iPhone 4.0: Multitasking At Last!

Apple Inc. gave a sneak peek of its upcoming iPhone 4.0 software update, which will finally include … drumroll please … multitasking!

Multitasking has of course been a glaring omission in iPhone functionality, right up there with its lack of support for Flash video. Apple CEO Steve Jobs noted that the company waited so long to roll it out because it wanted to make sure it got multitasking right — i.e., implemented in such a way that doesn’t drain battery life too badly.

Seven new background APIs will let users do things like run Pandora and other music services in the background. Skype and other VoIP client users will now be able to receive calls even when their apps aren’t open. Photo upload and other tasks that can take a while can now finish in the background while a user moves on to something else.

From a practical standpoint, a double click of the home button brings up a task bar that will allow iPhone owners to toggle between open applications. Four open apps show on the dock, but users can swipe to scroll through the rest if there are more.

iPhone 4.0 will also incorporate a host of other nifty updates, like an Xbox 360-like social gaming network. It also will allow folders for organizing apps (imagine: a news folder, a utilities folder, an “entertainment for 5-year-old while on long road trips” folder…).

And that’s not all. The mail application will now allow multiple accounts with a unified mailbox. An iBooks feature for purchasing and reading e-books is new too, as are enterprise perks like full PIN-based e-mail encryption, better VPN functionality and support for Microsoft Exchange 2010.

In all, iPhone 4.0 will bring more than 100 new features, including 5x digital zoom for the camera, the ability to customize homepage wallpaper and support for Bluetooth keyboards. One notable caveat to the release: Users of iPhone versions older than iPhone 3G S won’t be able to support all iPhone 4.0 functionality, including multitasking.

The new OS version is slated for release this summer for iPhone and in the fall for iPad. Developers can play with it starting Thursday, however.

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