Update: Not happy with iOS 4 and want to know how to downgrade to iPhone OS 3.1.3? There’s an app guide for that.

Update 2: Or if you’d rather just add support for multitasking and fast app switching, there’s a guide for that too.

As you may have heard, Apple iOS 4 is now available for download. You can install the update on the iPhone 3GS, 3G, and second and third generation iPod touch models. But if you want all of the features Apple promised, you’re going to need an iPhone 3G or a 32GB or 64GB iPod touch. Because older iPhones and iPod touches get a stripped down version of iOS 4.

I happen to have a 3rd generation current generation 8GB iPod touch, which is one of the newest models available. So I kind of figured I was good to go until I downloaded the update this morning. But it turns out that the 8GB model actually is basically still a 2nd generation device. And that means that I’ve got the limited edition version of iOS 4.

Now, that means I do get some of the new features, including the ability to sort Home Screen icons into folders. And that’s a big deal. I can also use the new unified inbox feature, which lets you see the latest messages from multiple email accounts in one place. It combines my Gmail and Yahoo inboxes beautifully. Search suggestions also show up in Mobile Safari. But there are a number of new features that aren’t available to folks like me with older hardware.

Here are a few things that I don’t have access to after upgrading my iPod touch to iOS 4.0:

  • Multitasking
  • iBooks
  • Home Screen wallpapers
  • Screen orientation locking

I get why there’s no multitasking. Apple has decided that older devices don’t have fast enough processors to handle task-switching for non Apple programs. But I have no idea why I can’t change the wallpaper on my Home Screen.

And since I can’t run apps in the background, double-tapping the Home button doesn’t bring up an app drawer — which means I also don’t get access to the screen orientation lock button that’s tucked away in the app drawer on supported hardware. There’s really no reason Apple should be leaving older iDevice users out in the cold here. It’s not like we don’t use our devices to read in bed too.

Update: It turns out iBooks does work on older iPod touch and iPhone models. It just wasn’t immediately available for download, but it’s in the App Store now.

I also have no idea why I can’t install the iBooks app, which iTunes says is available for the iPad and iPhone… but not the iPod touch. I currently have eBook apps from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Stanza installed on my iPod touch. If these third party developers can come up with apps that run smoothly on my iPod touch, it seems kind of strange that Apple has decided not to make iBooks available.

I’ll probably hold off on upgrading my iPod touch until Apple announces a new model, because I suspect that will happen sometime in the next month or two and it seems silly to buy a 32GB iPod touch today when a new version that will ship with iOS 4 is probably just around the corner. But I’m a bit disappointed to discover that a device I bought just a few months ago has already been made partially obsolete by Apple’s most recent software update.

Update the second: Gizmodo reports that Steve Jobs has addressed the question of why iPhone 3G and older iPod touch users can’t change their home screen backgrounds. Apparently icon animations don’t work very well with non-standard backgrounds. Go figure. Honestly, I’m not really itching for custom home screen backgrounds, since the app icons take up most of the space anyway. But I still wouldn’t mind a screen rotation lock button.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...

17 replies on “Some iPhone, iPod touch users stuck with iOS 4 limited edition”

  1. I feel ya. I have an ipod touch 3rd gen 8gb as well and I'm extremely annoyed by not having the orientation lock.

  2. You've forgotten, there is no 3rd generation iPod Touch 8GB, Apple simply kept the 2nd generation around for the low end of the market.

  3. You've forgotten, there is no 3rd generation iPod Touch 8GB, Apple simply kept the 2nd generation around for the low end of the market.

  4. Yeah, I don't get to use multitasking or screen lock, but I can still test most iOS apps for review purposes, and my wife can still play Scrabble.

    I'll probably wait until the next-gen iPod touch is available before grabbing a new one. Or maybe I'll get an iPad. Depends how much spare change I've got in the bank in a few months. :)

  5. I see. For some reason I thought they classified the 8gb as a third generation. Thanks for the clarification.

  6. For lack of a better word, that sucks! What they probably meant was the latest 8gb model available, since there is a 1st generation 8gb model, too. If I were you, I'd probably see what I could get for it by trading it in at Best Buy or selling it to someone. Of course, you probably aren't even going to get half the amount to buy a 3rd generation since it was originally owned before you bought it (i'm assuming since it says refurbished). You just have to decide if the features you can't get are important enough.

  7. Not really if you go to the Apple website it will specifically say 32GB – 3rd Generation

  8. Never mind sorry I didn't look down in the forum enough I didn't have to post that comment hehe Sorry mikebed96!

  9. with the jailbreakme.com jailbreak you can add native Multitasking, Home Screen wallpapers and Screen orientation locking with Cydia or Rock for the 2g models. I have done so myself and it works perfectly.

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