Elliott Kosmicki is the founder of Good Plum, an online business blog focused on marketing and productivity. Elliott also quips with interesting people on Twitter.
Three summers ago, people lined up around the country — and then the world — to get their hands on the next generation of mobile phone. Apple’s iPhoneiPhone made “app” a household term, while cashing in on a movement that sent their stock — and everyday people’s productivity — soaring.
In 2010, Apple released most of the specifications for iPhone OS 4.0, which will launch along with the new iPhone sometime this June. I’d like to take a moment to review what we know about the new OS, the new phone, and what it all means for your everyday productivity.
What We Know About iPhone OS 4.0
The most talked-about feature of the new operating system is, of course, “multitasking.” I put it in quotation marks because as many of you may know, it’s more of an application manager than an actual multitasking feature. Multitasking would insinuate that multiple applications can be running at the same time. And while that’s true for some applications (like audio apps, for instance), the majority of programs simply enter a suspended state until you resume them at a later time.
However basic this feature may be, it’s a huge move forward for a system that has, until now, only let you work in one program at a time. No, you won’t be able to keep FacebookFacebook and TwitterTwitter updates streaming in the background. You won’t be able to get instant e-mail messages streaming to your home screen, either. But I’d bet those things will come eventually.
For now, the ability to quickly switch between your recently used applications will make a huge difference to people who use the iPhone every day, and would like to do several things simultaneously.
For instance, people on the go often need to quickly copy part of a web page and paste it into an e-mail. This becomes much simpler when you have the ability to switch quickly between the apps without having to close one, then open the other, and then do it again if you want to copy a second item.
I, for one, am looking forward to this new flexibility, even if the upcoming version is still fairly basic.
Those of you who are already App StoreApp Store addicts know that having a double-digit number of pages on the home screen makes it a challenge to find downloaded apps quickly.
Now, with Folders on the iPhone, we’ll be able to group apps into whatever categories we like. I’m sure I’ll still keep my first few pages of frequently-used apps out in front. But after that, I can make groups for those I frequent less, like games, travel apps, and more. This feature will be a huge time-saver if you utilize it wisely.
Unified Inbox and Multiple Exchange Accounts
For those of you with one e-mail account, this might not be a huge deal. For those who are pulling e-mails down from many different servers, this is huge.
In the past, we’ve had to go from one inbox, back to accounts, select the new account, and then that account’s inbox in order to see other messages. With OS 4.0, we’ll have them all on one screen.
I’ve already “tricked” my phone into using one inbox by forwarding all my mail through a single GmailGmail account. OS 4.0 will allow me to keep things separated if I want to, as well as make it easier to send from multiple addresses.
For those of us currently burning our single Exchange account on Gmail syncing, 4.0 will let us sync to multiple Gmail accounts, or pull in a work Exchange account as well — a huge plus.
Bluetooth Keyboard Support
Once you become familiar with the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard, it can be handy for typing out even long e-mails.
But what about full-blown blogging? WordPressWordPress has put together a great app for the iPhone which, until now, has been useful for simple edits and comment moderation.
Add a full-size BluetoothBluetooth keyboard to the toolkit with OS 4.0, and you’ll have everything you need to knock out a full blog post right from your phone, and quickly.
This feature is going to make many mobile web workers even more dangerous when it comes to productivity on the road.
iPhone Calendar API
iPhone OS 4.0 introduces 1,500 new developer APIs, and for me, the best one will allow developers to interact with the user’s built-in calendar.
This feature hasn’t seen much discussion, but I feel that this small offering could have a huge impact on the iPhone’s productivity apps.
Right now, there are many apps that will interact with your Google CalendarGoogle Calendar, which you can then sync to your iPhone via Google Sync and one of your Exchange accounts — quite the round-about solution. However, in the new OS, developers will have the ability to read and write directly into your iPhone’s calendar. This will open up a whole new set of features for task apps and other productivity solutions on the iPhone.
You could have instantaneous task reminders sent to your calendar, for example. Or, your doctor’s office could make an app that would deliver your next appointment right to your schedule. The possibilities are endless.
It’s Up to You
In the end, it’s up to the end user to take advantage of the new features that OS 4.0 will provide. There are still shortcomings, yes. But over the last 15 months, I’ve gone from iPhone, to AndroidAndroid, to Blackberry, back to Android and now back to iPhone again. I’ll be upgrading to the new one as soon as it is available simply because, despite what it’s lacking, I believe it does everything else so much better than the rest — for now.