Well, at least not at the time of writing this post. Which is about 10:30am EST. And I’m not really insulting iOS 4, I just think it’s been a bit overhyped and some new revelations have really diminished it’s wonder for me.
First, I want to start by writing about the horrific time I had trying to upgrade to the firmware that I thought came out already. I know, I should have read more into it, but I was excited for some of the new anticipated features. Anyway, this story needs a bit of an introduction. I have been an iPod user for about three years now and although I remain apathetic towards Apple, I do have one huge complaint: there is no version of iTunes available for Linux.
While this is a major inconvenience for me, I have been able to survive for a while. While I had my second iPod, a yellow Chromatic which I loved (rest in peace), I had to restart the computer and endure Windows Vista’s mind-numbing slowness if I wanted to add a single song to my iPod, which is why I generally added songs in batch, which grew pretty annoying because I would then have to wait to be able to listen to a song (I’m obsessed with play counts, please help me). Anyway, I finally became sick of this and tried some Linux media players that have claimed to be able to sync with iPods.
Rhythmbox made me sick. It really did. I just did not like it at all, and half the time I listened to a song, it wouldn’t scrobble to Last.fm (again, I’m obsessed, keel me). Next, I tried Banshee which I eventually fell in love with. It was smooth, sleek and worked very well. However, I don’t know if I ever managed to sync my iPod with it because my iPod died right around then. It was very odd, the buttons just stopped working while the rest of the iPod clearly worked because shaking it skipped to a random song.
Anyway, I eventually got an iPod touch two weeks ago and while I do love it, I needed to find somewhere to sync it. Banshee wouldn’t work for two reasons: it had no iPod touch/iPhone support (even for music) and I wanted to be able to have apps. Eventually, I realized that a virtual machine would probably work perfectly and so I downloaded VirtualBox and set up an installation of Windows XP in it. It was all fine and dandy until I installed iTunes and it crashed every time I tried to open it. What?!?! It turns out that versions of iTunes 9.0.3 and up do not work in VirtualBox. There was a workaround, though, install iTunes 9.0.2 instead, and I did and it worked perfectly. And for the last two weeks, I’ve been running 9.0.2 and syncing with my iPod touch peacefully (except for one incident in which I accidentally updated iTunes and had to downgrade again and re-import all of my music, but that was before I got my iPod touch).
My problem was probably the deceitful early release of iTunes 9.2. I immediately assumed that it meant that iOS 4 was out as well, because, well, it made sense! Anyway, I stupidly tried to update my copy of iTunes and what do you know, it starts crashing. So I had to spend an hour downgrading, re-importing and then re-syncing because of course, iTunes didn’t recognize my iPod after I reinstalled it. And I have 600+ songs, so that took quite a while. Anyway, when that was finally done, I restarted to my Windows partition and planned to use the iTunes there not to sync, but just to update. Lo and behold, iOS 4 WASN’T OUT YET. I think I started talking to the computer at that point "WHAT DO YOU MEAN 3.1.3 IS THE CURRENT UPDATE? I THINK YOU’RE WRONG. YOU ARE WRONG. I AM RIGHT AND YOU ARE WRONG."
Anyway, that’s my story about trying to upgrade to a not-yet-available firmware, now let’s talk about how iOS 4′s new feature lineup may be a bit misleading. Let’s start with the big one: MULTITASKING. Probably the most anticipated feature of iOS 4 is the ability to run more than one app at once, a feature which most other mobile devices have had as a stable since forever.
Well, let’s get something straight here: it’s not really multitasking. Apple introduced seven new features that make it seem like more than app is running at a time, but they’re really not.
- First, background music. Apps can choose to keep playing audio once you’ve switched to another app, something that the iPod app has had forever. This allows you to do something like play a song on Pandora while doing something else: Pandora isn’t really still open when you switch to another app, it’s audio is just still playing.
- Second, background VoIP. For most people, that means Skype. This one I find a bit confusing because it’s fairly specific, but basically it means that you can continue a VoIP call even when in another application.
- Third, background location, which I’m not even sure I understand, so I’m going to skip that one. Read about it yourself.
- Fourth, push notifications, which allow popup notifications to be sent to your iPod while doing other things. Don’t be fooled, however, this has been out since iPhone OS 3.
- Fifth, local notifications, which are basically push notifications that don’t rely on Apple’s servers. I don’t really understand this one either, but dun kill me, I have more to rant about.
- Sixth, task finishing, which allows a task that you have started in an app, such as uploading a photo to Flickr, to even while you aren’t in that app. Really, that app isn’t open anymore, it’s just offloaded a task to a background process. This one scares me a bit because you never know if an app has task finishing enabled or not and you could potentiality cancel an task you didn’t mean to by switching apps, thinking that it’ll still continue working.
- Finally, the most deceitful of them all, fast app switching, which allows apps to save where they are when you close them so that they start right back where they were when you open them again. Really, when you close the app, it is closed and nothing else is being done, unless something was offloaded to task finishing, it’s just that when you open the app again, it remembers where it was.
All of this put together really isn’t multitasking, it’s just a facsimile that looks a bit like multitasking on the outside. While this is probably good enough for most people, there is one more rather huge catch when it comes to iOS 4 multitasking:
Applications have to have multitasking features enabled.
When we all upgrade to iOS 4 in a few hours when it gets released (my bet is noon PST, which is 3pm here), not every app is suddenly going to have these seven multitasking-like features. Developers have to add these features to their apps using new APIs and then re-submit them to the App Store. So unless the author of your favorite app is reasonable and committed, you ain’t gettin’ multitasking. In fact, I’ve already heard that not only is the new Facebook app hideous, the developers have neglected to update it for iOS 4. How do you like dem apples? Not that much, thanks.
Anyway, hopefully iOS 4 will come out later today and I will get it and hopefully multitasking won’t be as horrible as it sounds. And I’ll write another post about the things I do like about it. Yeah, right. No, seriously.