In pictures: iPhone OS 4.0

A look at the revamped home screen, the new features, and the first bugs

  • Apple's recently announced iPhone OS 4.0 upgrade brings with it more than 100 new features and a 1500 new APIs for developers. There's plenty to love for consumers, power users and enterprises, and are a glimpse of the mobile computing power the iPhone and forthcoming iPad are slowly becoming.

    Computerworld Australia installed the iPhone OS 4.0 firmware from an willing subject - an iPhone 3GS - in order to put the new software to the test. Some of the features are undoubtedly great, and will likely change the way people use their iPhones, but others are a little out of the reach of ordinary users.

  • Custom Wallpapers

    As soon as you unlock the newly updated iPhone for the first time, you see the first of many new features: custom wallpapers. The black, rather boring background that currently graces iPhones can easily be replaced by a wallpaper of your choosing, in the same way you can change the lock screen. Unfortunately, the rather nice-looking default wallpaper isn't actually available in the photo gallery, so be careful when choosing.

    The Dock has seen a revamp too, bringing it into line with the 3D effect Apple introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. It's a great refresh to what has become a tired-looking interface. Some app developers might have to do some tweaking, however: the custom wallpaper means app icons that weren't square now have an ugly black border around. Unless the iPhone SDK supports icon transparency, it looks like it's hip to be square.
  • Multitasking

    The biggest feature in iPhone OS 4.0 is undoubtedly one that many users have begged from Apple for years: multitasking. The new firmware supports a limited form of third party multitasking that allows you to have background audio and location information, notifications and VoIP. Software developers will also be able to create hibernation points for their apps and keep the app running to finish a particular task.

    Open applications are easily reached by double clicking the Home button at any time, and can be closed at any time in the same way you rearrange apps on the home screen. While some jailbreak apps offer more elegant methods of multitasking, Apple's system is easy to use.
  • App Folders

    If your iPhones are anything like ours, they have home screens filled to the brim with apps, making for a messy and largely unwieldy experience. Apple has solved this by supporting app folders. Again, the feature has been a staple in the jailbreaking community for some time, but it will soon be available to the general public too.

    Our only concern is that a feature like this might make the iPhones usually simply experience a little more difficult for the un-savvy users (the kind that called the iPhone and iPad "cute"). For power users, however, it's most likely a god-send.
  • Unified Mail

    The revamped Mail app on the iPhone supports a unified view, allowing you to see all of your mail accounts in one, linear view.

    Better yet, the app has also threaded mail. Unlike Web services like Gmail, the app only combines incoming mail on the same topic, rather than both incoming and sent mail.

    Speaking of business features, it looks like Apple is starting to take the enterprise seriously. We weren't able to find any screenshots of the new features but, according to Apple, iPhone OS 4.0 will provide support for Exchange 2010, SSL VPNs from Juniper and Cisco as well as improved mobile device management and wireless app distribution for in-house applications.
  • Game Centre

    Along with the new GameKit APIs offered to game developers by Apple, the iPhone OS 4.0 firmware including a new app called the GameCentre. The app is essentially a multiplayer gamer's heaven, giving you the ability to easily set up matches with friends over the Internet, Bluetooth, and even a matchmaking feature that automatically creates multiplayer game.

    Since Computerworld Australia has no friends, we were unable to test this feature out properly, but if it works, it would be a great boon to the iPhone and iPod touch gaming community.
  • Revamped iPod interface

    The iPod app has received a slight face-lift, for a similar look to what you'd find in the iTunes Store app (pictured right). It's not much of a feature, but it's a start.
  • Photos meets iPhoto

    iPhoto users will know you can easily categorise your photo collection into events, faces and places. While you've been able to transfer these photos as their individual sections in the past, they have been presented as a whole photo library on the iPhone itself. With iPhone OS 4.0, you can view these photos in their individual sections, which is great for users who make heavy use of the facial recognition feature in iPhoto.

    You can also view by Places on a Google Map, but this feature appeared and disappeared at random moments on our iPhone.
  • Notes accounts and a GPS icon

    Miscellaneous extra features include the ability to assign notes on the iPhone to different accounts. We're not quite sure what that means yet, but it could be something to do with syncing notes to iTunes, MobileMe and possibly even Google services.

    One other minor addition is a GPS icon which appears in the top bar whenever a location service is used. You might also be able to selectively disable location services by application, provided the application supports that function.
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