5 Reasons I’m excited about iPhone OS 4
As the release of iPhone OS 4 nears I thought it would be an opportune time to talk about why I’m personally excited for iPhone OS 4. As an amateur (up and coming!) developer and an avid user of the platform, I am more than ready for the unveiling of the latest incarnation of iPhone/iPad platform. Unfortunately iPad users will have to wait until this Fall before they can leverage a lot of the enhancements. It sounds like the wait will be well worth it!
Update: iPhone OS 4 has been announced, and it’s called iOS 4.
Sure, Multitasking has been around for ages, but I think the ideas that Apple is applying to the concept are going to serve the iPhone community very well. No longer is an application terminated when you hit the home button, instead now they shift to a background execution context, or a “sleep mode”. Apple took special care when they implemented this process as battery power is a precious commodity in the iPhone world. For instance, an application can schedule notifications to the end user and the iPhone OS will take care of presenting or “delivering” the notification to the user. The notifications will appear just as if they are coming from the application but they are relying on a central queue that is streamlined to run in an efficient and power-saving manner.
Applications that store private or sensitive information can now take advantage of built-in encryption mechanisms to protect data on the iPhone filesystem. When your phone is locked the contents of the encrypted data are inaccessible to both your application and to any potential intruders. When the phone is unlocked, a decryption key is again generated so that you can view your data. I can see these features being particularly popular in the enterprise realm. Corporations that want to develop secure, financial based applications now have the ability to protect sensitive information. Even down to the personal level, let’s say that you are keeping
a private journal on your phone. Now you can encrypt that journal so that no one else can read it!
If you own a Mac you are likely familiar with Quick Look. If you aren’t, Quick Look is the framework on Mac OS X that allows you to take a quick peek into the contents of *most* popular file formats. That means you don’t have to open up a pdf viewer to take a quick look at the data inside of a pdf file. The operating system has built in controls that allow, literally, a “quick look” into a file. Apple has ported this technology to the iPhone platform which means that applications can now be more flexible in the viewing and handling of files. It also provides a central mechanism for accomplishing a common task (viewing files) so that developers don’t have to reinvent the wheel to view a word document from within their application. Over all this will provide more consistency on the platform and a better, more coherent user experience.
Additions to the new iPhone OS 4 are finally going to allow for people to develop 3rd party applications to access the built-in media library on your phone. Put simply, this will allow for developers to create their own media viewing applications. So I think in the near future it is likely we will see the Boxee’s and the XBMC’s of the world ported to the platform.
One last addition that really has been a long time coming is document types. Document types (at least in apple lingo) is the ability for the iPhone to know how to handle documents when a user wants to interact with one. From now on an application can “register” itself as knowing how to deal with certain document types. So when you receive a random, unfamiliar (to the iphone) attachment in your email, the idea is now that you can have a 3rd party application installed that can deal with the file. This missing link is going to start tying the operating system together to the point where it will really start to feel like a true “computer”. This is already available on the iPad in OS 3.2 and is being merged into the mainline OS 4 branch.
BONUS keyboard support
iPhone OS 4 will allow bluetooth keyboard input on the iPhone. Finnallllly!