasking' and the drawback of the much-maligned iPhone's inability to 'multi-task'?



From what I've seen, the Palm Pre appears to allow several apps to run 'at once', but since the screen size is limited, if you're looking at the browser, you're looking at the browser. You can jump quickly into email and back again, and both apps will be exactly as you left them.



On the iPhone, I can jump in/out of mail/calendar/browser and even 3rd party games, and have exactly the same experience. Mail retains the message I was in the midst of typing etc.



IM?

Again, on the Pre a message will come into AOL etc. with that App running, but I won't know it if I'm in email unless I receive some sort of ALERT; then I'll switch to IM to respond.



On the iPhone, the APP will be 'passive' (saving battery life and performance), but I'll get a push notification ALERT of a new message. Sounds better to me.



Calling?

On either device, I can be on a call while checking email, contacts, or calendar etc.



Music?

OK, so on the Pre I can listen to Pandora and switch to other apps without interrupting the music; I guess that's cool.



On the iPhone, I can listen to my iPod library while switching to other apps. Not Pandora, but a minor difference.





SO, is all this debate really about the ability to listen to Pandora while checking email and a few other 'corner cases'? After all; you really can only do one thing at a time on a small screen mobile device unless one of the 2 things you want to do is passive (listening only) like a phone call or music, which the iPhone has. Can someone make a case for multi-tasking that is more consequential?
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 48
    shrikeshrike Posts: 494member
    Actually, with a Palm Pre, since it is currently and exclusively a CDMA device, it can't have voice and data at the same time unless it is also on Wifi. So if it only has a EVDO connection only, people can't do anything involving data while on a call. They can't browse the web at the same time, have a message sent.



    Yes, it is a debate about the corner cases: listening to a 3rd party internet radio stream and browsing the Internet is one of the big examples. A lot of things involving timers such as a 3rd party app that can remind you that have to take you medicine. This case could be done with push notification actually, but it is a little more trouble for the developer.
  • Reply 2 of 48
    mrochestermrochester Posts: 681member
    The biggest thing for me is the speed at which you can get things done with proper multitasking. Being able to quickly switch between open apps allows you to get things done much faster than having to open and close each app you use.
  • Reply 3 of 48
    shrikeshrike Posts: 494member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by mrochester View Post


    The biggest thing for me is the speed at which you can get things done with proper multitasking. Being able to quickly switch between open apps allows you to get things done much faster than having to open and close each app you use.



    That depends on how fast the Pre switches apps and how fast the iPhone opens/closes apps, no? As long as the iPhone opens apps quickly, and the 3G S is marketed to have up to 2x the app opening speed, the perceived difference between the two won't be two distinguishable.



    One advantage of the Pre is that multiple web pages are at the same level as an app, as opposed to the iPhone Safari, you'll have additional steps to get the web page you want (presuming it was opened prior). If messaging apps are designed like that on the Pre as well, it's even more advantageous. You can have multiple cards represent difference IM sessions, Facebook/Twitter sessions. There is a limit to how many before the UI design starts to get bogged down though.
  • Reply 4 of 48
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,131member
    My gf told me last night a friend got the Palm Pre this weekend. He said he liked it but the battery life sucks.



    I repeat "he likes it but the battery life sucks"



    What is Apple's prima facie reason for not doing multitasking? Battery Life.



    Apple - 1

    Multitasking -0
  • Reply 5 of 48
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    I'm also interested in how the Palm "daisy chain" topography scales against the iPhone "hub" topography.



    For a few frequently used apps, flicking from screen to screen is fine-- although I think that a fast quit/save/launch mechanism and homescreen dock on the iPhone should be able to come close to matching it.



    But if I've got a shitload of apps (which the Pre can't, at the moment, but most iPhone users do), I'm still probably going to have to leave the deck and go looking. I might be inclined to leave as many apps as I generally use in a day open for quick access, but once my string of apps starts getting over a couple, is it really a lot faster to have to "flick" from one end of a line to the other, as opposed to going to a home screen and then to a particular app? Particularly in the case of primary apps, which are likely to be on the homescreen of the iPhone and no more than two taps away? And if the app in question isn't already running, how is Palm going to handle managing multiple pages of apps?



    I'm asking, I have no idea. It appears to me that Palm model works best if I plan to run a half dozen apps most of the time, which may be how most smart phone users operate (say, browser, IM, mail, music player, calender, and, of course, phone), but that's actually the model that makes moving between apps easiest on the iPhone, since it doesn't involve moving between app pages. The experience that Pre users are reporting now represents something like using the iPhone with nothing but the docked apps, but partisans are tending to compare it to launching apps six pages over.



    But I'm not sure what happens on the Pre if I tend to use a lot more than that-- if I have something like six pages of apps.
  • Reply 6 of 48
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    If you are to believe Apple, they say it drains the battery-life too much, but personally I don't believe them. That said, even with that I'd rather own an iPhone to a Pre - any day. The screen is bigger for watching videos, that alone makes me prefer the iPhone. That and the fact that I've never seen a problem with the software keyboard, it works well enough for my needs. Apple will say this and that, until they add it, which they will. Multi-tasking will come to the iPhone eventually, just not yet.
  • Reply 7 of 48
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 12,131member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    If you are to believe Apple, they say it drains the battery-life too much, but personally I don't believe them. That said, even with that I'd rather own an iPhone to a Pre - any day. The screen is bigger for watching videos, that alone makes me prefer the iPhone. That and the fact that I've never seen a problem with the software keyboard, it works well enough for my needs. Apple will say this and that, until they add it, which they will. Multi-tasking will come to the iPhone eventually, just not yet.



    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/...ttery-life.ars



    http://www.suntimes.com/business/162...061209.article



    http://www.i4u.com/article25241.html



    Not good testaments to the Palm Pre's battery life. Multitask all you want but make sure there is a handy AC jack somewhere.
  • Reply 8 of 48
    mrochestermrochester Posts: 681member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shrike View Post


    That depends on how fast the Pre switches apps and how fast the iPhone opens/closes apps, no? As long as the iPhone opens apps quickly, and the 3G S is marketed to have up to 2x the app opening speed, the perceived difference between the two won't be two distinguishable.



    One advantage of the Pre is that multiple web pages are at the same level as an app, as opposed to the iPhone Safari, you'll have additional steps to get the web page you want (presuming it was opened prior). If messaging apps are designed like that on the Pre as well, it's even more advantageous. You can have multiple cards represent difference IM sessions, Facebook/Twitter sessions. There is a limit to how many before the UI design starts to get bogged down though.



    It sure does. The 3GS should go someway to helping Apple out in that respect, but it's not much good for us 3G users! If the task switching on the Pre is anything like S60 devices, it should be very quick and painless to switch between open applications.
  • Reply 9 of 48
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    Quote:



    The reason that analogy doesn't work, is that's the Pre. I was talking about multi-tasking on the iPhone. It's a different phone. I think Apple are exaggerating/lying about the effect multi-tasking will have on the iPhone. Besides, most people will only do it for a short period, and not constantly. Movin' on. Even if Apple just allowed MT on specific apps, like "only" radio apps, that would solve the whole debate in one swoop - cause radio is the thing people really want to do in the background, you know, like people already do with the iPod. Pausing the radio app could also quit the app, without the user even having to know what has happened.
  • Reply 10 of 48
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Sport73 View Post


    Music?

    OK, so on the Pre I can listen to Pandora and switch to other apps without interrupting the music; I guess that's cool.



    On the iPhone, I can listen to my iPod library while switching to other apps. Not Pandora, but a minor difference.



    A minor difference from who's POV? To a radio listener, i.e. someone who likes to listen to radio, that's a HUGE difference. Basically they cannot do what they really want to do, that's major. Software-wise the issue is tiny, and easy to fix though. And it should be fixed. Apple should allow it, and they will eventually, and the audience will cry out as if Apple just saved them - when really they just gave them what they wanted, but just much later than they wanted it.
  • Reply 11 of 48
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Quote:

    I think Apple are exaggerating/lying about the effect multi-tasking will have on the iPhone.



    Any ideas about why they would do that?
  • Reply 12 of 48
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    Any ideas about why they would do that?



    Yeah, they would rather you buy an iPhone than a Pre. And they knew they didn't have any sort of compelling multitasking ready.



    I also believe there is an even bigger reason though - Apple wants users to "know" (think/believe) the iPhone cannot handle any multitasking with killing the battery. Why? - The Mac Tablet, namely Mac touch. Mac touch will have multitasking, and they want to tout that as something "amazing". The iPhone won't have multitasking, but Mac touch will, so users will end up buying both devices. One as their phone, and the other as their "portable computer". Large 10" screen, multi-touch OS X, genuine (multiple layered) multitasking - meaning 'several' apps working at once. I'm curious about this tablet, i.e. I'm getting impatient for something I won't be buying At least not until it's out a while and I see more info on it, which will be by the end of 2010 at the least. My MacBook Air will have to make-do, for now
  • Reply 13 of 48
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,194member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Yeah, they would rather you buy an iPhone than a Pre. And they knew they didn't have any sort of compelling multitasking ready.



    I also believe there is an even bigger reason though - Apple wants users to "know" (think/believe) the iPhone cannot handle any multitasking with killing the battery. Why? - The Mac Tablet, namely Mac touch. Mac touch will have multitasking, and they want to tout that as something "amazing". The iPhone won't have multitasking, but Mac touch will, so users will end up buying both devices. One as their phone, and the other as their "portable computer". Large 10" screen, multi-touch OS X, genuine (multiple layered) multitasking - meaning 'several' apps working at once. I'm curious about this tablet, i.e. I'm getting impatient for something I won't be buying At least not until it's out a while and I see more info on it, which will be by the end of 2010 at the least. My MacBook Air will have to make-do, for now



    By the very definition of phone to tablet you aren't cannibalizing future sales by pretending Multi-tasking drains battery life. The Tablet is a completely different market. It won't be as thin as the phone and will have the same unibody design of all new laptops.
  • Reply 14 of 48
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Yeah, they would rather you buy an iPhone than a Pre. And they knew they didn't have any sort of compelling multitasking ready.



    I also believe there is an even bigger reason though - Apple wants users to "know" (think/believe) the iPhone cannot handle any multitasking with killing the battery. Why? - The Mac Tablet, namely Mac touch. Mac touch will have multitasking, and they want to tout that as something "amazing". The iPhone won't have multitasking, but Mac touch will, so users will end up buying both devices. One as their phone, and the other as their "portable computer". Large 10" screen, multi-touch OS X, genuine (multiple layered) multitasking - meaning 'several' apps working at once. I'm curious about this tablet, i.e. I'm getting impatient for something I won't be buying At least not until it's out a while and I see more info on it, which will be by the end of 2010 at the least. My MacBook Air will have to make-do, for now



    Hmmm, that seems a little convoluted, although props for working in a Legendary Ireland Tablet shout-out.



    But it seems to me if multitasking were something the iPhone could readily do without any, or minor, downside, surely Apple would have just designed it to do that in the first place? It's not like they have a history of being anti-multitasking for religious reasons, or anything, and being able to run multiple programs at once has obvious advantages.



    So for this to make sense we have to imagine that Apple went to design the iPhone, considered multitasking, noted it that it didn't really hurt battery life or performance, but decided to leave it out anyway, just because. Except for where they used it for core apps that they optimized themselves. And then made up some crazy story about not wanting any old app, which might or might not be well behaved, to be able to run at will in the background, since a misbehaving app could kill battery life without the user being clear on what was happening. Even though though that's unassailably true.



    Now we can talk about possible limited scenarios, where a few user selected "blessed" apps are allowed to run in the background, but that's a different conversation and one that doesn't contradict what Apple has been saying.
  • Reply 15 of 48
    irelandireland Posts: 17,521member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox View Post


    Hmmm, that seems a little convoluted, although props for working in a Legendary Ireland Tablet shout-out.



    This has now reached legendary status!



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by addabox


    But it seems to me if multitasking were something the iPhone could readily do without any, or minor, downside, surely Apple would have just designed it to do that in the first place? It's not like they have a history of being anti-multitasking for religious reasons, or anything, and being able to run multiple programs at once has obvious advantages



    They aren't against it. The iPhone already has it. It's called iPod.ipa That app successfully proves the phone can have a background app working, without dramatically affecting battery-life. There's just one problem, Apple doesn't want other people to do it, like Pandora etc. I don't want to keep saying they are lying, but let's say they are bending the truth. Yes, it would affect battery-life, but not nearly by as much as they would have you believe. Anyway, people will know if they leave Pandora playing in the background all day their battery will die, so they would choose not to do that. Apple has a history with bending the truth, that's what they do.
  • Reply 16 of 48
    a_greera_greer Posts: 4,594member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by hmurchison View Post


    My gf told me last night a friend got the Palm Pre this weekend. He said he liked it but the battery life sucks.



    I repeat "he likes it but the battery life sucks"



    What is Apple's prima facie reason for not doing multitasking? Battery Life.



    Apple - 1

    Multitasking -0



    While I understand Apples philosophy about multi task, I must point out that Blackbverry has superb battery life and they multiu task.



    Revisit the Pre in a couple of months before rendering a final judgement for 2 reasons:

    1 This is a 1.0 device that was rushed to market to beat the iphone 3g-s therefor the software was rushed, on top of being a 1.0 - and when was the last time OS was stable at 1.0? Give it 60-90 days for OS patches and tweaks...I remember a smartphone in the summer of 2007 that needed some work...some fruit company made it, haven't heard from them since



    2 the apps may also need some tuning to use less radio and CPU when out of focus - this may also be acheived via tweaking services that the apps call via APIs



    I must say, if palm tweaks WebOS a little, and puts out a slightly different form-factor device for verizon may go from iphone to palm next summer assuming ATT still has the exclusive iphone deal...



    Bad battery life that may be fixed with a software update or a pitiful network that can be fixed by nothing short of an act of God...that seems to be the choice these days...
  • Reply 17 of 48
    physguyphysguy Posts: 915member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    This has now reached legendary status!







    They aren't against it. The iPhone already has it. It's called iPod.ipa That app successfully proves the phone can have a background app working, without dramatically affecting battery-life. There's just one problem, Apple doesn't want other people to do it, like Pandora etc. I don't want to keep saying they are lying, but let's say they are bending the truth. Yes, it would affect battery-life, but not nearly by as much as they would have you believe. Anyway, people will know if they leave Pandora playing in the background all day their battery will die, so they would choose not to do that. Apple has a history with bending the truth, that's what they do.



    As you point out the iPhone already has very sophisticated multitasking. Just look at all the processes that are already running on every iPhone/iPod Touch that is out there. Even without jailbreaking you can download the System Activity Monitor app and take a look. It is OS X underneath.



    The issue IS battery life. There is a big difference between Pandora and the iPod app. Pandora not only uses the CPU but the radios which are the biggest battery drain on the system.



    I believe that Push is the real solution to the requirements for 'multitasking' on smartphones. With the exception of streaming apps for audio I can't think of where the Push solution doesn't work as a solution, and do so more efficiently. It does put a bigger load on developers to make sure that the app state is tracked and restored, but to me that is an acceptable requirement. While this can be a 'BIG DEAL' for some market segment I don't believe that's very large (again, not that if it was free everyone would want it but as a trade off its the right one).
  • Reply 18 of 48
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    One trouble for the Pre, which may be the kind of thing Apple was looking to avoid, is that after the first wave of early adopters who tend to be more tech savvy, they're likely to get users who don't realize that just opening apps willy nilly will kill battery life and performance.



    If your phone gets a reputation for having poor battery life and a tendency towards sluggishness, it doesn't matter if its user error, it's going to hurt sales. The folks on tech sites that clamor for "choice" in being able to trade battery life for multitasking have some idea what they're doing. First time smartphone users do not.



    And, I think, that's what Apple figured they'd be contending with-- first time smartphone users. They meant to make a device that would be usable by a broad range of consumers, not just business users and geeks. A certain amount of idiot proofing is only prudent, given the intended demographic.



    But I can't but imagine that Palm would like the Pre to be similarly broad in its appeal, but that inevitably means being used by people that don't read tech sites or pay much attention to manuals.
  • Reply 19 of 48
    shrikeshrike Posts: 494member
    It's really a tradeoff involving a few things, not just battery life. On the Pre, people will get out-of-memory warnings, and it advises the user to close some apps. In the push notification rationale for iPhone OS X 2.0 last year, having the user manage running apps and memory was considered anathema to the user. If you read the Pre forums, this doesn't necessarily happen when there are too many apps running, it happens when there are 1 or 2 apps open. All it takes is an app to have a memory leak. Or quitting an app doesn't release all of the memory it was using. Or having a poor application (the PDR reader).



    In addition to this and battery life, there will be the inevitable slowdowns when using a foreground application or a foreground task. The Pre UI already has a reputation of being sluggish at opening apps. It's got laggy bits to the UI and many of the apps. It has unresponsive button presses here and there. Background music can stutter if foreground apps takes to much CPU.



    You have to mind that when Apple was creating the iPhone, one of its number rules appears to be that the UI can never be slow. Everything had to be near-instantaneous and always responsive to the finger. It had to be. It was the really the first mass-produced finger driven UI to be shipped. Fingers only. Having the UI be sluggish for a finger touch UI is an absolute no-no. A deal-breaker, and would have probably killed Apple's chances if it wasn't lightning quick.



    With the Pre, it basically has one of the highest performance application processors shipped to date along with 256 MB memory. It currently exhibits all of these traits even with that class hardware.



    It is a tradeoff. If Apple implements multitasking for 3rd party apps, it will have these traits. With push notification, they are taking care of a big chunk of the functionality cases that multitasking allows. It won't be perfect, but it'll be remarkably close to and resemble "true multitasking". The iPhone's first party apps multitask themselves and take care another huge chunk of the functionality cases. What's left is pretty much the corner cases like Internet radio.



    If Apple really cared about that, they probably would just have Internet radio available through the iTunes app. So, another functionality case solved.



    I do think multitasking will come, with expose like app switching. Maybe v4.0 or when the iPhone has 512 MB RAM and or virtual memory enabled.
  • Reply 20 of 48
    Quote:

    You have to mind that when Apple was creating the iPhone, one of its number rules appears to be that the UI can never be slow. Everything had to be near-instantaneous and always responsive to the finger. It had to be. It was the really the first mass-produced finger driven UI to be shipped. Fingers only. Having the UI be sluggish for a finger touch UI is an absolute no-no. A deal-breaker, and would have probably killed Apple's chances if it wasn't lightning quick.



    But the current iPhone is slow and sluggish at times. It certainly isn't near-instantaneous are as smooth as butter. So by your reckoning, Apple's chances are already dead and burried!
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