Today Apple unveiled the next iPhone software update, OS 4.0, and it looks great. Many of the features we’ve been complaining about for years – from multitasking to being able to customise the home screen’s wallpaper – have been added. OS 4.0 will be out this summer for the iPhone and in autumn for the iPad.
Here’s a quick breakdown of iPhone OS 4.0’s features:
Customisable wallpapers – While we were watching the OS 4.0 event live on gdgt, Engadget and Gizmodo, we noticed that the demo iPhone boasted a wallpaper behind the apps page. Up until now you’ve only been able to select a wallpaper for the lock screen but it seems OS 4.0 is going to offer proper wallpapers.
Multitasking – This is quite a biggie. Current iPhone software doesn’t allow you to run more than one third-party app at a time but OS 4.0 will – sort of. Apps will be able to take advantage of certain background functions such as music or GPS. Unfortunately multitasking won’t be available on the iPhone 2G or 3G.
Unified email – Instead of flicking in and out of several email accounts you’ll be able to see all of them on a single page, and you’ll be able to organise by thread – viewing all your conversations with someone in one go. You’ll also be able to open email attachments in third-party apps.
Folders – Scrolling through pages and pages apps is a pain so Apple has created a folder system. You can create a folder for anything and call it whatever you like. So if you’ve got a bunch of gaming apps that you want to access quickly, you can create a games folder and put that on your homescreen. Nifty.
iBooks – iBooks is iTunes for books. It’s already available on the iPad (in the US) and now it’ll be on the iPhone – with a free copy of Winnie the Pooh. It’s worth noting that iBooks may not be available to UK users when the iPad comes out in the UK or even by the time that OS 4.0 comes out.
Game Center – Think Xbox Live. A social networking service that connects iPhone gamers. According to Apple, Game Center will connect gamers according to skill levels and you’ll be able to invite friends to play a game. From what we understand this service will be free.
iAd – The iAd announcement sees Apple move into the advertising world and probably means that we’ll see more adverts plastered over free apps. iAd adverts will apparently look better and offer developers an opportunity to get in on the ad business as long as they’re happy give Apple a 40% revenue cut.
Overall we like what we see, even if we don’t understand all of it yet. When asked “How do you close apps?” Scott Forstall, SVP of iPhone Software replied, “You don’t even have to worry about closing apps.” We hope to find out what that means soon but who cares about the details when you’ve got a pretty wallpaper?