iPhone OS 4.0 Announced
Apple held a special event for the tech media last Thursday during which they announced (most) of the new features that are to be included in the next version of the iPhone operating system, iPhone OS 4.0. Multitasking, or at least some form of it, is finally going to be included in this release but will only be supported in the current iPhone 3GS and presumably any future versions of the iPhone. It appears that original iPhone owners are not going to be receiving the update and will most likely be limited to whatever minor updates Apple provides to iPhone OS 3.x in the future. Including multitasking, the seven “tentpole” features as Steve Jobs continuously referred to them as are:
- Multitasking (iPhone 3GS-only)
- Improved Mail
- Improved Enterprise Support
- Game Center
The Folders feature will allow you to not only rearrange the icons on your home screens, but also allow you to drop icons on top of each other to create folders. They will automatically be named using the category of apps but you will have full control over their name. Mail is being improved with a unified inbox, allowing you to see incoming messages from multiple email accounts, along with threaded messaging. They are adding better enterprise support, including the ability to encrypt email, attachments, and other data using the PIN code entered on the phone along with several other enterprise features. They are also bringing a version of the iBooks app and bookstore from the iPad to the iPhone as well. They also introduced something called “Game Center” which sounds like it will be a social network gaming service, much like what Xbox Live is. Lastly, they announced iAd, which appears to be the result of their recent purchase of Quattro Wireless. It will allow developers to create interactive (and emotional, right Steve?) HTML 5 advertisements that will play on top of the add from which they are launched. The ads include an X icon in the upper-left corner of the screen that allows you to return directly to the app you had been using. This is a large improvement over the current system of tapping on an ad inside an app, whether accidentally or intentionally, and having the app quit and bring you into Mobile Safari.
There were also several other end-user features worth noting that were not covered under the “tentpole” features. You will finally be able to set a wallpaper for your home screen and you will be able to set this independently from the lock screen wallpaper. iPhone 3GS will also be gaining the ability to “tap to focus” not only their still images but video as well.
Overall, it sounds like iPhone OS 4.0 is shaping up to be the largest update since the launch of iPhone OS 2.0 and the App Store. Many great new features are coming but it’s what wasn’t announced that I’m the most excited about. On Thursday, Apple also released the iPhone OS 4.0 SDK to developers so they can begin writing and testing their applications against the platform. There has been even more evidence found that hints at a front-facing camera being included in a future product along with the possibility of iChat being added. Is a front-facing camera and video conferencing finally going to be included in the next version of the iPhone? I’m really hoping so: I’ve been eligible for upgrade pricing since last December but decided to skip the iPhone 3GS and wait for the next iteration. If these rumors prove true, it might have been worth the wait.