Phone 4.0 : Arguments for the Multitasking improvements

Another thing I wanted to touch on is the proposed Multitasking features that will appear in the iPhone 4.0, that was announced on Friday (Australian Eastern Standard Time). A lot of people have also been hitting back at Apple for not going far enough with the multi-tasking features that were announced. In brief:

– Pulls up a dock on the bottom of the screen when you double-click the home key. The dock displays all of your programs that are “running.”

– Programs aren’t really “running” in the background. Instead, Apple gives apps access to 7 actions to essentially multitask. These are: Background audio, VOIP, Background Location, Push notifications, Local notifications, Task completion and Fast app switching.

– Apps frozen still essentially, so when you boot them back up, it’ll return to normal state – great for games, I’d imagine.

– Background audio now allowed. Pandora runs in the background and can use iPod’s lock screen controls.

– VOIP good to go. You can leave on Skype and it acts just like a regular phone call, but with a red bar on the top when you navigate away from Skype.

– Task completion – finish uploading a photo to Flickr (per their example) but navigate away from the app

– Push notifications from apps – That Flickr reminder could in theory pop up if there’s a problem uploading a file.

I personally didn’t have an issue with what we had before, as I am a strong proponent of the notion that we don’t need multitasking on devices with such limited memory. Windows Mobile for years struggled with users who for some reason or another would like to have multiple applications open at the same time. The reason behind that is that they seek comfort in switching between applications seamlessly and rapidly.
Fair enough, certain applications like VOIP and location and IM are things that would be nice to be running in a background thread, and Apple have addressed this in 4.0, but with good programming, you can make applications load and retain the state that it was left at expeditiously. There are coding methods that would allow developers to do that just before the application terminates, and load the values back when the application loads up again.

Whilst I am privileged to information that  I cannot talk about due to the Apple NDA, I can say playing with 4.0 that all concerns should be addressed by now. Certainly the ability to freeze applications now means that we can load multiple apps and switch between then at amazing speed. This is better than another device because now we can basically have tons of applications loaded up (and we can toggle between then by double tapping HOME button — bringing up the dock of open apps). This isn’t pure multitasking as those apps may not be running in background thread, but they are frozen and you can access them instantaneously. 

The only things that would prevent an application loading up would be if it needs location information or data from a server, but with the new features allowing users to load those essential data in background threads, we have ourselves what we need to have multitasking whilst not compromising on device memory stability (unlike some of the other devices).

So people should shut up if they don’t actually understand the internal logic behind how multitasking works on the iPhone. People should stop comparing it to how Windows Mobile devices do it. Its like comparing a Mac to a Windows machine. They do things differently, so you have to think differently, not compare feature for feature and how you are used to looking at it through the lenses of Windows.

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