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What’s new in iPhone OS 4

Apple today unveiled many of the new features of iPhone/iPod/iPad OS 4, with the disappointing news that some of the features will only be available on the current generation of iDevices. More on that later, the new features were dominated by the seven chosen for attention:

Multitasking

There wasn’t much chance of this being left out if Apple wanted to stay competitive with Google’s Android platform. New API’s are provided to allow apps to run as background services until resumed. Background apps can allow control from the lock sceen, and display notifications. There are seven background services available:

  • Background Audio
  • Voice over IP
  • Background Location
  • Push Notification
  • Local Notifications
  • Task Completion
  • Fast App Switching

Folders

A new way of stacking apps together into a group. The folder has an icon showing smaller versions of the app icons inside it, and there can be up to 12 icons in a folder. The total amount of icons has gone from 180 to 2,160. Also mentioned was custom background wallpapers for the home screen and a new look dock closer to the one in  Mac OS X.

Enhanced Mail app

Topping several new features in a unified inbox. Also added is support for more than one exchange account, fast inbox switching, organise by thread, and open attachments with any app. Should go a long way toward making Mail a lot slicker.

iBooks

Looking exactly like a smaller version of the iPad version complete with wood bookcase and a free copy of Winnie the Pooh. Syncing of pages and bookmarks between devices is added, just like Amazon’s Kindle. Does this mean a Mac version is coming?

Enterprise features

Better data protection, mobile device management, wireless app distribution, Support for Exchange Server 2010, and new VPN options. Look like Apple wants the enterprise market as well.

Game Center

Social gaming for the iDevices, adding achievements, leaderboards and match making. This will pit you against players of a similar skill level for wireless games and is due later this year.

iAd

Advertising services with ’emotion’, whatever that means. Looks like the iTunes LP format for advertising, offering interactive product apps within other applications. The demonstration ads included video, games and other media. Pushed as a way for free app makers to earn some cash.

The bad news for owners of the iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2G or older is that some features like multitasking will not be available. iPad owners will also have to wait until the Fall for the V4 software.

On top of the big seven features some slides were shown listing some of the other 100 new features. The ones that caught my attention were:

  • searching SMS/MMS messages
  • Places is coming to the photo app for geotaging. This is great since the iPhone embeds any available GPS info in every photo it takes.
  • Sync IMAP notes was interesting, wireless note syncing instead of the limited Mail.app type?

All these new features should put Apple back at the top of the mobile device pack. Looks like a long few month waiting for the release.

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