Multitasking Feature In iOS 4 – Do You Like It?

Multitasking on iOS 4

It has been a week since Apple released iOS 4, its eagerly awaited next generation iOS.

One of the major features introduced in iOS 4 is the multitasking feature, which finally allows iPhone users to run some categories of third-party iPhone apps in the background.

It was one of the most requested features by users and also one of the reasons why users hacked their iPhone.

Apple had introduced the Push Notification service in iPhone OS 3.0 last year as a workaround to the multitasking feature as it had concerns on the negative impact on iPhone's battery life.

So it wasn't surprising to see that in iOS 4, Apple has taken extreme care in implementing the new multitasking feature so that it does not impact iPhone's battery life. 

However, it has come at the expense of functionality as iOS 4 does not offer unrestricted multitasking. Instead, the new feature offers multitasking support to three specific categories of applications:

Audio: Allowing users to use radio apps like Pandora in the background while they're using iPhone's Safari browser to surf the web etc.

VoIP: This will allow VoiP apps like Skype to run in the background so that it users can receive and make calls even when they're running in the background.

Location: Apps that need to constantly track your GPS coordinates can now run in the background while you listen to music or surf the internet.

This means that the multitasking feature still does not cater to some of the popular categories of iPhone apps such as instant messaging apps, social networking apps, reader apps for RSS feed etc.

That's not the only problem, it also seems to be causing confusion, as users are expecting all their iPhone apps to work in the background.

Craig Hockenberry – developer of popular iPhone apps such as Twitterific and Frenzic, explains it very well:

"Part of the confusion with multitasking comes from Apple’s excellent implementation of “task switching”. When you double-tap on the home button and start another application, the previous application is “frozen” and put into a state where it’s not running but can be restarted quickly. A part of the freezing process also reduces the amount of memory being used: allowing more applications to fit in freezer.

The next time you tap on the app’s icon, it is “thawed out” and put back on your iPhone’s screen while the previous app is frozen. This process is repeated each time you launch an app."

This implementation has helped Apple to conserve iPhone's battery life. Hockenberry points out that this "sleight of hand" gives users an impression that they're running many more applications than they actually are. 

Though Apple has been quite explicit about multitasking limitations, many of our readers have been disappointed with the multitasking feature in iOS 4 as they were expecting all iPhone apps to work in the background. 

We think that Apple has taken a reasonable approach based on the limited resources available in a smartphone like iPhone as unrestricted multitasking would have adversely impacted iPhone's battery life. 

But we would like to see Apple figure out a solution for some of the popular categories of apps that we had mentioned earlier in the next iteration.

What do you think about the new multitasking feature in iOS 4? Do you like it? Are you observing any performance issues or degradation in your iPhone's battery life? We would love to hear your views in the comments.