Today’s iPhone OS 4.0 preview included plenty of new features that have been requested by developers and users alike. We’ll run through a quick summary of the major additions to the operating system and go in-depth as more information becomes available.
One of the biggest features that Apple has now added to iPhone OS 4.0 is multitasking, implemented in a way that prevents Apps from draining the battery or slowing performance. Apple listed 7 core functions that would be provided by APIs for use by developers:
- Background Audio
- Voice over IP
- Background location
- Push notifications
- Local notifications
- Task completion
- Fast app switching
Applications that were demoed performing functions in the background include Skype, which allowed a call to remain connected, Pandora, which kept streaming audio running, and TomTom which continued to provide turn-by-turn directions even after the user had switched away from the App itself.
Another welcome addition previewed today are Folders, Apple’s solution for a cluttered SpringBoard and Dock. Folders allow the user to group similar applications together to save space and make finding Apps much easier. Steve Jobs provided a demo and made the point that if all 180 spots on each home screen were occupied by a Folder instead of a single App, a user could have over 2,000 apps on a device, provided that enough space were available.
As promised by Jobs himself a few weeks ago, the iPhone Mail app got some attention, including the unified inbox feature already present on the Mac side. Also being added is the ability to add more than one Exchange account, threaded conversations, and the ability to open mail attachments in 3rd party Apps.
Apple also revealed that the iBooks App would be coming to the iPhone, complete with a free copy of Winnie the Pooh. The iBooks App will sync information between different devices, books purchased will be available from your iPod Touch, your iPad, as well as your iPhone, and your current page in each book will be ready for you no matter which device you pick up.
The company also gave Enterprise users some attention, adding support for SSL VPN connections, in-app encryption support, and wireless app distribution using a company’s own servers. Jobs was careful to point out later in the Q&A session that this does not represent a way for developers to avoid the App Store and sell Apps directly to customers.
Game Center is Apple’s new API for social networking features similar to Xbox Live, allowing gamers to play each other over the internet and be matched up according to skill level. Not much else was said about this new feature but we will bring you the details as they become available.
Last but not least, the name we all hoped they would never use turned out to be real.
iAd is a new system built into iPhone OS 4.0 for monetizing free App Store applications. Developers will simply add support for iAd to their applications and they will receive a 60% share of the revenue. One of the reasons given for Apples creation of this new system is the so called “penalty” imposed on users when they interact with an Ad or click one, which usually closes the App and opens a web browser, a fairly poor experience that discourages users from interacting with Ads in the future. To solve this problem, advertisers will be using native technologies like h264 video and HTML5 to create rich, interactive, and as Jobs put it, “Emotional” advertising that will display while the App is still running.
Jobs demoed a highly interactive Toy Story 3 ad complete with its own mini game and highly relevant information, as well as a Nike Ad with full motion video. He also took a direct shot at Google while explaining the need for the new iAd system “On a mobile device, search is not where it’s at, not like on the desktop. They’re spending all their time on these apps — they’re using apps to get to data on the internet, not generalized search.”