IPhone update might address multitasking complaint

April 7, 2010 By JESSICA MINTZ , AP Technology Writer
An Apple iPhone is shown at a Best Buy in Mountain View, Calif., Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Owners of Apple Inc.'s popular iPhone and the programmers who write software for it are hoping that updates coming Thursday will include broader ability to run more than one program at a time. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

(AP) -- Topping the wish list for the iPhone and the iPad: broader ability to run more than one program at a time.

On Thursday, Apple Inc. will update the software that powers both devices. IPhone owners and computer programmers who write applications for the popular smart phone have grumbled over limits to such multitasking. The matter may escalate as people with iPads, which have larger screens, try to use them in place of more powerful computers.

The iPhone already allows for some multitasking, but that's largely limited to Apple's own programs. One of Apple's recent commercials shows an iPhone user taking advantage of time spent on hold paying bills, checking e-mail, playing games and then switching back to calling.

But Apple has yet to give users ways to seamlessly switch among all the software "apps" available from outside software companies, the way phones from rivals Palm Inc. and Inc. already do.

So an iPhone user wouldn't be able to listen to music using the Pandora program and check a bank account online simultaneously, for example. In most cases, users must return to Apple's home screen, effectively quitting the open program, before starting a new task.

That's unacceptable to many users and , and full multitasking remains high on many people's wish lists. Because Apple's new iPad runs the same software as the iPhone, changes would apply to that larger gadget as well. Some people have held off buying one because of its inability to run more than one program at a time.

But the reasons Apple is believed to be resistant to broader multitasking - worries about , performance and security - remain.

Ross Rubin, an analyst from NPD Group, said he believes those are still big issues for Apple, and he doesn't believe full multitasking will be among the changes in the iPhone operating system to be announced at Apple's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters Thursday. Apple did not immediately answer requests for more information about its plans.

Apple has given software developers limited ways to work around the multitasking restrictions, such as allowing them to send very basic notifications nudging iPhone users to open an app for updated information.

Some people hope that if Apple doesn't add multitasking, it would at least make the notifications less intrusive. Now, if a notification comes through, users must deal with it or dismiss it before returning to what they were doing.

The last time Apple made a major revision to its iPhone operating software, in March 2009, it added features that many iPhone users had been clamoring for since the device launched two years earlier. Those features included the ability to copy, cut and paste, and a search function that worked across all programs.

But this time, beyond , there seemed to be fewer big-ticket requests from everyday iPhone owners.

The new version of the iPhone system, likely to be known as OS 4.0, probably won't be available for a few months. Most of the changes would have immediate appeal to software developers, not regular users, said Charles Golvin, an analyst for Gartner Inc.

Golvin believes Apple is likely to launch a system for delivering ads to iPhone and iPad apps, reflecting its January acquisition of mobile advertising company Quattro Wireless.

Although many of the changes Apple makes to the iPhone will take awhile to translate into benefits for the average iPhone user, the most committed Apple watchers and bloggers have been honing their iPhone wish lists.

They want, among other things, a unified inbox for all e-mail accounts, support for more e-mail folders, wireless synching with a computer and a way to connect an with a regular keyboard, by plugging one in or using Bluetooth wireless technology.

But as is always the case, predicting the next move by secrecy-obsessed Apple is next to impossible.

"It's ," Golvin said, "so who ... knows what actually could come out."

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not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
IMHO, I think adding this support could limit each apps capabilities, obviously apps are going to have less resources if there are more then one running at a time, I see that as a design flaw, that is, if your goal is to have lightning fast, extremely capable mobile apps.

Also, that would represent a very significant design change and may require apps (yeah, just about all of them) to be re-written to run more efficiently, to compensate for the lack of resources, some of which I'm sure would no longer work at all. It's not like apple to take away functionality, so if this feature is coming, its coming in the form of a new device as well as a software upgrade.
not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
@Megadeth: No. It's a terrible limitation on the iPhone, and one that better be dealt with. If the iPhone/iTouch/iPad doesn't become multi-tasking in the immediate future, Apple can kiss its market share goodbye. Adroid will kill it.
not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
@Megadeth: No. It's a terrible limitation on the iPhone, and one that better be dealt with. If the iPhone/iTouch/iPad doesn't become multi-tasking in the immediate future, Apple can kiss its market share goodbye. Adroid will kill it.

I'm a developer, you can't make apps that are free to use 100% of the system resources, and run more then one at a time, in other words, they HAVE to share, at the very least processing cycles and memory space, regardless of the how its programmed to do so.

Compare the quality of iPhone apps to other platforms and the difference is obvious. A perfect example is the Palm Pre, it used the same hardware as an iPhone 3GS, the only significant difference is the software, and yet the Palm Pre is a complete failure by comparison to any iPhone.

Besides music apps, I don't see any need to have two apps running, especially since passive services can use push notification.

Regardless, better hardware is needed to address these issues.
not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
"Besides music apps, I don't see any need to have two apps running..."

Phones are rapidly becoming more like computers. Wouldn't it be annoying if your computer could only do one thing at a time?

Mobile phone applications should be written to run efficiently from their conception so not enough resources shouldn't be an excuse when other mobile OS manage it no problem.
not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
Besides music apps, I don't see any need to have two apps running, especially since passive services can use push notification.

Nope. I have an iphone for some time now and I can describe so many scenarios where I want more than music!

i) I am going through my RSS Feeds reader and see a couple of interesting articles. To open 3 links in safari, I have to alternate 3 times between safari and my reader -> close-open, close-open, close-open...That's irritating.

ii)I receive an urgent SMS while I am playing a game where progress cannot be saved. I have to quit the game and then replay the whole level again. That's pretty irritating.

iii) I get a phone call while playing...

You get the idea.
not rated yet Apr 07, 2010
Megadeth312: You're a developer, and you've never coded an application that minimized system resource use when it wasn't the active window? Uh... that's pretty much standard "good programming" practice for programs written for PCs and laptops with any OS... why should phones or media players be any different?

The wee little programs that most people want to run on phones shouldn't take up a significant amount of active memory unless devs like you are doing an absolutely awful job. Learn to code in a responsible manner, and then maybe companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft won't be so worried about their handhelds' failing at "multitasking" (in quotes because people aren't asking for real multitasking, but rather just for Win95 style "switch between pseudo-active programs" multitasking, which is different).

Of course if you required decent coding for apps, that would mean that a large proportion of the apps in the app store would have to be removed:P. I really hate lazy coders.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2010
I really just can't get over the fact that you think that your application should be using 100% of the available resources even if it's not active. That's not just illogical, it's outright insane.
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
x646d63 I think it's the opposite... a closed ecosystem has in no way stopped the iPhone ecosystem at all! in fact it is still expanding and device retention rates are the highest of any phone hand set seen ever... the Android is seen as the geek phone so not many people seem to want to touch it in that regard... The underlying framework is also not consistent at all... like buttons, user interface, kernel.. between hardware platforms... anyway, that's life bro. Deal!
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
Downloading a file while listening to music and writing a reply to an SMS is a daily thing, once you have a multitasking phone. Or googling a few facts while writing email and using the calculator.

Or giving remote technical support by talking with the caller while using the X-term app to tweak his server.

Or merely writing notes as you surf the net.

I'm glad I could resist the urge to buy a new phone until the N900 came out. (But a warning, it is pretty hard to use if you're not truly computer savvy.)
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
minimized system resource use

Minimal system use, is specifically NOT no system use, in a mobile environment every resource is critical, always, if for nothing else saving battery power.

Besides, you CAN turn on background processing of apps if you jailbreak your iPhone, the result is poor performance and poor battery life, overall I just agree with apple, the feature causes less battery life and worse performance and doesn't improve the user experience whatsoever.
not rated yet Apr 08, 2010
So, apple makes them appear to be running in the background instead:

Sascha Segan:
The seven background services are Apple's pseudo-multitasking play. Many apps will appear to be multitasking, but it's not true 100% multitasking.

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