Did you hear that? That was the sound of millions of iPhone owners shouting, "It's about time!"
Apple Wednesday rolled out over 100 new features and over 1,500 new developer tools in the latest version of the iPhone software, version 4.0 set to ship this summer. It includes the highly anticipated multitasking feature, something users have been clamoring for since the first iPhone launched in 2007. With multitasking users can run applications in the background while grinding out other tasks, like listening to Pandora Internet radio while typing out an e-mail.
What took so long? Well it was all about the battery life, apparently. I've used multitasking on my Google Nexus One phone with tragic results. The battery drains right before my eyes. Apple claims to have solved this problem; it appears the company is allowing key functions of an application to continue running while closing non-essential functions. For example, running Pandora doesn't mean I have to see the album art in the background. All I care about is the music blaring through my headphones, right?
This means (you guessed it) it's time to upgrade your iPhone. If you have a first generation model, however, Apple basically just made your device obsolete today. Many of the newly announced features like multitasking wont run on older devices.
"The hardware just can't do it," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
All of the features in OS 4.0 will run on the iPhone 3GS, but the second generation iPod Touch and iPhone 3G will be handicapped. But rest assured we can expect a new fourth generation iPhone this summer to go along with the 4.0 software.
Another big feature of the new OS is folders for organizing your applications. Often I find myself paging through six or seven pages of apps just to find the one I want. With folders you'll be able to organize apps into smaller sections. It works simply by dragging and dropping one application on top of another. Viola! A folder is born.
Also, get ready for a new 'unified' e-mail in-box. I don't know about you but I have four e-mail accounts active on my iPhone, and trying to navigate between them is a royal pain. The single, unified in-box will solve that problem. It even has conversation threading to keep track of certain conversations, just like in Gmail.
Not to be outdone, games get a boost too with the all new Game Center. Think of it as a community center where friends can share high scores, track achievements and invite others to jump in and play a game together over the network.
One glaring omission from the new OS is native turn-by-turn directions. With every other major platform including an application that offers directions, from Microsoft's Windows 7 Phone to Google's Android, it's surprising Apple wouldn't offer up it up for the iPhone. Instead we're left shelling out nearly a 100 dollars for third-party applications.
It's not shocking, but Apple also announced that it is bringing iBooks to the iPhone. The app looks just like the iPad version and puts the company in direct competition with Amazon -- not that there was any doubt about that occurring. Basically, if you own an iPad and an iPhone you'll have access to the same book across both devices.
This is not a revolutionary but rather an evolutionary upgrade to the iPhone's software. But iBooks, Game Center, multitasking, and a unified in-box will nonetheless make for a nice summer treat for iPhone owners.