Today, Steve Jobs got up on stage and announced iPhone OS 4.0. With 1,500 new developer API’s and 100 new user features, this looks to be the OS that we have been waiting for.  Most of the time was spent going over the main seven “Tentpole” features.  It’s about time Apple! I’m excited all over again for this new OS, due summertime… and a new iPhone too.

I was a one month jail broke iPhone user. It then crashed on me and I restored my iPhone back to normal. While it was jail broken, I enjoyed the features that turned my iPhone into a more usable device. I had Categories to put my applications into folders.  Backgrounder allowed me to set Slacker Radio to play while I browsed the Internet.  There was even an App that allowed me to set my wallpaper background and theme.

The only problem with all these great features is that they were running on top of the iPhone operating system. My iPhone ran slower and I noticed it. I also ignored that negative side-effect and enjoyed the features I gained. They just didn’t seem to meld with the iPhone the way Steve would do it. I had to go into the Categories application, scroll through my list of applications, and touch the one I wanted to add to a folder. This wasn’t at all an easy task. All jail broke apps work about the same way. Even though I put my iPhone back to normal, I knew that Apple was keeping an eye on the community and would some day add these great features right into their iPhone OS.

Today, was that day! Steve Jobs announced many new features coming to the iPhone OS 4.0. I could see what came from the jail broken community as well as new features that just needed to be there. There are still a few features that seem to be lacking but the great new features sure out-weigh those few that are missing.

I’m going to skip over the 1,500 API’s because we want to know about what new things we will see with OS 4.0.  That’s what I want. What is this new operating system going to allow me to do with my iPhone? Just know that those extra API’s will allow developers to make your iPhone applications look, feel, and even interact with other iPhone features better than before.

Before I get to the seven “Tentpole” main features, I want to list some of the things that Steve had on the display after he announced that 100 new user features would be in OS 4.0.  Looking at the screen, I could see the ability to create playlists, search SMS/MMS messages, and create a Birthday Calendar.  Higher on my excitement list were Spell Check, 5x digital zoom (good for the 5MP camera on the new iPhone), and setting my home screen wallpaper. Some that I would not have thought of are the ability to use a Bluetooth keyboard with the iPhone, showing places in the photo application based on the geo-tagging of the photos (Mac users will recognize this from iPhoto), and now being able to gift applications to others. Even being able to file and delete search results in the Mail app is a great new feature.

Now for the show stopping features that Steve called his seven “Tentpole” features.  Number one was a given to… Multitasking. Like I said about the jail broke applications, they just didn’t work smoothly with the iPhone OS. Steve Jobs said that they took the time to figure out how to make multitasking work smoothly and put less strain on your battery and processor. I guess this is why it took so long. Also, the hardware wasn’t up to specifications… which is why this only works with the latest iPod Touches, the iPhone 3GS, and iPad.

To multitask, you just double-tap on the Home button. From the bottom of your screen pops up a running application bar that you can scroll from left to right and select another running application. Apple really did do their homework with this feature. Applications just don’t go to the background and keep running, they use one of seven new services that Apple keeps running on the iPhone.  They are Background audio, Voice over IP, Background location, Push notifications, Local notifications, Task completion, and Fast app switching.

In a way, Apple just didn’t turn on multitasking… they created a way for developers make their apps work with this multitask feature. It doesn’t work if they don’t update their applications. What happens is that your application goes into a frozen state and passes off the main function to one of the services.  So, if you are running the Pandora application and listening to your favorite music, Pandora stops running and goes into a frozen state when you switch to another application. Your music continue to plays in the background using the Background audio service which even allows you to control the music with the home screen music controller. When you switch back to the application, it takes you right back to the application, just like you never left it… which is why the app goes into the frozen state when put in the background.  The example with Tap Tap Revenge showed a count down when switching back to it. You get a 3…2…1 before your game starts playing again. This is an option that can be used for games. Multitasking couldn’t be easier.

Number two on the “Tentpole” of features was Folders. This was one of those features that even Steve said should have been on the phone.  No more pages and pages of applications.  You can now create folders easier than ever.  If you want to create a folder for your games, you hold down your finger on one of the games until the icons start to jiggle.  Drag one of the game icons on top of another game icon and presto!… you have a folder.  It even gives it a default name based on the category the app was in on the iTunes App store… so in this case, “Games” was used as a folder title.  This can be edited to say whatever you want.  Tap on the folder and the screen fades out, splits below the folder, and the bottom falls down to reveal your list of folder applications. The demo showed only a few applications in a folder, but Steve did mention that if you had one folder in each of the 180 application slots, you could have a total of 2,160 applications. Does that mean you can only have 12 applications per folder? He didn’t give any other specifics. He also showed wallpaper backgrounds as part of the folder demo.  This just allows you to select any picture from your album and assign it to your home screen and to your lock screen.

“Tentpole” feature number three is something that I’ve been waiting for… a major update to the mail application. I’ve got four mail accounts that I’m having to switch between whenever I get emails. With this update, you can have a unified mailbox that lists all your emails in one convenient location. You can even switch to any one mailbox quickly with the new Fast inbox switching feature.  For businesses, you can now have multiple Exchange accounts. If you have a lot of related messages, Threaded messages may be a favorite of yours. You can now have related messages stored under one message and when you click on it, the list will expand to show you all the related messages. The last feature is the ability to open attachments with apps.

If you like the iBooks feature of the new iPad, you will like “Tentpole” feature number four… yes, iBooks is now available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  It’s a great ebook reader with access to the iBookstore. If you buy an ebook, you can sync it with your iPhone and iPad.  Even your page and bookmarks are synced between devices. Steve even mentioned that the Winnie the Pooh book would be free.

I fell asleep during “Tentpole” feature number five.  Actually, number five is a bunch of new Enterprise features that will be available in OS 4.0. This should help get the iPhone into more companies. One of the new features is better data protection like email encryption. The feature list also included Mobile Device Management, Wireless app distribution, Multiple Exchange Accounts with Exchange Server 2010 support, and SSL VPN support.  It was brief but lead up to the most exciting “Tentpole” for me.

Number Six is the Game Center. You may have seen the Plus+ network or OpenFeint in games that you’ve played.  These allow you to check scores on leaderboards or with your online friends. You can earn in-game achievements as rewards for accomplishing tasks… think Achievements on the Xbox 360 or Trophies on the PS3. Some games allow you to connect with your friends to complete tasks together or purchase items from them, like in the game ‘We Rule’. Apple took it one step further. They added all these features and refined them. They even added matchmaking to connect you up to other similar ranked players for multiplayer games.  You can even send a game challenge to your friend that will show as a pop-up notification on their iPhone screen.  It is a great social gaming network. I’m just hoping that Apple worked with Plus+, OpenFeint, and others, to bring them over to the Game Center. Apple has now created a gaming standard for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.  I just want to see these other companies use it and not keep pushing their own standard. This wasn’t mentioned during the announcement.

Lastly is “Tentpole” number Seven.  It is iAd. Yes, Apple has made it’s own Ad network for applications. I was worried about this at first because I’m tired of seeing ads in my applications… but Apple has done it right. One of the bad things with current iPhone ads is that they take you out of the application and to their website. I’m not wanting to click on them because of this. With iAd, the ads are done using HTML five and pop-up as a screen over your application. When you are done with the ad, you close it out and continue on with your application. The demo ads were amazing.  The Target Ad allowed you to see a video ad for students, create a virtual room based on your favorite college, and then select items to purchase with the college theme.  Again, all this was done without taking you out of your application.  Click on the little close button in the upper-left corner and you can return to your application at any time. Apple is providing this to major companies as well as small app developers. Apple sells and hosts the ads.  The developers get 60% of the revenues from the ads.

That was it for the show. Again, there were over 100 user features and over 1,500 developer API’s. The iPhone OS 4.0 software development kit (SDK) is available for download today, so developers can get started updating their applications now. It will be available this summer for the iPhone 3GS and 3rd Generation iPod Touch.  iPad users will get it in the Fall.

Yes, there are probably some features that you still miss.  I still want a lock screen that shows me the weather, mail notifications, and my appointments. I also want better management of pop-up notifications. Hey, just last week I was upset because I kept spelling things wrong in my twitter application and wished there was a spell checker.  Now it’s here. I’ll be happy with all these new features. I’ll be even happier when I get my new iPhone this summer… here’s hoping for an iPhone HD.

What did I learn from Apple today? Well, they seem to keep watch over what the community of iPhone users are doing with their iPhones. They have even watched what Google has done with the Android OS. I’ve got my folders, multitasking, home screen wallpapers, and 97 other new features. I think they will do the same with their hardware too. I expect a higher resolution display, built-in camera flash, and speedy processor with the new iPhone. We should find out more in the next couple of months. Keep your fingers crossed!

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