Apple has unveiled its new iPhone OS 4 with a ton of new features including a “smart” multitasking, iBooks and an ad networks – that’s only the highlights.
To limit battery draining by apps running in the background, like it is happening with Android phones, Apple has limited the number of operating system (OS) services that apps can access in the background to seven: Audio, VoIP, Location, Push Notifications, Local Notifications, Task Completion, Fast App Switching. Fast App Switching allows to freeze the apps and to restore them quickly when you switch back, thus avoid a complete reload. That should be called multi-mono-task, maybe? Local Notifications can be sent directly from apps on the iPhone without requiring an external server like today’s Notifications (it’s easier for developers). If a status update happens in an app running in the background, you will receive a notification. On the Voice over-IP side (VOIP), you will be able to continue a conversation over VoIP (Skype for example) while checking other applications (Calendar…). The Location Services power consumption is limited by switching from GPS (accurate to 3 meters) to cell towers (accurate to 200m or so). An icon on the main screen tells the user which mode the phone is in, clever! The addition of App Folders with drag and drop is great: now I will be able to organize my apps better (games, news…). Check the multitasking video in the full post.
Email upgrade, finally
The killer app, has been revamped: it offers a unified inbox for multiple Exchange accounts (!), fast inbox switching, threaded messages and the ability to open attachments with apps, instead of relying on the integrated file reading support.
On the enterprise side (a growing market for Apple), data protection has been enhanced with email and attachments encryption, now IT departments can distribute their apps wirelessly (before they had to plug into iTunes – yuck). Plus, they get support for Exchange Server 2010 with multiple accounts and secure VPN.
Game Center, Apple Social Gaming Network
There are currently 50,000 games and entertainment titles for the iPhone OS, the Nintendo DS has “only” 4,321 and the PSP carries 2,477 titles. Note that the DS and PSP games are often much more complex (and fun) than what you can find on the iPhone for two reasons: the controls on the (real) game consoles are better tailored for classic gaming, playing on a touch interface is not that great, and, on the graphic side, the PSP delivers a majority of 3D games requiring much more development resources. Consequently, less developers are able to produce these type of games. Nonetheless, the “easier to develop” social games are played by millions of people, making it a potential cash cow, and as expected, Apple jumped on the wagon. The Apple Game Center, a centralized gaming service offering a multiplayer network like PSN or Xbox Live, will be available by the end of the year.
iAd, Apple Ad Network
It has been rumored for a while and today Apple officially announced its own advertising platform, directly built in the iPhone 4.0 OS. The idea is to have highly interactive ads that will keep the users in the app instead of sending them on the internet with sponsored links and banners. In app ads could be as complex as mini games with highly engaging content, Scott Forstall showed a couple of examples including a mock up of a Toy Story ad. Developers will get 60% of the revenue, that’s equivalent or slightly better than what most players in the field are offering.
iBookstore for iPhone with synchronization
The iPhone gets an access to the iBookstore that launched for the iPad. There will be a “a buy once read anywhere” policy, a little like the Kindle, but restricted to Apple devices as far as we know . The current page and bookmarks will sync wirelessly on all your iBooks enabled devices.
New Camera features
The iPhone gets a 5x zoom and a tap to focus video feature. I just hope that the 3.2 megapixels camera will be upgraded as well in the next hardware iteration (in June?). Developers will be able to access the camera in their apps (in photo or video mode) – that might result in some interesting new applications.
There are hundreds of them including: gift apps, create playlists, places in photos, home screen wallpaper, file and delete mail search results, spell check, Bluetooth keyboard (cool!), web search suggestion, sync IMAP notes, larger font for mail, in-app sms, full map overlay and more…
Compatibility and Availability
The iPhone OS 4.0 will ship this summer for iPhones, the iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 3rd gen will get everything, the iPhone 3G and the iPod Touch 2nd gen will get “many things” but not multitasking – they’ll get iAd though (yay?! oh, maybe not). The iPad will be upgraded in Fall.
If you are a registered developer, you can download a beta as soon as the dev site comes back online. If you want to relive all the excitement of this morning, I’d recommend checking the live report from our friends from Gizmodo – or you can watch the official video from Apple.