New iPhone OS 4.0 Features: WOW! or Meh?

Matthew Campbell, April 27th

Pre Gizmodo drama around the new iPhone, Apple unveiled the key features of the new operating system that will be running our iPhones in the summer. Developers like myself have had a chance to play with some of these. Lets do a recap of the major features announced in the April 8th event.

For everyone who is saying that they are waiting for multi-tasking to buy an iPad or iPhone now you have no excuse. They will be implementing a limited version of multi-tasking that is meant to strike a nice balance between switching apps and maintaining long battery life. Music apps like Pandora will be able to continue playing music in the background while you switch to other apps (finally!).

Notifications are included in this category as well. So, now it will be much easier to implement push-like notifications without using third-party (or your own) servers. I wonder how this will affect companies like Urban Airship who already provide workarounds for developers?

Not sure though if is “Wow” or “Thank God”… This is a neat little feature that will let you group your apps together into little folders. For app addicts this will make scrolling through endless pages of apps much less of a chore.

Mail is getting some neat new features like conversation threading – sorely needed on the iPhone. Even though I tend to use the gmail web app exclusively I think this feature is a nice touch. But, here is what I give this category a Wow…

It looks like we will be able to send special attachments through the mail app that will open up apps up when users touch the attachment. If these attachments can contain bits of data it could be a convenient way to provide offline backup and syncing to users who don’t want to rely exclusively on iTunes. This could also be an alternative to using a web service to provide sharing and other social networky features.

This may simply be sour grapes for me – I am a big Kindle fan. Love Amazon as well. iBooks seems like a “me too” offering. It does have a nice UI as expected but so far I will be avoiding this one. Also, iBooks doesn’t really have much implications for developers.

This update simply is addressing the real world concerns of the corporate IT guy. Don’t get me wrong, the more support these guys get the better but I don’t see it impacting us as developers all that much.

Initially I was skeptical but after seeing the demo and comparing it in my mind to Steam on the PC I think this could have legs. Game Center will be a central place for iPhone OS game enthusiasts to network and invite friends to play.

I feel bad for the social gaming networks that are already out there – Apple just tanked their business. But, they cannot yet provide the same level of interaction and access that Apple appears to be able to provide.

Basically, Apple will be providing developers with the ability to embed ads in their apps. The 60% revenue share is about what you would expect when using other ad providers and as a developer it is nice to have the native API to use. Another big feature here is that users will not be taken out of your app when they view an ad.

I’m pretty excited about this new update and also a bit amazed at the speed at which iPhone OS is evolving. With the announcement of Game Center and iAd it appears that is tightening its grip on the iPhone OS ecosystem. My only fear is that as a content provider myself that one day they will put the screws to me when it comes to my own iPhone apps.

Do you have a favorite feature, see a worrisome trend or would you rather jump over to Android? Let me know in the comments below plz!

I notice that no one ever mentions the fact that there is now multiple Exchange support,
perhaps the people like myself who need to use Google Sync as well as their corporate Exchange are in the minority.

On the contrary, the jailbreak solution for this getting a LOT of coverage.

I have to say though that this feature, the unified inbox and better access, threaded messaging and FOLDERS! are probably the most important features for me in this update.

@djbouche – I can see how multiple exchange support is compelling if you need to use the iPhone for work. The mail app does seem to be growing up a bit.

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