Apple introduced multitasking in 2010 with the release of iOS 4. However, Apple was quite concerned about the impact it could have on battery life, so it allowed only select kinds of apps to do multitasking such as apps that play audible content, keep users informed of their location at all times, Newsstand apps and apps that receive regular updates from external accessories.
Thankfully Apple has addressed the limitation in iOS 7 with smarter multitasking, which brings multitasking support to all apps.
Here’s what Apple has to say about it:
Multitasking has always been a smart way to switch between apps. Now it’s even smarter. Because iOS 7 learns when you like to use your apps and can update your content before you launch them. So if you tend to check your favorite social app at 9:00 a.m. every day, your feed will be ready and waiting for you. That’s multitasking in iOS 7. It knows what you want to do before you do.
Below we list some of the types of apps that will benefit the most from these smarter multitasking APIs.
Social and News apps with constantly updating feeds
If you’re a social media addict who keeps opening Instagram, Facebook or Twitter every five minutes to check new items on your social feed, then you’ll love the iOS 7 updates for these apps.
iOS 7 tracks your app usage pattern, and gives frequently used apps an opportunity to refresh content in the background right before you’re likely to use it. So, for example, if you have a habit of checking your Facebook feed right after waking up in the morning at 8, iOS will tell Facebook to refresh your newsfeed at around 7:45.
Moreover, iOS will also update the app preview in the new multitasking switcher to reflect the newest content in your newsfeed, so that even without opening the app you know that there are new items waiting for you.
While the use case described here is social, the same thing can be applicable to news, finance, weather or any sort of app that is based around a constantly updating feed of items.
Digital store-based apps
If you’re a frequent buyer from the Kindle ebook Store, you know that you have to open the Kindle app for the bought content to show up in your library. Starting with iOS 7, if you buy a Kindle book from the web, Amazon can send a silent (can’t be seen by user) notification to your device to trigger the ebook download in the background, and once it’s done, send you another notification, this time user-facing, to tell you that the ebook is available for reading right away.
Of course, for the background download process to work, Amazon will have to implement a lot of things on its backend as well as in the iOS 7 app, so don’t expect this to be there in the Kindle app on day one. The Kindle Store is just an example, and any digital store with an iOS app can implement this remote download trigger system.
File syncing apps
Many file syncing apps have an option that lets you automatically upload your photos in your camera roll as you keep clicking them. iOS 7 has a new “Background Transfer Service” that lets apps queue background upload and download operations so that they can keep happening as and when your device connects to WiFi. This will not only benefit file syncing apps, but a lot of other apps as well that depend on downloading large files.
Instant Messaging apps
If you’ve used any third-party IM app, you know how annoying it is to wait for a message to download when you open the app via a notification. This is because a push notification can carry only a limited number of bytes of data, which typically isn’t large enough to accommodate a single message.
But with iOS 7, a push notification can wake up the concerned app in the background and let it download the latest messages, so that when you open the app, you can start chatting right away without waiting.
Read it later apps
One of the most valid criticisms of the pre-iOS 7 multitasking system was that users had to keep their read-it-later queue updated by manually opening the app every now and then. So, if you planned on catching up with your Pocket or Instapaper queue in a flight but forgot to open the app before boarding, you’d be out of luck unless the plane has WiFi.
In iOS 7 though, whenever you add a new item to your read-it-later queue from anywhere, the Read it later service’s server can send a remote notification to trigger a background refresh of your item queue. That way, you don’t have to manually keep updating and refreshing your list.
We’ve just highlighted a few types of apps here, but we’re sure that developers would use these new multitasking APIs in ways we can’t even imagine right now. Although Apple didn’t add full-blown multitasking in iOS 7, the new APIs seem to make the right amount of trade-off between convenience and battery life. Head over to this link to know more about iOS 7′s smarter multitasking feature.
I can’t wait to use these apps on iOS 7 and really hope that developers add support for iOS 7’s multitasking APIs soon.