We were, by turns, underwhelmed and pleasantly surprised by the much anticipated Apple keynote this afternoon. To distill it down for you, Apple is releasing a preview of the iPhone OS 4.0 software for developers today, and you can expect to see it available for your mobile device starting this summer. But there's a caveat: only certain devices (the newest ones, to be exact) will get all of the fancy new features that we will describe in detail below. 3G iPhones and second-generation iPod touches will only get some of the features, while old-school EDGE users will be left entirely out of the upgrade. iPad
users will see 4.0 available in the fall.
We have some theories as to why only the iPad, iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod touch will receive all of these new features, but let's just get into exactly what they are. Jobs announced seven "tentpole" features for the new OS including:
This was the highly-anticipated feature -- we've been waiting for it for years -- that just about everyone was guessing might make an appearance at today's keynote. Basically, the new iPhone UI will allow users to double-click the home button to bring up a snazzy new overlay, leaving apps that are currently running to do so in the background. Switching between apps is fast, and brings you back to wherever you last were.
Developers will now be able to let their apps run a ton of background tasks like: audio (so that you can listen to Pandora while playing a game, and even control it with the iPod controls when it's locked); VOIP (to receive Skype calls even when the app is not running in the foreground, or your phone is locked); and background location services that will allegedly use cell towers to determine your location and therefore save your battery (for both turn-by-turn navigation apps, and location-based services like Loopt).
Despite the lackluster name, this is pretty exciting. For users who are sick of flipping between home screen pages, with 4.0 you'll be able to create folders to organize your apps. (A folder looks just like a regular app icon and can even be placed in the dock.) With an easy drag-and-drop mechanism, the folders will expand to reveal, say, all of your games in one convenient place. Oh, and you can have as many folders as you want.
Less exciting, the Mail app is getting a slight makeover to tighten up some of its existing features. A unified inbox will allow you to see all of your accounts in one folder, instead of having to switch back and forth. Users will also be able to set up multiple Microsoft Exchange accounts (as only one was allowed previously), and organize their mail by thread (which is a total boon to Gmail users, who are already used to this kind of interface on the Web). More interesting is the fact that you'll be able to open e-mail attachments with other apps.
is coming to iPhone and iPod touch. It looks the same as it does on the iPad but smaller, and has all of the features you'd expect: sync pages and bookmarks with your other devices, and a free copy of 'Winnie the Pooh.' Jobs announced at the beginning of the keynote that 600,000 iBooks have been downloaded since the iPad launched, and the Switched team was wondering if the lion's share of those were the free Project Gutenberg titles. Either way, we don't expect iBooks to be much of a hit on smaller devices.
For companies that use the iPhone for business, Apple is expanding iPhone features like better e-mail encryption, and making APIs available in order to allow developers to encrypt data within their apps. Again, the iPhone will be able to support multiple Microsoft Exchange accounts with Exchange Server 2010 support. SSL VPN (a connection-securing method) and wireless app distribution are also on the table for summer. Apple didn't specify what it meant by "mobile device management," but we expect that companies may be able to remotely lock and wipe employee's phones.
An unexpected addition, Apple is launching what looks to be its own version of XBox Live with Game Center, and it's slated to be available "later this year." iPhone and iPod touch gamers will be able to access their achievements, view leaderboards, invite friends to play games, and more. There were surprisingly few details, so we'll continue to update as we learn more.
Jobs closed with another feature that we thought might be coming. iAds
will allow developers to place dynamic ads within their apps. Apple will sell and host the ads, with 60-percent of the revenues going to the developer. But what's really interesting is the fact that these ads won't take you out of your app; they live within
the app entirely. Jobs showed off a demo of a 'Toy Story 3' ad that even featured a game you could play without ever leaving the original app. We have a much more in-depth look at iAds coming here
, so be sure to check it out.
Who's Getting What?
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, it turns out that not all Apple mobile users will get access to these new features.
- iPhone 3G and iPod Touch 2nd Gen: You'll get "some" of the features -- but not multitasking -- at some point this summer.
- iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 3rd Gen: You'll get everything this summer.
- iPad: Users will get all of the new features, but not until fall of this year.
- iPhone EDGE: Left out of the update. You get nothing.
And that's it! We'll continue to update this post as we learn more about the potential of these announcements.