Apple CEO Steve Jobs officially unveiled the feature in a press event at the company’s headquarters in sunny California.
"We weren't the first to this party," Jobs said on multitasking, “but we’re going to be the best. Just like cut and paste.”
Fortunately, we can see past the Reality distortion field to pose the important question: is this the real deal?
Apple’s SVP of iPhone Software Forstall explained on stage how Apple distilled seven background services into APIs that developers can implement into their applications to enable multitasking without incurring a performance hit on the device.
So what are these services?
1 Background audio
Allows apps such as last.fm to keep playing in the background while you surf the web or read a book.
2 Voice over IP
Enables apps like Skype to receive calls even when phone is asleep or you are using another app.
3 Background location
Navigation software such as TomTom can continue to give directions even when not running in the foreground. It also reduces the hit on battery life by allowing apps to calculate the user’s location from mobile towers in the vicinity instead of constantly polling the GPS.
4 Push notifications
Enhances Apple’s existing push notification service to receive alerts for your apps.
5 Local notifications
This is a new mechanism that allows apps to post reminders and other events in the background without using Apple’s servers.
6 Task finishing
If you close an app while it’s in the middle of completing a task, it will keep running in the background to complete the task, which means an app like Flickr for example, can continue uploading a picture even after you leave the app.
7 Fast app switching
This “allows you to restore the state of an app when you switch out and back”. What that basically means is, it freezes the current state of an app when you switch to another and then resumes its operation when you return to it by double-tapping the home button, which brings up a dock of your most recently used apps.
That’s the gist of Apple’s implementation of multitasking, which let’s be honest, is still diet multitasking compared to what users of the Palm webOS or Android have been enjoying.
It’s obvious that Apple’s main concern behind implementing full multitasking is the performance hit it would inevitably have on the iPhone’s battery and speed. But at least it’s better than nothing, right?
That’s not all, though. OS 4.0 brings a host of new features, most notably multiple Exchange accounts, a unified inbox with faster inbox switching, folders to organise apps and last but not least iBooks, Apple’s new eBook reader which recently debuted on the iPad.
Apple also plans to introduce a social gaming network similar to PlayStation Network and Xbox Live which will matchmake players of similar skills to play against each other, compete in online leaderboards and even unlock achievements.
All in all, it’s a pretty substantial update. Sure it may not have not brought Flash or anything particularly new that you couldn’t already experience other devices, but Apple always has a way of making the old seem new, and what’s there should satisfy most iPhone users out there.