What to Watch for in iOS 4

iOS 4 for the iPhone and iPod touch will be available on Monday, and it has several features worth checking out, assuming your current device is up to the task. The update is fully compatible with the iPhone 3GS and third generation iPod touch, and limited feature support on the iPhone 3G.

Multi-tasking Support for third-party app multi-tasking is something iPhone owners have been hoping Apple would introduce for some time. This feature will let users switch between running apps on the fly, and apps that are in the background can continue performing tasks.

iOS 4’s multi-tasking support means users can launch apps like Skype and receive incoming messages while running other apps, and use turn-by-turn GPS navigation apps in the background, too.

Multi-tasking requires an iPhone 3GS, and isn’t compatible with the iPhone 3G.

App Folders iOS 4 finally lets users organize apps in folders, and it even tries to intelligently name app groups for you. With folders, you’ll be able to group apps together and hopefully avoid swiping between screens as often as you do now.

Unified In Box Mobile Mail gained a welcome feature in iOS 4 with its unified in box. This feature lets you look at all of your incoming messages in a singe view regardless of how many email accounts you use. Previous versions of Mobile Mail required users to jump between email accounts to see new messages.

Rotation Lock iOS 4 adds a software-based rotation lock that works like the physical rotation lock switch on the iPad. Just enable the lock and your iPhone or iPod touch’s current display orientation is frozen in place. This is especially handy if you read while laying down because your display won’t accidentally rotate as you shift position.

Spell Checking iOS 4 includes a built-in spell checker that works in concert with predictive typing. Misspelled words are highlighted so they’re easy to find, and you’ll be able to choose from multiple spelling suggestions.

iBooks Support The iPad already offers support for Apple’s iBooks ebook reader, and iOS 4 adds that to the iPhone and iPod touch, too. You can sync your ebook library between devices, and iBooks will remember your location in books when you jump between devices.

Bluetooth Keyboard Support You can use most any Bluetooth-enabled keyboard with your iPhone or iPod touch once iOS 4 is installed. That’ll make typing longer documents or email messages easier since you won’t be limited to the small on-screen keyboard that’s built into apps.

Wallpapers Being able to change the background image on your Home screen may not help improve your productivity, but it is a way to help make your iPhone or iPod touch uniquely your own. This feature isn’t, however, supported on the iPhone 3G.

The upgrade includes several more features, too, so jump in and start experimenting to find the ones that are most useful to you.

iOS 4 will be available on Monday as a free upgrade for the iPhone 3G and 3GS, as well as the iPod touch. For tips on preparing for the upgrade, check out TMO’s iOS 4 Upgrade Guide, and our Quick Tip on checking to see when the upgrade is available.