On Friday, 8th April 2010, Steve Jobs announced iPhone OS 4.0 for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. From what’s been coming back from developers so far, this is the biggest OS release for the tiny miracle I call the iPhone (and it’s brethren). Steve announced on the day seven of what he calls “tent poles”, and I’m going to go through these now while including my thoughts on each one.
1. Multitasking This is a biggie, just like copy and paste was back in a previous release of the OS. People have been crying out for this for a long time. Me? Not so much. I was happy to have a stable environment after seeing the butchered job that phone operating systems like Windows Mobile (sorry, I just threw up a little in my mouth) had done to multitasking. Having to either manually shut down programmes or continuously restart the phone because the OS couldn’t manage its memory any better than Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates was a right royal pain in the A. So I was happy for my iPhone to do one thing at a time. But when Steve rolls up his sleeves (let’s call him Sleeve-rolling Steve), he does things right. With a simple double tap of the home button, the screen shifts up to reveal up to four new icons at the bottom. These are the currently running apps, and you can finger swipe left and right to see beyond the initial four. Apps that are running in the background are put in a suspended state, so they only occupy a small memory footprint, and not any of those precious CPU cycles. It apparently only takes a developer around 5 minutes to insert the lines of code to take advantage of multitasking, so it’s a win for users, developers, and the hardware! Yay!
2. Folders This is one that I’ve been hanging out for like a fat kid outside a closed bakery (please, no personal fat jokes, I’m sensitive). With a simple drag and drop of one icon on top of another (kinky) while they jiggle (kinkier), a folder is automatically create containing the two apps (even kin… okay, too far?). Up to twelve can be clustered together, giving you the possibility of having over 2,000 apps on your iPhone (I’m 7.5% of the way there). It even automagically names the folder according to the genre of the first app you place in there. This is great for an obsessive/compulsive like me who has each page ordered by genre (travel apps, social networking apps, utilities, movie & photography, action games, puzzle games, tower defence games – please don’t judge me, and RPG’s). You can even drag a folder to the dock at the bottom of the screen so up to twelve icons are accessible at all times. Simple, but brilliant!
3. Email This one may not seem like a big deal, but use the iPhone email app with multiple accounts for a day, and you may just sympathise with me. I love doing email on the iPhone. I use it more for mail than Hotmail or Gmail on the web, or my ISP email in Outlook. It’s delivered instantly or within 15 minutes, I can reply directly from the device (with a smug “Sent on iPhone” signature block at the bottom of each one), and it’s easy to delete once I’m done. What I don’t like is tapping in twice to go to an individual inbox, the returning out with two more taps before delving into the next one with another two. I’m 33! I don’t have time for all this, I’ll be dead in a couple of years! But Apple has heard my quiet sobs at night as I cry myself to sleep, wishing for a unified inbox. You can still access your mail accounts individually, or you can see them all in one glorious whole (yes, spelling is correct)! They’ve also let us see emails threaded together in one conversation, so no rather than deleting all the old replies of an email thread, they all sit under the one heading with a simple >> off to the side to let you know it’s a thread.
4. iBooks Like iBooks on the iPad, but smaller. Oh and you get Winnie The Pooh for free. I like Stanza for my book reading, but if I can integrate all my current eBooks into iBooks (all I need now are aBooks, oBooks and uBooks and I have the whole bloody set to qualify for the free steak knives), and I think I can with an epub converter, then I’ll be set to continue reading my Dexter trilogy.
5. Enterprise Some stuff for stiffs in suits that like TPS reports, mission statements, KPIs, lattes (wait, I like lattes…), and motivational posters. The real motivational posters, and not the funny ones. Yeah, you know the ones, you got an email full of them today.
6. Gaming Apple is releasing Game Centre, which is like the Plus Network and Open Feint, except some of you might actually accept my bloody invites now! (calm safe place, calm safe place…) Ahem, so it brings together everyone to chat, brag, and matchmake games, just like Plus and Open Feint… Hmmm. We’ll see how the tea leaves pan out for this one.
7. iAds Boy has this received some backlash. “Oh no, ads in games! What will we do?”, the fanbois scream. Now I’m not too worried about this one, as the presentation that Sleeve-rolling Steve (god I hope that takes…) gave was pretty good. Ads appear in apps already, it happens, developers need to make money. The problem is that if you do want to see what an app is offering, it unceremoniously dumps you from the app and into Safari or iTunes, leaving you to wonder if your high score on Peggle is still there when you come back. With iAds integrated into the OS, ads can be opened within the app, viewed, played with and molested, before you return to exactly where you were. It supports HTML5 (and leaves that nasty Flash at the door), and allows movies, games, audio, shopping, the possibilities are endless. I actually like the potential it has, particularly as I’ve been booted from my apps before for wanting to check out another app from the developer that they’ve advertised. It puts consumers off when that happens.
Some other mentionables that popped up in the presentation were:
- Homescreen wallpaper. Just like on the iPad, and you can have a unified wallpaper on your home and locked screen, or two separate images. I’d still like more done with the locked screen though than just the time.
- Bluetooth keyboard support. For all you mad l337 skillz texters out there.
- Background location. Apps like Gowalla and Foursquare can keep tabs on you even after shifting apps. This feature uses the mobile towers to work out if you’ve moved far enough to need a GPS lock to save on battery power. And on location, you can now selectively, well, select which apps use locations data, similar to the Push Notification screen (that sentence could’ve been so much better, don’t you think? write to me at email@example.com and tell me what you’d have come up with. Or not, I don’t need the attention, honest…)
- Local notifications. Like push notifications, but, local… Okay, that was shithouse. I can do better. Local notifications: brings warnings, alerts and annoyances to your phone without the need for cloud based networking from the Apple in the sky. Much better, informative and entertaining!
- Task completion. Oh this is a nice little addition. You can now upload a photo to Facebook and text all your friends abut it while it continues in the background. Teenagers are gonna love that. “Hey, chek out my kool pic I jst posted of moi! TTYL”, or something… God I hate textlish, it makes me want to claw my eyes out and sacrifice them to the Gods Of Punctuation And Half Decent Grammar (church services every Sunday at 9am).
- Improved spell check. Those mentioned in the above bullet point will turn this off, but for the rest of us using the Queen’s English we will now have more than one result for our fat-fingered misdemeanour’s.
- Background VOIP support. This lets you have Skype running in the background, and will alert you when you have an incoming call.
So that’s about it folks, all the goodness of iPhone news locked up in a delicious WordPress blog post with my ever so witty and puerile spin on things. Enjoy!