You won't get your hands on the new version of Apple's iPhone operating system, 4.0, until this summer. But it should be an update worth waiting for, as Apple has added several new, and much-needed, features to its mobile OS. Among them, a multitasking capability, which will allow you to run more than one third-party app at a time. Other new features in the update, which will be available this summer, include folders for organizing all of your apps, a new Mail client, and a Game Center.
Here's the lowdown on what you'll find in iPhone OS 4.0.
Multitasking has long topped the wish lists of many iPhone users, something that Apple acknowledged during the launch event for iPhone OS 4.0. "We weren't the first to this party, but we're going to be the best," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said, noting that multitasking too often drains battery life and causes poor overall performance. He said Apple's iteration of multitasking will not cause these problems.
iPhone users will have access to a dock that will appear at the bottom of the screen, which will show all running applications. To access the dock, you double-click the home button. From there, you just tap on a running app in order to switch to it. The dock shows four running apps, but you'll be able to swipe the screen in order to see more of them, should you have more apps running.
Apple said that apps such as games will pause when you switch apps, and then resume play when you go back to them. You'll also be able to listen to third-party music apps like Pandora in the background, and you'll be able to receive calls through the Skype voice-over-IP app, even if you don't have the app running when a call comes in.
Mail App Gets an Update
iPhone OS 4.0 will feature a revamped Mail client for the iPhone, which will offer a unified inbox, where you can check incoming messages from different accounts. The Mail app also will offer a threaded view, so you can see messages grouped by conversation, similar to the way the Web-based version of Gmail displays them.
The updated Mail app also will offer better handling of attachments, allowing them to be opened in separate apps, rather than just a document viewer. You'' even be able to open attachments using third-party apps.
If you're one of the many iPhone users who has apps, apps, and more apps installed on your phone, you'll be happy to know that Apple is helping you get organized. The new Folders feature will allow you to create folders, in which you can group and store different apps. You can drag apps into a folder, and folder icons can be moved around your home screen, just as any other icon can. There is no limit on how many folders you can create.
iBooks on the iPhone
Like the Kindle for iPhone app, iBooks will let you purchase e-books and then read them on the (admittedly small) iPhone screen. Apple's iBooks app will offer a Kindle-like syncing feature, too; if you start reading a book on your iPad, you can jump right to that same spot when you open the book on your iPhone.
Apple also announced a Game Center for iPhone OS 4.0, a service that Apple likens to a social network for gamers. It will allow gamers to compare scores and meet up with other players.
Apple also announced iAd, its own mobile advertising network. iAd will allow developers to incorporate ads into their apps, in the form of videos and other interactive elements.
For business users, Apple announced that iPhone OS 4.0 will offer some enhanced security features. For one, e-mail and attachments can be protected with a PIN code. Apple also that companies will be able to wirelessly distribute apps to a large number of iPhones that have been deployed to their employees.
Apple released a developer preview of the new OS on Thursday, and said that it would be available to users of the iPhone and iPod Touch users this summer. Users of the iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod Touch will be able to take advantage of all of the new features, while users of older devices (like the iPhone 3G) will not support all of the features, such as multitasking. iPad users will get the updated OS this fall.