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Iphone

Multitasking In For iPhone 4.0? 345

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the could-it-be dept.
The latest word on the iPhone is that the 4.0 OS will finally have honest-to-goodness multitasking. This could hopefully lead to things like a real chat client, and dangerous battery consumption. I still hope it's true.
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Multitasking In For iPhone 4.0?

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  • by Vectormatic (1759674) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @01:59PM (#31441664)

    this would be AWESOME for the ipad, might even make it worthwhile.

    • by uberjack (1311219) * on Thursday March 11, 2010 @07:53PM (#31447300)
      As a dedicated Android user (and programmer), I still don't see the value of multitasking in a mobile app. The runtime can automatically clean up and restart the application with all the state information necessary if it ceases to run anyway. It's a lot easier to just assume that it's _always_ going to be cleaned up upon suspension, instead of writing code that accounts for the possibility that the app just may be resuming from a paused, but not terminated state. I haven't used a single Android app, or written any code that I can say honestly benefits from the multitasking aspects of Android. The runtime can shut down my app any time it sees fit. Planning for resumption from an abruptly terminated app is the norm when developing for Android anyway. The way I see it, the apps would have more resources if the platform didn't have to multitask.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bemymonkey (1244086)

        The multitasking aspect is essential for things like keeping an instant messenger or VoIP app running in the background (a 24/7 scenario here)...

        Although I've got to say - most Android IM apps suck at staying connected in the background. Fring, eBuddy, Nimbuzz - they all disconnect (and then don't reconnect automatically!) or crash after a while...

      • by jfanning (35979) on Friday March 12, 2010 @06:41AM (#31450028) Homepage

        You obviously don't think about the usecases very much.

        I was using my Nokia E71 the other day and it was tracking my walking using GPS (Sports tracker) in the background. I was checking directions with Ovi maps and looking things up online in the browser. So all were running at once.

        In your world my tracker application would been killed the moment I switched to another tool. That it totally useless and the reason I will never use an iPhone as long as multitasking is missing.

  • by jacktherobot (1538645) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:00PM (#31441686)
    I think i've heard this before...
  • A minor point... (Score:5, Informative)

    by slagheap (734182) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:04PM (#31441750)

    The iPhone OS has always had real pre-emptive multitasking. The phone, email, iPod, calendar, and other applications run all the time and can do things simultaneously.

    Multitasking just hasn't ever been made available to 3rd party developers.

    It has never been a technical limitation in the OS. Rather, Apple kept control over it for battery life and security reasons.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's funny. My android device can multitask (any app, not just the ones Apple lets you multitask with), and the battery life is solid as well.

      Perhaps Apple is full of shit and just wanted to shaft users/developers again?

    • by truthsearch (249536) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:11PM (#31441870) Homepage Journal

      Personally, I prefer it this way. When I'm using any app the only thing I want interrupting me is a phone call. And the only thing I want running in the background is iPod, which already does. If multitasking third party apps becomes an option I'll probably turn it off.

      • Re:A minor point... (Score:5, Informative)

        by zullnero (833754) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @03:15PM (#31443220) Homepage
        Actually, if you have a halfways intelligent notification system, that's not a problem at all. My Palm Pre does all that multitasking, and I've never had a phone call interrupted by anything. We've got over 2k apps now for the Pre in about 8-9 months, and I've got a lot of apps running on my phone, and I've never had a phone call interrupted by any app. We get notifications that show up as a little icon on the bottom of the screen, so when the phone call is done, I tap it and deal with it then. Or, I can choose to deal with it during the call if I so choose. In fact, I frequently open up my email while in a call on my Pre, because people call me all the freaking time and ask me if I got that email they sent. Or my calendar. Once, I opened up solitaire during a long conference call and had the call on speaker.
      • by amRadioHed (463061) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:05PM (#31445226)

        You prefer being limited to using only Apples music player? Personally on my phone I listen to streams from last.fm as much as I listen to local MP3s, and I wouldn't be able to do that on an iPhone.

      • by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:16PM (#31445386)

        Its kinda cool - having multitasking on my Symbian phone. While a web page is loading (thanks at&t - fastest network alive... cough cough) I can flip over and check my email, or change a track on an album I'm listening to.

        Your argument is so similar to the ones the ms-dos users on our local bbs used to use when I told them how wonderful multi-tasking on my Amiga was. In other words - I don't have it and I'm glad for it!

        My response was always something like - I like listening to music, managing files, editing graphics etc etc while responding to this post - while the machine was busy applying a filter, copying a file or playing a mod I was still typing away on another app.

    • by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:14PM (#31441932) Homepage

      There are plenty of UI design concerns as well. Currently there is no standard UI for dealing with apps running in the background. The phone gives you a green bar across the top of the screen. The iPod gives you a special alert with buttons when you double click the home button and a play icon in the top right of the screen. The calendar doesn't have any UI at all, it just alerts you with a message. The Mail app displays a numeric badge and plays a sound (a feature available to all 3rd party apps using the notification API).

      It will be interesting to see how they unify the UI for running multiple apps at once without compromising the usability of the device.

      My guess is that everything will basically look and function the same, except the App's icon will have a glow or a badge indicating that it is running in the background. Each app will have to explicitly be granted permission to be able to run in the background by the user (same way each app has to be allowed to send notifications now).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by pete-classic (75983)

        The Mail app displays a numeric badge and plays a sound (a feature available to all 3rd party apps using the notification API).

        I don't think this is strictly true. I believe that the Mail app is running, and is able to set its badge unilaterally. The 3rd party notification API requires some application NOT running on the phone to notify Apple to send a message to the phone to set the badge on the app, which isn't running. The effect for the end user is largely the same, but the mechanism is radically dif

      • by garcia (6573)

        Or maybe they'll cave and have another button to "tab" between applications or just holding down the one they have will do it. I'm sure they'll come up with something but in the mean time I'll probably switch to Verizon and the Droid because it'll cost less and do more.

      • Re:A minor point... (Score:4, Informative)

        by strength_of_10_men (967050) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:57PM (#31442828)
        The (jailbroken) app "Backgrounder" handles it quite well. It displays a small activity-wheel icon on apps that are currently running in the background. It also does this for the native Apple apps that run in the background. What's so hard about that?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by steelfood (895457)

      Multitasking has never been a huge security problem, so long as inter-process communication is disabled. Sure, it introduces file and device access control issues, but the OS should be handling that properly, multitasking or not.

      For the record, the iPhone does have the ability for apps to save their state, which is a poor man's multitasking. But true multitasking isn't really necessary in a form factor like the iPhone. A desktop PC, sure, a laptop, maybe, but it's rare to ever be doing multiple things at on

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Dog-Cow (21281)

        You haven't really used an iPod Touch or iPhone, have you? You also haven't read many replies in this discussion, or the numerous threads in other discussions that give reasons for multitasking on these devices.

        Most games that I've played which have sound allow you to disable it so that you can listen to music. If you use a streaming service to get music, you'd like to continue while performing other tasks.

        You have no vision what-so-ever.

        • Even the iPod/iPhone allows this. I can listen to music through my iPod Touch's native music player app while playing a game without a problem. It's only the use of third-party music players like Pandora that are blocked here.

          I'm not saying that there's no use at all for multitasking, but I agree with the GP that for the great majority of users, "save-state-and-switch-app" is a good enough solution.

          Pandora must be thrilled that they're essentially the poster child for what's wrong with the lack of m
      • by Scoth (879800)

        I realize I'm an edge case, but I've been known to be listening to streaming music while having an ssh session open in MobileTerminal to my server to check on something, with Facebook and a chat client running in the background that I switch over to now and then.

        Uses tend to expand to fill a device's capability.

    • by imp (7585)

      I've used the various add-ons that make multi-tasking possible on iPhone OS 3.1.2. Of course, I just mean "being able to run multiple GUI applications at once" by this statement, but that's kinda what it means in the popular, non-technical press...

      I have a few observations.

      First, some applications react very well to running in this mode. In fact, most of the ones I've tried do act well. I can get my facebook updates, have my chat client running, etc. So long as I'm careful with memory usage, things are

      • by Scoth (879800)

        You may want to Google on iphonevm . It's a virtual memory implementation for jailbroken iphone/ipods. Standard warnings about write cycles on flash apply, but it's made a huge difference with my multitasking on my iPod touch.

    • If it isn't ready for prime-time release to 3rd party developers it can't be compared to what everybody expects a true multitasking OS to be. When they get some engineering talent in there who can write a multi-tasking phone OS that can intelligently handle any number of apps, 3rd party included, simultaneously then it will be able to join the club.

      Locking it down to out-of-the-box Apple apps only is tacit admission that if they let any app multi-task the iPhone would be brought to it's knees.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:04PM (#31441752)

    There are real uses for multitasking, which the iPhone already does - like listening to iPod while surfing or the like. Maybe chat as mentioned, but I also hope to set which apps can be multitasking - I don't trust the developers always to make the correct call - there is no reason to leave a game running in the background while I surf, it would be better to save state. I would actually say saving state and resuming again is better the vast majority of times over running in the background.

    But oftentimes I try to hang up the phone by hitting the home button instead of the end call button (even though I think I did), and while surfing, I still see that "Return to Call" blinking on top.

    To conserve battery life, I already turned off push notifications and other things. And I would turn off multitasking for my parents phones, they hardly can use a computer as it. With this, they'll only be wondering why the phone battery is dying even faster.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As an iPhone developer, I can tell you this just isn't coming. Apple has lots of (NDA'd) guidelines about how much CPU juice you get (since iPod etc can work through your app) and this would seriously topsy turvey the existing software base. They have gone out of their way to make a UI that works well without multitasking, and stuff like APNS was engineer specifically not to require it.

      Aside from having my SSH sessions die when I want to goto an email or phone call, multi tasking has never actually been lac

      • by tepples (727027)

        Apple has lots of (NDA'd) guidelines about how much CPU juice you get (since iPod etc can work through your app)

        Then why doesn't Apple open the "iPod etc" API to allow for streaming music players?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Dog-Cow (21281)

          CPU usage guidelines that the developers don't know about are not guidelines.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by IDtheTarget (1055608)

      There are real uses for multitasking, which the iPhone already does - like listening to iPod while surfing or the like. Maybe chat as mentioned, but I also hope to set which apps can be multitasking - I don't trust the developers always to make the correct call - there is no reason to leave a game running in the background while I surf, it would be better to save state.

      Good point. The major reason that I look forward to multi-tasking is that I believe it to be a requirement for true VPN applications. It would be nice to be able to use my iPhone to VPN through our firewall at work so that I can handle emergency systems admin tasks.

    • by Ma8thew (861741)
      Just as it took till 3.0 for Apple to introduce copy and paste, it will take them till 4.0 to introduce multitasking for exactly the same reason. They want to do it right. Copy and paste on the iPhone is intuitive and easy, but they didn't figure out how to do it in such a great way immediately. Rest assured, Apple won't do multitasking like Android, you won't need a task manager. Whatever form it takes, Apple will err on the side of making it limiting but easy to use.
      • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

        Android has a task manager? Where?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by amRadioHed (463061)

          Android 2.1 has a task manager under Settings/Applications/Running Services. I never use it to kill apps though. Apps that don't multitask right get uninstalled from my phone.

    • Try using the sleep button to end the call. I often hit it instinctively to turn off the screen during a call, and it hangs up on the person I'm talking to.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kehren77 (814078)

      I think the key, especially for your parents, is making it very obvious as to whether you are closing or backgrounding a program. That's one of the things I hate about my Blackberry Curve 8330. Almost every app is different, some you "Exit", some you "Close", some close when you hit the back button, some stay open when you hit the back button.

      It makes it a pain in the ass to try and figure out what all you have running.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:06PM (#31441778)

    This is why Apple should sue the shit out of Google, because once iPhone OS 4 is available, Google will inevitably steal every single idea from it.

  • Existing Apps? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hemlock00 (1499033)
    At one point when looking into developing an Application for the iphone, one of the requirements for *all* apps is that it had to be able to close with in a small time window upon hitting the home button as to kill any chance of running more than 1 app at a time. The reason for this, as I read it, was to avoid having a ton of applications running (w/o the user aware) and killing battery time and other software conflicts. I'm not really sure thats a bad thing. I can remember with my blackberry, If I got a
    • The app I use on my jailbroken iPhone lets me see exactly what is running and close it, so if they have similar functionality to this app, they could make it very easy to avoid that problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dog-Cow (21281)

      The OS kills any application after 5 seconds that does not end itself when told to quit. It has nothing to do with preventing 2 apps from running at the same time. Rather, it is because there is no provision to switch apps in the UI, so if the app didn't quit quickly, it would appear to hang the phone.

      The only requirement on timing is that state must be saved quickly to avoid data loss when the watchdog kills the process.

  • But if they do allow multitasking, I hope Apple becomes MORE restrictive on what they let on the App store. I don't want crap apps sucking my battery down.

    As a developer concerned with power usage I would like more access to tell the OS things like how often I need a GPS location update. You can tell the API to update your app when you have moved x distance, but that implies the OS is watching movement constantly and only updates you every so often. I'd also like to shut down such resources when on a scr

  • by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:15PM (#31441948)
    This is why I jailbroke the thing in the first place (well, that, and a few other things): multitasking for everything, not just Apple's apps. For some time now, I have been able to listen to music and browse the web, text, chat, etc. by just switching apps. It works fairly decently, too, and doesn't make it very slow. I am simply amazed they decided this was a proper limitation.
    • by Joe Tie. (567096) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:34PM (#31442326)
      Backgrounder's probably the single biggest reason I have mine jailbroken. I'm always amazed at the people freaking out like multitasking would cause the thing to explode. People have been multitasking on it for years now. I've had a couple issues with backgrounding and sound, but that's about it. For the most part it's worked great for me.
    • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @03:04PM (#31442988)

      For some time now, I have been able to listen to music and browse the web, text, chat, etc. by just switching apps.

      Uh, you do know you can do that with a non-jailbroken iPhone, right? You didn't mention anything that a stock iPhone is incapable of doing so, if that's why you jailbroke your iPhone, you wasted your time... If there are other apps that you're running with backgrounder, fine, but that was a bad list of example tasks given the iPhone can do that out of the gate.

  • And it'll be on Verizon's network, too.

  • not sure why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:27PM (#31442152) Homepage Journal
    I am not sure why I want multitasking on the iPhone. The stated use is to allow a chat window to be always present. What would that look like though, a piece of my small screen dedicated to such an application? Does this mean I have a small browser window.

    In the old days, we had background processes that always had to run. Now we have signals and the like that can awake idle processes so they do not have to run. Then we had TSR applications, and similar items on the Mac, like the Talking Moose. The former was created to solve the long start up time of applications on DOS and Windows. Multiple windows and such were useful on the PC, with larger screens, but somewhat harder to use on the Mac. The Mac seemed to launch applications faster, so I don't have a recollections of being annoyed that Finder was not multitasking.

    Multitasking is a solution to solve some problem on the general computer. I am not sure it is the right solution for a small screen mobile small battery device. I would rather see innovative solutions rather than rehashing the same old thing. I think there this might be a useful solution for the iPad. My concern is that iPhone 4.0 is built for the next iPhone, and will make current iPhones harder to use. This is what happened with iPhone 3.0, which does not run very well on the first generation iPhone.

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      I can only give an example based on the Blackberry, the iPhone implementation (if it ever happens) may be entirely different.

      There is a section of the home screen devoted to a "notification area" (similar to the one found in Windows, at least in concept). Any application that wants to handle push-type notifications registers with the OS, so notifications (ringtones, number of vibrations, whether it blinks the LED, etc) are all handled through the same place you choose your ringtones for calls.

      If I'm running

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      PS: I think there's a difference between multi-tasking and a windowed interface that might be part of your issue with it, if I read your post correctly.

      The stated use is to allow a chat window to be always present.

      That's not entirely accurate. The intended use of multitasking is to have a chat

      application

      always running (eg. logged into an instant messenger server, able to receive a message and notify you in real time). Not actually visible at all times, but running in the background.

      All actual applications would still run in full-screen.

      You'd be able to, say, continue talkin

      • by natehoy (1608657)

        Darnit, "application" was supposed to be in bold above, not quotes. Stupid fingers. Stupid brain telling them what to do.

  • The big issue for me is battery life. I don't want some random app draining the battery of the device I use to call a tow if my car breaks down.

  • It's for the iPad, because millions of fanboy^H^H^H^H^H^H early developers shat themselves when the iPad was revealed to have no multitasking. The iPhone is fine the way it is, and could continue in its present state for quite a while without multitasking (outside of the OS centric parts, like time and calendar, etc.). This is *all* about the iPad. I for one am very happy to see this, as the lack of multitasking was one thing that told me not to bother with the iPad.

    With multitasking and iWorks, I can act

    • by Ma8thew (861741)

      PDF support on the iPad

      What do you mean? Mail on iPhone supports PDF and there are also plenty of third party apps which do. Luckily, you don't need to use Adobe's shit to read PDFs.

      • I don't own an iPhone.

        My understanding is that the iPad only supports EDOCS.

        I would LOVE to be wrong on this, believe me.

        • by iluvcapra (782887)

          Nah nah, you can read PDFs, Word, Excel and Powerpoint presentations in emails and on the web, as well as the iWorks-format files. It just works. PDFs themselves can be read in any WebView.

          What on earth is an EDOC? Maybe you mean ePub?

  • by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @02:50PM (#31442668)

    I've had my Nokia N900 for a couple of months now, and for those unaware, most of the specs are identical to the iPhone 3Gs 32Gb. Well, except that it has a much higher resolution screen, a keyboard, a real GPS, an FM transmitter and a microUSB port for data and charging. But the CPU/GPU and amount of storage are the same, except that you can also add a microSD card to the N900. But now on to the most important difference to the 3Gs. I've used both my N900 and a 3Gs, and the 3Gs just feels sluggish, while having half the functionality.

    Flipping home screens on the N900, regardless of how many icons and widgets it's running is smooth, with no clipping. Even with half a dozen apps running in the background, the UI remains equally fast (several instances of the Firefox, Application Manager, Communication app, Contacts app, Skype, MediaBox, battery-eye, conky, etc). Flipping through the 3Gs icon screens clips and feels choppier. It's not a large difference, but keep in mind the hardware is identical and the iPhone has NO applications running in the background.

    The N900 also starts up applications faster, in most cases instantaneously. Start up times do increase progressively after about 3-4 large apps are already loaded and actually doing stuff in the background (Firefox loading up pages, Application Manager checking for updates, MediaBox playing music). But many utilities that only refresh while in the foreground do not have any impact at all (Conky, battery-eye, disk usage, etc). In contrast, the 3Gs takes a couple of seconds to load up pretty much every app I tried, regardless of how limited its functionality is, and complex apps take even longer.

    Once the apps are running, they are roughly equally fast on both the N900 and the 3Gs. But as I stated above, the N900 may be running several apps in the background, and the foreground apps do not slow down at all.

    I think this is why Apple did not allow multitasking up to now. Given how slowly single apps load on their flagship 3Gs, true multitasking will bring it down to its knees. The iPhone OS takes much more resources to run than Maemo or Android, and the iPhone single tasking is a way of masking it. Of course this is speculation since except for the basic Apple apps, nobody managed run more than one app at the same time on the iPhone. And I'm sure those Apple apps are optimized and tweaked to hook into the OS and stay loaded at all times. Most likely the 4G will have a faster processor and more RAM, and will compensate for the OS shortcomings through brute force.

    • by iluvcapra (782887)

      I think this is why Apple did not allow multitasking up to now. Given how slowly single apps load on their flagship 3Gs, true multitasking will bring it down to its knees.

      People do jailbreak their phones and use Backgrounder, and they don't generally report any problems running multiple applications at once, no "bring it to its KNEES!" issues anyways. It does make the thing a bit less ergonomic to use, since you suddenly have to deal with a task manager...

      From a hardware perspective there doesn't seem to

  • by DdJ (10790) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @03:18PM (#31443264) Homepage Journal

    Actually, the kind of background processing that the Newton used, which has some things in common with what Android does (specifically Android "services"), would be awesome. The main problem is that developers are really not used to working this way.

    Basically, you have your main app, and it runs when it's in the foreground, and that's it. But you also have these other chunks of code that the app can register with the system. On the Newton you could attach that code to the OS-level alarm mechanism ("when this alarm that I just asked the system service to execute for me at that timestamp fires, don't show a dialog box or play a sound, run this bytecode instead"). On Android, it can be a daemon-like thing that actually runs in the background (eg. to play streaming music).

    The fundamental idea is that the whole app isn't doing background processing -- instead you break of very small pieces and those run in the background, under much more severe constraints. (The distinction between cron-like and daemon-like isn't really critical here. The developer still has to be trained to break their app up into distinct pieces with different constraints, instead of having one big app.)

    This is simply not the architecture a lot of developers are used to (though Unix folk have a head start). But it's a way to provide actual real usable multitasking on a device like this without crushing the memory and battery usage (especially if you use the alarm-based method and your apps can schedule the alarms far apart; for some apps this is more than adequate).

    Some programmers would certainly yell if they had to jump through that kind of hoop. But something like that could very well be the best compromise on these devices.

  • by TodLiebeck (633704) on Thursday March 11, 2010 @05:10PM (#31445288) Homepage

    I can't stand hearing everyone talk about multitasking on things like Android devices as though it works the same way as it does on their desktop PC. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The first form of multitasking on Android is that applications can elect to receive messages, e.g. "someone is calling", or "wifi state changed".

    If you actually need to do constant work in the background (e.g., listening on a network port), you can do so as well, using a "service". And even services will be killed by the system if resources are needed.

    No one is talking about running a Handbrake encode session, Firefox with a bunch of animated Flash ads, and a kernel compile at the same time on their phone.

    Multitasking on a phone is being able to record breadcrumbs of a journey with a GPS app, listen to streaming internet radio, and receive notifications from an instant messaging client at the same time.

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