Apple has announced a press event to give a “sneak peek” at iPhone OS 4.0 on April 8th. While the next-generation operating system for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad isn’t due out until later this year, it looks like Apple will use the preview event to drum up some excitement about the platform — and perhaps assure the world that it the iPhone OS can compete with Google’s Android operating system, which seems to be emerging as the OS of choice for low power tablets that aren’t the iPad.
There’s still no official word on what Apple will announce Thursday. But there’s been a lot of speculation that Apple is getting ready to add support for true multitasking.
Right now, only a handful of apps can run in the background on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch — and they’re all native apps built by Apple. For instance, you can listen to audio using the default music player in the background while surfing the web with the Safari browser. But you can’t stream audio from Pandora or new from the NPR News app while surfing the web. As soon as you click out of the Pandora or NPR apps, the audio will fade away.
Google Android, on the other hand (and Palm WebOS, and Windows Mobile 6.5, for that matter), all let you run as many apps in the background as your mobile phone’s memory can handle.
It’s likely that Apple will start allowing third party multitasking for a couple of reasons. First, the iPad has a faster processor than the iPhone or iPod touch, which should make multitasking smoother. And second, it has a bigger screen which would be perfect for holding two apps at once — say, an instant messenger or Twitter app on the left and a web browser on the right.
While Apple’s pocket-sized mobile devices might not have as much screen real estate or processor speed as the iPad, there’s no telling what’s in store for future versions of the iPhone and iPod touch. And to be honest, if you can run Safari, or the music app in the background, there’s not much reason to prevent third party apps from doing the same.