The next iteration of the software for Apple's iPhone and iPad will finally offer multitasking, or the ability to run multiple apps at once, company CEO Steve Jobs said today.
In version 4.0 of the iPhone operating system, to be released to the public this summer, users will be able to jump between simultaneously running apps by double tapping on the "Home" button.
This brings up a window at the bottom of the screen that shows icons of currently running apps, which users can tap to switch.
iPhone owners bemoaned, for example, the inability to stream music from the Pandora app while browsing the Internet on the Safari app. Now Pandora can stream music in the background while using other apps, and the iPhone lock screen even contains controls for Pandora.
According to Apple, the reason the iPhone has not been able to multitask before is that enabling this ability can drain battery life on the smartphone and reduce performance.
"It's easy to do [multitasking] in a way that drains battery life, and a way that reduces performance of the foreground app. If you don't do it right, your phone will feel sluggish," Jobs said. "We figured out how to implement multitasking for third party apps and avoid those things."
In a demo at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA, Jobs switched effortlessly between Mail, Safari, an eBay app, and an iPhone game that were running concurrently.
Importantly, users can leave an app and then return to it without having to restart the app and possibly losing their place or information.
"We've been using it a lot and it changes the way you use the iPhone," Jobs said.
Enabling multitasking on the iPhone may not require major overhauls of existing apps, either. Pandora founder Tim Westergren said it only took his team one day to encode the ability into the Pandora app.
With iPhone OS 4.0, users will also be able to do many more things, including make folders on the home screen, view interactive ads, participate in Apples new social gaming network and track their location with GPS-enabled apps while performing other tasks.