Get yourself ready for iPhone 4.0 – IntoMobile breaks down what you should expect

Apple will be unveiling the next-generation iPhone operating system Thursday and the 4.0 version is bound to be packed with goodies. We’ll be giving you up-to-the-minute coverage of the announcement but we thought it would be good to let you know what the IntoMobile team has heard and what’s on our own wish list for the next firmware. While 4.0 probably won’t cook you dinner, cure cancer or give you oral pleasures, I have a feeling Apple is going to knock it out of the park. Hop on after the jump for thorough breakdown of iPhone OS 4.0.

In fact, Apple needs to have a stellar upgrade because the competitors are making serious headway. Our own Ben Robinson made a good point when he said, “having played with the Desire now, OS 4 better bring a shedload of polish to it’s game – the Desire + [Android] 2.1 + HTC Sense is a serious combo!” Apple is still arguably the thought leader in the smartphone space but the gap between it and the competition is not as big as it once was.

Third-party multitasking

The major feature everyone is expecting is for Apple to finally enable developers to do some form of background processing for third-party multitasking. The cliche example is being able to listen to Pandora in the background while browsing but this could open up a ton of possibilities, particularly for the iPad. Our own Will Park has said he could do nearly all his blogging from the tablet if there was an easy way to switch between the browser and apps without losing your place. On the phone side, this could open the gates for a slew of interesting location-based services.

So, how’s it going to work? According to AppleInsider:

Those familiar with the design of iPhone 4.0 said that the user interface will resemble Apple’s desktop Expose feature, in that a key combination — reportedly hitting the Home button twice — will trigger an expose-like interface that brings up a series of icons representing the currently running apps, allowing users to quickly select the one they want to switch to directly. When a selection is made, the iPhone OS zooms out of the Expose task manager and transitions to that app.

This doesn’t sound very innovative really, as it’s essentially how BlackBerry and Android handle this, so I’d expect Apple to throw in some of its patented “magic.” Maybe it will be some combination of push notification with a pause-and-suspend system. Either way, this should pave the way for some innovative apps. Any jailbreaker knows that the hardware and software are already capable of multitasking but there are still legitimate concerns about resource allocation and battery life, though. (photo credit)

Support for higher-resolution screens, more hooks

Apple will undoubtedly give developers more tools to create and distribute apps because the App Store has been a runaway hit. I think the first thing on the list will be support for multiple screen resolutions. We’re already seeing this for the iPad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple gives us some clues about the next iPhone. With stellar displays on the Droid, Nexus One and Galaxy S, the iPhone’s screen just isn’t quite as special. I’d expect the next iPhone (HD?) to rock a bigger, better screen that could possibly be OLED, AMOLED, Super OLED or the ever-impressive Super Duper OLED. I’d also expect the next version to be able to pump out HD video to an external monitor and maybe even record HD video.

Of course, a bigger screen and the ability to kind of run apps in the background will require more hooks into the hardware, and I’m sure Apple will deliver on this. The 3.0 firmware included more than 1.000 new APIs for developers to tinker with and the 4.0 version could have even more. This will include major things like multitasking but should also give programmers access to neat little user interface tweaks like the “curled page” aesthetic you see on the bottom right-hand corner of the native Maps program.

I don’t expect Apple to hand over the keys to the kingdom though, as there will still be plenty of private APIs – like in the iBooks app. If you’re a developer waiting for full, system-wide access, you’ll be waiting for quite some time. (photo credit)

iAd

If Apple rolls out its mobile advertising platform Thursday, as expected, it could have a major impact on developers, consumers and even hated rival Google. Most in-app ads are ugly little banner ads that are not really compelling. Apple purchased mobile advertising specialist Quattro Wireless for $275 million earlier this year to solve this problem.

What will it be? It’s tough to say at the moment but we can be sure there will be more UI polish than we’ve grown accustomed to with mobile ads, and sources say Apple views this as a big deal, on par with the App Store. This will probably help developers better monetize their apps, as well as give Apple a healthy percentage of an industry that many are expecting to be the next big thing.

Apple could even go nuts and make this thing available for multiple platforms, including Android. While I don’t see that as likely, Apple merely stepping in this space could help Google with its plans to buy AdMob. The search giant is facing some governmental hurdles with its acquisition attempt because some are worried it will dominate this burgeoning industry, but a strong alternative from Apple may change the FTC’s mind. (photo credit)

Video calling?

This is another rumor that could hint at new hardware coming this summer. If this is included, it would probably only be iPhone-to-iPhone and would probably bring AT&T’s network to a grinding halt. I know this would get a lot of press attention and would make for some awesome commercials, but I don’t know how useful this will be in real life. Shit man, I don’t even like talking on the phone anymore, I don’t want to be concerned about how I look now. Not to mention there would be weird ergonomics while holding this device to make video calls. Still, there are some powerful opportunities to connect with families and if you thought sexting was out of control before, just wait until the kiddies get their hands (and other parts) on iPhone video calling.

Full HTML5 support

This one should be a no-brainer because Apple CEO Steve Jobs has declared a fatwa on plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight. The company line is that these things outside of Apple’s control degrade from the experience and can lead to resource and battery woes. While this is a little valid, I’m sure the major motivator is that Flash is a compelling – and often free – alternative to the App Store.

Offering full HTML5 support could help Apple woo more publishers and content creators. It’s already winning converts, as Netflix has moved away from Silverlight for its iPad app, and many major web sites are moving away from Flash to reach Apple users. Flash is still a ubiquitous web technology that won’t be going away anytime soon but Apple’s moves could hurt its relevance among the hip techsters.

The wish list

Much of the IntoMobile staff is dying for some widgets because we’re all big fans of glancing at your phone and quickly absorbing ambient information. This is especially needed on the iPad where there’s just way too much empty space (to be fair, the app layout is not as barren and ugly as I originally thought it would be). Competitors have been doing this for ages – Samsung even crafted the entire bada OS around widgets – but Apple has been stubborn about maintaining its UI. I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high for this, but widgets on the iPhone OS would be off the charts on the boner meter.

We’re also hoping for some deeper integration with the iPad, as the Scrabble app and Camera A and B integration are awesome and show off a lot of potential. Head honcho Will Park is hoping for some eWallet functionality, which would mean the next iPhone has RFID or NFC hardware. This would be incredibly handy but still seems a bit out of reach for this version.

All the questions will be answered on Thursday friends, so keep it locked here for exhaustive coverage.

  • Jay3gsm

    Your concern about video calling seems a bit stretched, I mean, any hormonally imbalanced teenager has had years to get to grips with video calling on a wide range of handsets, but in reality video calling is the most under used feature on a suitable device. Also, most users of that age group use BlackBerry way more than the iPhone.

    • Marin Perez

      You make a fair point but video calling’s pretty rare here in the States – I know, big shock our telecom infrastructure is behind.

  • Ez

    I just dont see apple doing the multitasking right now for 3rd party apps. Lets not forget the main thing people love about this thing is how smooth it is. Throwing in multitasking will allow for that prefect little world apple fanboys have been sucked into to potential disappear. Its one of the main complaints i hear from people who touch android phones is that its not as smooth as the Iphone. Until they are able to get enough processing power on the phone to where they dont have to worry about that I really dont see them allowing Multitasking. And lets not forget other then the techies who is complaining about it? My GF has an Iphone and if i told her that my Nexus One can multitask and hers cant she would look at me and still swear that her phone is still better than mine.

    I think we are going to see A pretty new screen upgrade, camera upgrade, faster processor with better 3D rendering, HTML 5 and i cant really see them doing anything else that will be huge. Video calling just isnt going to happen with our networks giving the thumbs up on it.

    At the end of the day the next Iphone is still going to sell like hotcakes.

    • Marin Perez

      I could easily see Apple do some form of limited multitasking – maybe only certified music, LBS and IM providers would be allowed to use this.

      I’ve mentioned it before but Apple does have a tendency to implement these features well. Take cut and paste for example, this was a joke that it was missing for so long but I really think it’s the most elegant way to do this on any smartphone platform. Android’s is a joke, BlackBerry’s is fine but the lack of touch on most devices kind of hinders it.

      You’re right about it selling like hotcakes my friend.

  • Riaan van Deventer

    How much of the 4.0 magic will be available to 3GS users at its next update?

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