April 10, 2010

iPhone 4.0 revealed, to be released in "Summer"

New iPhone point releases are always exciting, especially because this is a way for older iPhone and iPod touch users to be able to catch up with the inevitable new iPhone and iPod touch models that'll be released in the second half of the year, and it gives developers a way to dig into what Apple is planning but hasn't announced yet (like iChat).

Yesterday, Steve Jobs discussed the "7 tentpole features" that the existing base of 85 million iPhone and iPod touch users will be able to get their hands on this "summer". The primary feature of note is pretty much the ability to multitask by double-tapping the Home button, but the new firmware also offers an organizational metaphor unflatteringly called Folders, an upgraded Mail app, a port of iBooks, a preview of the Xbox Live-esque "Game Center", more Enterprise features like Exchange 2010 support and wireless app distribution, and a mobile advertising platform called iAd.

Again, like all those other times, my initial gut reactions of the announcements made during the event are to follow below. If you want to watch the on-demand stream of the event, click this link.

This is it. iPhone OS 4.0. What will it hold for the world's best-selling smartphone?

First up, Steve goes down to iPad business. 300,000 iPads in the first day and 450,000 today. 250,000 iBooks in the first day and 600,000 iBooks today (to the tune of someone whistling), and over a million iPad apps in the first day, and 3.5 million apps today. Truly some amazing figures to appease the stockholders.

Steve also wants to show this little picture of a little girl loving her iPad to some applause.

More figures regarding the App Store and the iPad... I'm having a sense of deja vu. Shall Scott Forstall come to the stage for not too long? Well, for now, Steve's pretty much enumerating his favorite iPad apps for now, and I have to admit, they all look quite impressive.

"Now let's go to the iPhone."

Steve briefly brags about the phone in terms of browser usage, consumer satisfaction, and sales figures to date (FIFTY MILLION iPHONES + THIRTY FIVE MILLION iPOD TOUCHES).

Like all other iPhone OS's before it, 4.0 shall be released in the "Summer" and developers will be able to get their hands on a beta for free today. Users will also pretty much have more features as well ("more than a hundred) including a digital zoom, the ability to gift apps, create playlists, check your spelling, change the backgrounds, and use a Bluetooth keyboard. All pretty cool, but Steve wants to talk more features, as in "7 tentpole features".

1) Multitasking
"We're not the first to the party, but we're gonna be the best."

"Worries about multitasking like battery life and sluggishness", says Jobs, "will not be necessary because we have nailed it". Obviously, there shall be a demo.

With the double-click of a Home button, all the open apps are shown in a small strip and tapping the app will let you go there. (Steve also plays a little Tap Tap Revenge) But seriously, how about if I didn't mean to summon that little strip? Steve doesn't seem to want to address that yet, but we'll see.

Scott Forstall is summoned into the fold to explain the efficiency of iPhone multitasking and he basically says that the core services of an app will only be running instead of the whole damn app to preserve CPU and battery life. Meaning that if you opened Pandora, it won't really go to the Internet to refresh its recommendations, but it will still keep playing songs in the background, which is pretty much the point of the service.

Apple will be offering 7 major services to complement multitasking, but I won't really be running them all down here. Why? Because we finally have multitasking. I'm quite worried that several services will conflict each other in practice (and essentially render the floating iPod controls useless) but we'll see if Apple truly nails this.

Voice over IP services like Skype will be able to work like it should: like the Internet-enabled phone service it should be. The iPhone will be able to receive calls from Skype contacts even if the app isn't open, and if you're in the middle of a call, you won't find the need to keep caution of the home button because the call will be preserved while outside the app, like the regular iPhone Phone app. To say that this will make the iPod touch a bit of a legit Wi-Fi enabled phone is a bit of an understatement...

Social services that also take advantage of the GPS sensor will be able to take advantage of multitasking by tracking your location whilst not opened. A little icon on the status bar will indicate that an app is tracking you, and you'll be able to close Location Services one app at a time.

Push notifications... will they be better? Scott Forstall wants to tell you that yes, they will be. I don't know. But Local Notifications are gonna be added in addition to this. Basically, this is a notifications system that doesn't need a connection to the Internet, meaning that Things can finally alert you of a task you need to do, or TV Guide will say that Desperate Housewives is on.

Apps will also be able to take advantage of multitasking by, for example, uploading photos to Facebook in the background and notifying you if the photos have finished uploading.

Lastly, there is "Fast app switching" which basically preserves the condition of an app as you left it, which enables the iPhone to use less battery.

2) Folders
Since iPhone 2.0, the advent of apps has been a boon for the mobile industry in general, but for the iPhone, just navigating through pages upon pages of apps becomes quite hellish. Folders changes all that.

Just tap and hold an app and drag that app on top of another app. Done. Finished. Simple.

Steve also demoes how you can put wallpapers on your home screen which is pretty simple (you can also change the wallpapers for the lock screen and the home screen individually and separately). Kinda like how you would on an iPad.

Folders basically renders the 180 app limit to 2160 apps. Nice.

3) Enhanced Mail
When a MacRumors user e-mailed Steve Jobs about the unified inbox, he replied with a resounding "Yes.".

And here we are.

You'll be able to see the messages in your e-mail accounts (even several Exchange accounts), and more awesome: you can finally organize your e-mails by thread. Like G-Mail, you'll be able to see the conversation in a logical way.

Also, attachments can be opened through other apps.

4) iBooks

Featuring the same familiar bookshelf and e-book store, iBooks is pretty much a port of the iPad app (including the free Winnie The Pooh) and, well, you get to read frigging eBooks ala Stanza and Amazon Kindle.

Logically, the app also enables wireless synchronization of pages and bookmarks (meaning the app remembers the page you stopped in your iPad and continue from there on your iPhone).

5) Enterprise
Scott wants to introduce more features for the Enterprise, and it'll have better data protection (passwords for e-mail and apps), mobile device management (managing swarms of iPhones in one master device), wireless app distribution (boss distributes an app without having to go through iTunes), multiple Exchange accounts (Server 2010) and SSL VPN support.

No demoes here because general users aren't interested.

6) Game Center
But this one is one thing users will be interested in.

Since the iPod touch is being marketed as a gaming device, and Microsoft is about to launch Xbox Live for Mobile when Windows Phone Series 7 (eff that name!!!) comes out, Apple is coming to the fold and offering leaderboards, challenges, matchmaking, social networking, and yes, achievements.

It will be available for all "later this year". Does this mean that it will be a separate app like iBooks?

7) iAd
Using their acquisition of Quattro, Apple is rolling out iAd which is basically like AdMob. If you've noticed, many free apps offer ads but as Steve Jobs says, "they suck".

Usually, search engines are "where it's at", but Steve Jobs thinks that "on the iPhone, apps are where it's at". Using statistical jargon, Steve Jobs wants to entice developers to use Apple's own mobile advertising platform. With iAd, Steve says that they want to have that advertising be more interactive, but deliver the same emotion that TV ads offer. I don't know what the hell that means, but we'll see when this plan goes into motion.

With multitasking, iAd will also not take the user out of an app and go back "any time they want" so people are more interested in clicking them.

60% revenues for the developer, Apple will sell and host all them ads.

So yes, Steve Jobs will actually offer a demo for this new platform with their own mock-ups "using the brands we love, all using HTML5".

Essentially, Apple's pretty much bringing a less annoying AdMob (as in Google Adsense... but you can just tap the X button to exit the ad instead of be forced to use Safari) that adds interactivity that can very much rival the likes of Flash (which, if you were keeping track, Steve Jobs is allergic to).

Obviously, this is a feature very much focused towards developers and their moneys, especially because the pressing matter behind developers making free apps is pretty much the revenue- or lack of it.

While Jobs is emphasizing on their competitive advertising program (versus Google, of course), the way he says "dude" makes for a bit of entertainment, but it's all pretty much a demonstration of HTML5 technology, and how it'll be able to substitute Flash.

The keynote is pretty much done at this point, with a little review at the end. All features are compatible with iPhone 3GS and the 3rd generation iPod touch. The iPhone 3G and 2nd generation iPod touch will run "many things, but not some things because hardware doesn't support them", especially multitasking. No word on the first iPhone and the first iPod touch, but come on, Apple, at least give those devices the ability to, I don't know, change the wallpaper?! iPad users will have to wait longer for multitasking and company: "Fall".

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