Apple has introduced iPhone OS 4, the operating system for the next iteration of the iPhone and iPod touch. It sports more than 100 new features, said CEO Steve Jobs — most notably the long-anticipated multitasking functionality that most other smartphones already provide to some degree.
Another long-awaited new feature is drag-and-drop Folder functionality. The mail client has also been beefed up with the ability to manage multiple accounts from one in-box. Also, OS 4 comes with Apple’s iBookstore app, which was not ready in time for the iPad’s launch.
There is more data protection in OS 4. It also offers support for a social gaming network, and it incorporates Apple’s new iAd mobile advertising platform.
A beta version of the OS is now available for developers.
Only Apple Could Get Away With It
The multitasking functionality is the centerpiece of the new OS. Indeed, for all the hoopla over it, it is easy to forget that most of Apple’s competitors already offer multitasking, John Jackson, vice president of research at CCS Insight, told MacNewsWorld.
The iPhone OS 4 multitasking functionality is not as advanced as some smartphones can deliver, he added. It is based on a multitasking tray that lets users switch between software or a certain service — say, continuing to listen to streaming music while purchasing a song from iTunes or downloading an app or checking email.
“Basically, this is catch-up to what is available on the Android and other platforms,” said Jackson.
That’s okay, though, as Apple can get away with it, he added. “Apple has a well-established pattern of playing casual catch-up — such as by offering delayed support for MMS and video. Companies like Nokia would never have dared go to market missing that kind of functionality.”
It’s not yet clear how wide a range of multitasking APIs developers will be able to access, Jackson said, so he’s reserving final judgment.
Apple’s approach to multitasking makes for a better user experience, said Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group — and a good user experience has become Apple’s calling card.
“It is a controlled multitasking,” she told MacNewsWorld. “In essence, Apple does the multitasking for you … so the applications won’t roam around freely in the background, potentially slowing down the system or draining the battery unnecessarily.”
The new functionality will deliver some benefits to users besides being able to listen to streaming music while roaming the Internet. For example, it can run Skype in the background.
“This will further level the playing field between VoIP calls versus cellular calls,” Arvani said. “This might not be so great for mobile carriers — but certainly good for customers.”
Edging Toward the Enterprise
Many items in the new feature set are designed to increase iPhone sales by responding to competitors’ challenges, Arvani said.
For example, adding more data protection shows that Apple is targeting enterprise customers, she said. “So, RIM should take note, as Apple is going right at their sweet spot. There is still a lot to go to get to the 400 different ways that RIM does their security and data protection policies — but these features will satisfy many companies’ security concerns.”
Adding a social gaming network shows that Apple wants to boost use of the iPod touch and iPhone for mobile gaming, she said.
Adding Folders will help users organize, and potentially encourage them to buy more applications, Arvani continued.
“Being able to buy iBooks on iPhone is also a valuable feature for customers, in addition to helping Apple create content fluidity across iPhones and iPads. This is really a great add to the software,” she said.
“All in all,” concluded Arvani, “iPhone owners will have fun refreshing their device this summer.”