Editors' note: Apple made iOS 4 available on Monday, June 21. The download is free for both iPhone and iPod Touch users, but it is incompatible with first-generation models of either device. The iPhone 3G will support most iOS 4 features except multitasking and home screen backgrounds.
Apple kicked off an action-packed week today with the full release of iOS 4, its newest operating system for iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Though we've been playing with the developer's version on an iPhone 3GS since April, we wanted to wait for the real deal before offering our official take. And from what we can tell so far, our original positive impressions hold true. That's not say that everything is perfect, but iOS marks a significant and welcome jump in the iPhone's evolution.
In fact, we'll go so far as to say that iOS 4 is just as significant a development as Thursday's release of the iPhone 4. Naturally, new hardware tends to get the biggest spotlight, but iOS 4 brings a handful of crucial features--like multitasking and a unified e-mail in-box--that Apple's products have lacked for far too long (three years too long, to be exact). Indeed, it's always nice when we can check off a box on our "iPhone wish list," particularly when those additions are commonplace on competing smartphones. We also welcome the smaller changes--iOS 4 is set to offer up to 100 new features--even if they're not particularly glamorous. We'll continue to root around for those tiny things in the coming days and will list additional revisions here as we find them.
Multitasking Though you've always been able to multitask with native iPhone features like the music player, the option is now available for third-party apps. Your primary access point is a multitasking menu that's accessible by double tapping the Home button. Once there, you'll see a list of currently running applications along the bottom of the display that you can scroll through using a sideways finger swipe. The pop-up menu shows only four apps at a time, and we're still investigating whether you're limited as to how many apps you can open at once.
Managing the multitasking menu couldn't be easier. To open a running app, scroll though the menu and tap its icon once. When you're ready to end an app, first use a long press on the related icon and then click the tiny delete icon in the top left corner. Switching among apps is a simple process as well: as you move back and forth, you'll return to the exact point you left. … Read more