Apple Announces iPhone OS 4 with Multi-task Support [Updated]

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced iPhone OS 4.0 on Thursday with an announcement sure to make many iPhone and iPad users happy: The new version of the operating system will include multi-task support so users can run multiple third-party apps simultaneously.

According to Mr. Jobs, Apple’s multi-tasking support will be superior to what’s offered on other mobile devices, and will keep your iPhone from “bogging down.” “We weren’t the first one to this,” Mr. Jobs said, “but I think we’ll be the best.”

Several different multi-tasking APIs will be available for developers, for features such as background music and audio playback and streaming, receiving incoming messages from services such as Skype, and tracking locations with turn-by-turn navigation apps.

Users will also be able to disable Location Services on an app-by-app basis, and apps can be organized into folder groups, making it easier to sort and find apps instead of flipping through multiple screens. The folders feature apparently lets users pack over 2,000 apps onto their iPhone or iPod touch, and iTunes 9.2 and newer supports iPhone folder management, too.

Mail users will be happy to finally see a unified In Box where they can see messages from all of their email accounts at once. The iPhone OS version of Mail also supports fast in box switching and viewing message threads.

Another feature likely to make iPhone owners happy will be support for Bluetooth keyboards. So far, the only iPhone OS device that supports using Bluetooth keyboards is the iPad.

iPhone OS 4.0 will also support wireless application distribution, and Mobile Device Management, and offers improved data security, which looks to be a nod to the enterprise market.

The bad news for first generation iPhone and iPhone 3G owners is that at least some of the features in iPhone OS 4.0 won’t be available to them. Multitasking, for example, will require an iPhone 3GS or third generation iPod touch — which is a hardware limitation, according to Mr. Jobs.

iPhone OS 4.0 will be available this summer for the iPhone and iPod touch, and this fall for the iPad. The beta of iPhone OS 4.0 and the SDK for developing iPhone OS 4-compatible apps is available for developers now at the Apple Developer Web site.

[This article has been updated with additional information about iPhone OS 4.0]

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Lee Dronick

Will we need a new, or at least a GS iPhone to take advantage of these features?

Jeff Gamet

Looks like you’ll need an iPhone 3GS, third generation iPod touch, or iPad to take advantage of all of the features. iPhone 3G and second generation iPod touch users don’t get multitasking support, and I haven’t been able to figure out yet what features will be available for original iPhone and iPod touch users yet.

Lee Dronick

Thanks Jeff. My wife’s and my iPhone 3G are running just fine. The lack of full multitasking has not been much of a problem for us so we can wait until there is a more compelling need to upgrade them. An iPad and new MacBook Pro are on the bucket list ahead of new iPhones.


What a coincidence…I’m eligible this spring for a subsidized phone upgrade through AT&T!!  Coincidence?  I think NOT!




I should hit the 18+ month mark on my 2-year iPhone 3G contract just about when the new iPhones are unveiled. I am SO there!


Unified In Box! Yes! Finally, no more tapping four times just to change mail accounts.


Does this mean we’ll finally be able to accept ics attachments from mail to ical and create meetings with invited attendees?


My bigger hope is that *somehow* in all these new APIs is a way to cleanly pass a document from app to app rather than create multiple instances of the document as occurs now.


new project called multiPad promises to bring multi user accounts support to the iPad.


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