iPhone OS 4 Details Announced

Posted by Jeff Scott on April 8th, 2010

Today's Apple event seemed to have less of a fervor around it than the usual Apple event. Maybe it was just that the iPad was just launched and everyone was still fixated on that. But in the end, Apple has really delivered what looks to be a great iPhone OS update.

Steve Jobs opened up the announcement as they always do with some recent stats. Here's a quick rundown:

450,000 iPads sold as of today
300,000 iPads sold the first day
600,000 iBooks downloaded
1,000,000+ iPad apps downloaded the first day
3,500,000+ iPad apps downloaded so far

4,000,000,000+ iPhone/iPad Apps downloaded total since App Store launch
185,000 apps in the App Store (182,115 actually)
3,500 iPad apps in the App Store

50,000,000+ iPhones sold to date
35,000,000+ iPod Touches sold to date

Then, he got down to the new features in iPhone OS 4. He announced that there were over 100 new user features and 1500 new APIs for developers. One of those APIs is called Accelerate which brings over 2,000 functions for hardware accelerated math functions.

Of those 100 new user features, they were going to discuss 7 of them today.

Hit the jump for the full details of the iPhone OS 4 announcement.

But first, the bad news.

iPhone OS 4 will only run fully on the iPad, iPhone 3GS, and third generation iPod Touch. It will work, sans the multitasking on the iPhone 3G and second generation iPod Touch. You folks still holding onto your original iPhones and 1st generation iPod Touches will be out of luck. Well, it's time to upgrade anyway, right?

Now, the good news.

iPhone OS 4 Major New Features


One of the most requested features was a given for this version of the iPhone OS. The questions wasn't if Apple was going to add it, but how they were going to add it. And in typical Apple fashion, it looks to be elegant and very user friendly. The key issues with multitasking were how to keep from draining the battery and reducing the performance. The response from Apple for this was to provide what is essentially limited access multitasking. While it looks like you won't be able to, for example, have a torrent file transferring in the background on your iPhone app, most needed features are there.

Double clicking the home button, the active screen will scroll up and show you the applications you are running across the bottom of the screen. It's from here that you can quickly switch to those applications. Applications, when they are not the front application, will be put in sort of a suspended state. Similar to what happens to an app now when you receive an SMS or other notification.

Rather than full multitasking, letting applications just run at will in the background, applications will have access to do certain things while in the background. These things include:

Background listening -- Applications like Pandora will be allowed to stream audio in the background and have you interact with it through familiar iPod like controls.

VoIP connections -- you will be able to maintain a VoIP connection while in other applications. Notice will be given at the top of the screen similar to the way that you see now when you are on a cellular phone call. VoIP applications, like Skype as used in the on stage example, will also be able to receive call notifications and allow you to answer the call from a notification pop up while you are in any application. You will also be able to stay online with Skype and other VoIP apps while not in the VoIP application.

Background Location - the ability to send your location to applications (like Foursquare) when you are not actively using that application. So you could effectively check-in at a location without interaction. More likely case will be that Foursquare will pop up a notification -- "I notice you are Starbucks, would you like to check in here?" Another possible use for this would be a location based task reminders. As you pass the cleaners, a task with a location attached to it could remind you to pick up your laundry.

Local Notifications - applications will have the ability to send notifications themselves. They currently need to be sent from a server. This can have issues. But this will allow any application to send you a notification at any time.

Task Completion - basically just a version of local notifications. Any app can pop up a notice when it finishes a task it is doing in the background (like uploading files to a server).

Fast app switching -- We mentioned this earlier. This allows at application to freeze its current state and reside in the background. A pretty important feature that was, prior to iPhone OS 4, left up to the developer.

While this doesn't cover every possible need for multitasking, it's a great first step and will allow the most requested multitasking features to be handled simply and elegantly by the OS.

The question still remains, how do you kill a running application. This was asked in the Q&A following the announcement and Steve Jobs remarked that a user should never have to think about that -- if you need a task manager, you've failed.

The way I read this is that each application will need a stop state. So for example Pandora -- to quit the application you will stop it playing. It will then enter a stopped state and effectively be no longer running. Same with the Skype example. Go to the app and disconnect to stop it.

It's a radical change from the way people are used to interacting with programs -- but a good one, in my opinion. Users don't need to worry if an application is running, just if they are using the service the application provides. The limited multitasking that iPhone OS 4 provides allows this to work.


The application limit has now been raised to 2,160!

One of the most needed features for iPhone OS 4 has been a better way to organize applications. Folders is how we will do that.

The basic layout of the application launcher will remain unchanged. But you can now quickly and easily create folders that group multiple applications in a single cell on your launcher screen. For example you could group all of your Twitter apps in a single folder. Or all of your tower defense games into a single folder.

To create a folder, all you need to do is drag an icon on top of another folder. This will create the folder and allow you to edit it. The folder will automatically me named by the category the apps come from in the App Store -- but you can easily rename it at will. Folders can be moved anywhere an icon can go, including the dock.

There is now, with the addition of folders, a theoretical maximum of 2,160 apps installed on your iPhone OS device. (180 icon locations all converted to folders each with the max of 12 apps in them?)

Background Wallpaper

Much like the iPad, you will now be able to change the background wallpaper and the lock screen wallpaper. Yawn.

Enhanced Mail

This is a big one for many users -- myself included. This one includes a few new features.

Unified inbox -- will allow you to have email from multiple accounts in a single inbox. Users have been clamoring for this for a long time and it's finally here. Details are still unclear about how this will be done and if this is an all or nothing option. Can you still have some email accounts separate and some unified? We don't know that yet.

Multiple Exchange accounts -- currently you are limited to a single Exchange account. With OS 4, you can have multiple Exchange accounts.

Fast inbox switching -- the ability to quickly switch from one inbox to another. That is if you aren't using the unified inbox.

Organize by thread -- threading conversations like the desktop Apple mail client does and like Gmail does. Awesome!

Opening attachments in other applications -- the ability to open an application in other applications is there in the iPad version of the iPhone OS. This will be a great feature for apps on the iPhone.


iBooks is currently only available for the iPad. It will also be coming to the iPhone and iPod Touch. Gives you the ability to buy the book and read it on any device. Will sync bookmarks between devices.

Enterprise Features

Better data protection -- you can encrypt all of your email and attachments that reside on the device with a pin code. In addition, APIs will be available to allow developers to encrypt all of the data from an application on the device.

Mobile device management -- easier to deploy lots of phones within an organization.

Wireless app distribution -- the ability to deploy a custom developed application to all phones in an organization, wirelessly.

Exchange 2010 support -- upgrade the Exchange support for Server 2010.

SSL VPN support -- support for SSL encrypted VPNs from Cisco and Juniper.

Game Center

This is a big one for gamers. And really puts into question the future of systems like Open Feint, Plus+, Crystal, etc.

Gaming has become really popular on the iPhone. And to increase the discoverability of games, and to increase the community aspect, Apple is launching Game Center. This is something I didn't think we would ever see -- but something that makes sense.

Gamers love the social gaming networks that provide the ability to compete, person to person in games. Providing a way to track achievements, high scores, etc. across all games is a great community building tool. Companies like Open Feint and Plus+ have seen this, but there is a huge problem with those systems. They are fractured.

If you have friends and achievements on one system, they don't transfer over to the other systems. This has become such an annoyance for users with the proliferation of social gaming networks, that they have almost become ignored. I know that I rarely sign into them in games anymore.

Apple hopes to eliminate that by creating their own XBox Live like network for iPhone OS games called Game Center.

Game Center will have all of the usual features you'd expect including: Achievements, Challenges, Friends, Matchmaking, and Leaderboards. Look for more information on this soon as details emerge.

From the sounds of the announcements, this will launch later than iPhone OS 4 as this is dubbed as a developer preview.

And while I really feel sorry for the companies that have done such good work with social gaming platforms thus far, in the end this is so much better for users. A unified place for social gaming makes mobile gaming so much much better. I'm excited to see what comes of this.


iAd is Apple's answer to the mobile advertising boom. Apple bought Quattro Wireless, an advertising technology company last year, and this is how they will use that expertise.

iAd will provide HTML5 based advertising, focusing on ads that bring emotion to the equation. Ads will generally be very interactive and immersive. You will launch from a standard banner ad size into a full screen ad without leaving the original application. Apple will do what they claim is a standard 60/40 split of the ad revenue with the application developers.

You can use your imagination with some of the other new features (location notifications for example) to see where Apple might be going with mobile advertising.

This isn't as much of a competition killer as the Game Center announcement was. But it will still hurt the future and take away business from other mobile ad delivery companies.

Undiscussed New Features

During the early part of the presentation, a slide was displayed that showed many of the 100 new user features for iPhone OS 4. Here's the slide:

And here are all of the new features mentioned on the slide -- still way short of 100, so there are more that we don't know about.

Create Playlists
Birthday Calendar
Recent Web Searches
Rotate Photos
Gift Apps
Persistent Wi-Fi
Cell data only setting
Spell Check
Larger fonts for Main, SMS, & Alerts
CalDAV invitations
Bluetooth Keyboards
Choose image size in mail messages
Web Search Suggestions
Edit email outbox
File & Delete Mail search results
Wake on Wireless
Search SMS/MMS messages
Home screen wallpaper
iPod Out
Places in Photos
Upload workouts to Nike+
Tap to focus video
Nested playlists
5x Digital Zoom
Top Hit in search
Sync IMAP notes

In addition, Apple presented a slide with some of the over 1,500 new APIs in the SDK. These include:

Date Data Detectors
Automated Testing
Block-based animation
Performance profiling tools
Embed PDF metadata
Draggable map annotations
Full map overlays
Power analysis tools
Carrier information
ICC profiles
Full access to still and video camera data
Quick look
Packaging of documents
Call event notifications
Half-curl page transition
Image I/O
Photo Library access
Date formatters
Regular expression matching
In-app SMS
iPod remote control accessories
Address Data Detectors
Calendar access

We'll know more about these features soon.

What we didn't hear about.

While in general, iPhone OS 4 answers the request of many users for some advanced features, there are a couple of nagging requests we didn't hear about.

Notification Manager Missing?

One of the most needed features, in my opinion, is some sort of a notification manager. The problem is that right now you can only see one notification, the last one. If you are away from your phone for a bit and get 10 push notifications and 3 SMSs, you will only see the last one to come in. You will need to rely on the app badges to show you the number of app notifications you get. And most applications aren't designed to show you what the latest notifications are.

Android has a (badly implemented), but good notification manager that looks like an email inbox showing you a list of notifications. The iPhone OS badly needs something like this to help you keep track of missed notifications.

We don't know for sure that iPhone OS 4 doesn't have this yet, it just wasn't one of the things announced today.

Lock Screen - Wasted Space

One of the most request features is to allow third party access to display data on the lock screen. This would allow you to, for example, see recent Twitter messages, upcoming calendar appointments, recent text messages all displayed on the screen without the need to unlock your phone. This is not a simple API to create though, and we haven't heard any mention of it being in iPhone OS 4. There are over 100 new user features though, and we only really know about a few of them so far. But don't hold your breath.


I have to admit, I wasn't too excited about this announcement today. But Apple has really come through. All-in-all, this was a huge announcement for the future of the iPhone OS.

In one hour Apple has eliminated the one of the biggest reasons to jailbreak, put in question the future of all of the social gaming networks already out there, and also destroyed the future of many small mobile ad delivery companies.

But, really, that's all going to be great for consumers. Lots of new features to look forward to and lots of details to look forward to finding out. In the coming months we'll learn more about iPhone OS 4 and we'll bring that to you here on 148Apps.

What were your favorite new features announced today? What do you think iPhone OS 4 is still missing? Let us know in the comments below.

[ images courtesy of gdgt ]

Posted in: News
Tagged With: IPhone OS, Apple, Os 4
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