Apple is expected to launch the newest version of the iPhone this June, and according to a March 11 report from Apple Insider, iPhone Software 4.0 will introduce the missing functionality that devices such as the Motorola Droid have lauded over the iPhone: multitasking.
Citing “people with a proven track record in predicting Apple’s technological advances,” Apple Insider writes that Apple has “developed a ‘full-on-solution’ to multitasking on the iPhone OS but offered no specifics on how the technology would optimize resource conservation and battery life.”
Further, the report adds that the current version of the iPhone allows pre-emptive multitasking, but that the OS prevents this for security reasons, such as keeping out spyware and viruses.
Analyst Ezra Gottheil, with Technology Business Research, agrees that the functionality is there, but problematic.
“Yes, of course, the iPhone can multitask and, in fact, does with some bundled apps,” he told eWEEK. “‘Full on’ multitasking poses security, user interface, performance and battery life problems. More important…very often users do not need or want to multitask, and they only suffer negative consequences. You often see na???ve PC users consuming memory and confusing themselves by opening multiple browser windows.”
Despite the put-downs the iPhone has suffered for its lack of Android-style multitasking, Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies, also believes there are reasons Apple should hesitate to offer the functionality.
“The multitasking will affect the user experience, something Apple likes to control tightly and guarantee. Also, the background processes will use up precious battery life, and the iPhone is right on the cusp of maximum performance with OK battery life,” Kay told eWEEK.
“Finally, the phone has only a small screen. How many things would you want running at once when you can only see one at a time? Useful background tasks could be things like third-party IM apps, or maybe a weather monitor with alerts, or really anything that generates alerts. But in this scenario, the foreground experience is in danger of becoming too busy,” Kay continued. “It’s a delicate balance, and Apple has to be careful when tinkering with it not to ruin an already great experience.”
Aaron Vronko, CEO of Rapid Repair, which has performed teardowns of the iPhones and other devices, agrees that a version of multitasking-users can listen to music and surf the Web-has always been present, but Apple has limited it, out of fear that people won’t be able to successfully manage a functionality that can so easily hurt performance and suck away battery life.
Vronko expects that Apple will update the new iPhones from ARM Cortex A8 CPUs to A9 CPUs, which he says offer a 25 percent faster clock cycle, and that Apple will upgrade the memory from 256MB of RAM to 512MB, which would enable the iPhones to offer “robust, almost unaffected performance” with a few applications open.
After some thought, Vronko added, “Apple is just the sort of company to decide to do multitasking-but to do it smarter and better. The biggest reason not [offering multitasking] is the drain on battery life … but I can see Apple opening it up, but in a way that redefines the parameters [with help from its developer community].”
A game could be open in the background, he explained, even though you couldn’t possibly play a game in the background. Apple could ask the developers to let something like a game automatically suspend, while something like a chat client, or productivity tools that need to be constantly updating, could follow a different kind of registration.
“They could say how they now have -intelligent multitasking,'” said Vronko. “I think they can definitely do it because they have such a tightly controlled developer pipeline.”
Still, he said it’s possible that consumers may not see such functionality this summer. “They’ll maybe do it a little bit afterward. Maybe a month or two later, when they’re looking to spice up the line.”