One of the biggest complaints I hear about the iPhone is that it doesn’t fully support multitasking. Sure, you can run the default music app in the background while checking your email or surfing the web. But it’s pretty much only the default apps that can run in the background. Try listening to streaming audio from the NPR News app and the sound will shut off as soon as you hit the Home button or switch to another app.
Apple Insider is reporting that could soon change. The news site says that people who have seen the upcoming iPhone 4.0 operating system say that it supports running third party applications in the background, just as Android, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry already do (although Microosft is actually going to issue Windows Phone 7 Series later this year without support for running third party apps in the background).
According to Apple Insider, the update will also include an Exposé-like feature that lets you hit a button and see a group of icons representing running applications, making it easy to switch between them.
The iPhone 3.x operating system is perfectly capable of handling multitasking — as evidenced by the fact that Apple’s default apps can run in the background. But Apple made the decision to prevent third party apps from doing the same in order to conserve system resources.
It should be interesting to see whether opening up this can of worms will mean that iPhone, iPod touch, and iPads models will start to feel sluggish when you have too many apps running in the background. Because that’s often what happens on Android or Windows Mobile devices, even though both platforms are supposed to automatically shut down apps when you have too many running.
In other words, it remains to be seen whether multitasking will be the best thing to ever happen to iPhones… or the worst thing. If it happens at all. Right now, it’s just a rumor.