New in iPhone OS 4: The Full App-by-App Breakdown (Updated) | iLounge Article


New in iPhone OS 4: The Full App-by-App Breakdown (Updated)

Apple debuted the beta version of iPhone OS 4 yesterday, announcing a collection of new features and additions to its prior iPhone and iPod touch applications. Based on photos and details submitted by an anonymous source, we’ve compiled a full app-by-app breakdown of what’s changed in iPhone OS 4. Updated! This article has been replaced by Instant Expert: The Secrets & Features of iOS 4, as well as our full review of iPhone OS 4 / iOS 4.

Home Screen + Multitasking. The iPhone OS 4 Home Screen now supports user-selectable wallpaper, accomplished by adding a drop shadow to all of the icons and text that used to appear on black backgrounds. As with the iPad, these drop shadows move as you scroll through pages of applications. Apple has also changed the look of the iPhone and iPod touch bottom-of-screen dock to resemble the one found on the iPad, complete with icon reflections, a shift back to the look Apple introduced briefly with the first-generation iPod touch.


Though icon changes were initially spotted for only a couple of applications, it turns out that many of the icons have received very subtle tweaks that suggest Apple has done a complete re-drawing of the icon set, potentially for higher-resolution displays. The changes have in many cases added sharper lines to prior designs, such as the gears of the Settings icon and the rays of the Weather icon’s sun, but have also in some cases increased the color or contrast of small details in the icons. See, for example, the Voice Memos icons, the Mail and Safari icons, and the Photos icon.


Multitasking is now accessible on 2009 iPhone and iPod touch models by double-tapping the Home button; you can no longer use double-clicking for the camera or other features. When you switch to the multitasking interface, the screen shifts upwards and the home screen application icons fade out to silhouettes, revealing a hidden tray of four additional icons at the bottom of the screen. They’re shown against a dimpled gray backdrop. You can scroll to reveal more programs that are running by swiping to the left or right. You can stop running applications in the multitasking tray by tapping and holding down on the app icon and then hitting a circle and - button that appears in the corner, similar to the process for deleting an application from the device.


Folders have been added to the Home Screen, represented as rounded square icons with up to nine little miniature icons inside. You create a folder by dropping one icon on top of another, which brings up a dimpled background that looks like the Multitasking dock—hidden under your selected wallpaper, which has been sliced in two pieces and shifted up and/or down to make temporary room for the icons in the folder. The folder starts with the genre name of whatever the first app is inside; you can rename the folder with a pill-shaped text field that appears above the icons. Up to 12 icons can be stored in a folder.


When any application receives a push notification inside of a folder, it’s now indicated on the Home screen with an ! alert, rather than tallying multiple applications to aggregate a number.


Lock Screen. Seemingly unchanged except - for now—an odd duplication of the clock when music is playing on the locked iPhone; the clock now appears both in large numbers and in smaller ones inside the status bar at the top of the screen. This may be a sign of repurposing the lock screen somewhat for background applications.

Phone. Apparently unchanged for now. Third-party VoIP applications now use a similar bar at the top of the screen to indicate that a call is in progress, however.


Mail. Opening mail to the inside mailbox view looks the same as before in portrait or landscape, but backing up to your multiple mailbox view has changed. Now Mail aggregates the contents of all of your inboxes into one master inbox, letting you back out from that inbox to separate inboxes and individual mail accounts instead. Choose an individual account and you see all of the mailboxes—outgoing, inbox, drafts and any additional folders.


An optional threaded view has been added to show multiple messages that are part of the same conversation, each indicated with a double chevron arrow with the number of threaded messages alongside it. When sending photos in an e-mail, you can choose different scaling images to make the message smaller.


When reading messages, you can now see a tiny image from your Contacts for people who you know, as is the case on the iPad version of Mail. Additionally, when you go to share content from your iPhone or iPod touch—a video from YouTube, a photo, and so on—but then stop before sending the e-mail to share it, the device now asks you whether you want to keep the e-mail as a draft, or delete it.


Entire e-mail threads can be deleted at once, indicated via a (x) number when deleting a message, and GMail can be Archived rather than Deleted.


Safari. “Google” has been replaced next to the keyboard’s space bar with the word “Search.” Ouch.


iPod. The iPod application now supports playlist folders and sub-folders created in iTunes. A setting lets you turn lyrics and podcast info off if you’d prefer not to see them on the Now Playing screen. On-The-Go Playlists have been replaced, sort of, by a feature that lets you create a new playlist—basically the same feature, except you can now choose a name for it right from the start. You can also edit, clear, or delete any playlist on the device, including ones synced from iTunes. The contents of albums are now displayed by the iPod application with extra duration, release date, and artist information, plus a shuffle button and album art.


The iPod app is otherwise apparently unchanged at this point, and still does not yet support AVRCP for Bluetooth remote control of the device.


Messages. Messages now has a search field.


There’s also a character count in the settings menu as an option for Messages, which currently only appears after you’ve typed three lines of text in cellular mode.


Calendar. The Calendar application appears to be mostly unchanged for now, not bringing in much of the new aesthetic or functional improvements introduced on the iPad, with a few exceptions. You can now select to show multiple calendars at once, of different types; previously, it was show all or show one.


Additionally, you have the ability to turn on a Birthdays calendar, which is auto-generated from information in your Contacts list, and change the calendar that an event appears on.


Support for Google Calendar is also included for GMail accounts.


Photos. Now has iPhoto ‘09 Faces and Places support, letting users sync collections of photos based on the person identified in the shots, just like the iPad. Places is supposed to show the map locations of geotagged images, but currently crashes when it’s trying to load a map. Photos also adds “rotate” as an option so you can get the orientation of a picture correct before e-mailing or uploading it.


Camera. The Camera application now has digital zoom capability; you can pinch or tap-and-hold to activate the digital zoom feature, and a slider appears on screen to let you set the zoom level. Not surprisingly, the results look crummy. Tap to Focus has been added to video recordings. Support for a hardware-based flash has been discovered by developers probing the iPhone OS 4 code.


YouTube. Small cosmetic change shows “No videos” when nothing has been found by the Search feature. Apart from the Mail-related searching change mentioned above, the app otherwise appears to be unchanged for now.

Stocks. Apparently unchanged for now.

Maps. The terrain view added to Maps on the iPad is not available in the iPhone and iPod touch version of the Maps app. Only one obvious change has been made: the compass icon has changed to the Northeast-pointing arrow icon used for Location Services.

Weather. Apparently unchanged; still no widescreen mode.

Voice Memos. Apparently unchanged for now.


Notes. Notes now supports wireless syncing with multiple accounts. Syncing appears to be supported for any IMAP-based Mail account, rather than being a MobileMe-specific feature. Consequently, though the app now starts with a yellow notepad, you can tap backwards once to see a list of notes, and backwards again to see a list of accounts to separately create and sync notes. A system-wide spellchecker feature is obvious here, as incorrect words now appear with red underlines.

Clock. Apparently unchanged for now.

Calculator. Has the most conspicuously updated Home Screen icon, but otherwise appears to be unchanged.


Settings. Location Services has been expanded to turn off or on specific applications’ access to GPS data. Now that note synchronization is available, icons have been added to all of the features that can be synced with a server, including Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Bookmarks, and Notes with MobileMe, and fewer with other types of servers. You can also choose what types of information to synchronize from a given service.


A more complex Passcode Lock has been added, with a user-selectable alphanumeric passcode option. This was previously available only through the iPhone Configuration Utility designed for Enterprise users.

Cellular Data can now be turned on and off, independent of 3G cellular phone support.


Quite a few changes have been made to Accessibility in iPhone OS 4. A new feature called Large Text now enables fonts to be radically increased in size to the user’s preferred scale.


Support for VoiceOver Phonetics and Pitch Change have been added to the iPhone and iPod touch, having previously appeared on the iPad. Braille Devices can also connect to the iPhone and iPod touch, as well. In Zoom, a modest language change has been made to the description of how to adjust the zoom level.

iTunes Store. Apparently unchanged for now.

App Store. Apparently unchanged for now.


Compass. The core functionality of this application appears to be unchanged, though oddly, the targeting reticule icon appears for only a split second, then disappears; a possible bug. Activating the compass brings up the new Location Services icon within the top-of-screen status bar, a Northeast-pointing arrow, as does any app that requests Location Services.


Nike + iPod. Wireless syncing of Nike+ data has been added, enabling a runner to send stored run information directly through Safari to the Nikeplus web site.


Game Center. A new dedicated icon that will handle game matchmaking online for iPhone and iPod touch users. It can tell you instantly whether your friends are online, let you see requests from friends to play with you, and show you how many games you’ve played, with additional status in the form of achievements for games to come in the future. It will be able to send you Push Notifications, as well.

iChat? Reports indicate that various hints of an iChat application, including videoconferencing support, have been found in iPhone OS 4. Whether this application will replace Messages for some iPhones or add to it is currently unknown.

Languages and Keyboards. Apple has increased language and keyboard support fairly dramatically across a number of different settings screens, ranging from the addition of a few new languages to new Region Formats, keyboard layouts for both Hardware and Software Keyboards, and Voice Control. Support for AZERTY and QWERTZ software keyboards has also been added, along with Bluetooth keyboard support—including support for the same iPod controls, screen and volume controls that work with the iPad. There are lots of screen shots below showing the changes.


Spotlight. Now asks you if you want to search the web and Wikipedia, optionally.


We’ll update this article as new information becomes available.

Related Stories



No turn by turn guided navigation in Google Maps? Wasn’t this promised around the time of the Droid?

Posted by jiji in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 5:14 PM (CDT)


did they add ability to time-stamp every sms/mms message received?

Posted by jaypee in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 6:17 PM (CDT)


This all looks good, particularly the multi-tasking and folders on the home screen but really pleased to at last see folder and subfolder support for iPod.

Posted by Will in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 6:19 PM (CDT)


Thank you for this VERY clear presentation of OS4

Posted by Vintage in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 6:25 PM (CDT)


It’s not clear that we have a correct explanation of multitasking and the task switcher here. After reading through the SDK documentation, it’s clear that multitasking works as follows. All apps suspend to memory when the Home button is pressed. Apps that specifically register threads to get a bit more time to complete a task or ask for services such as background audio streaming will either continue to have such threads running for a short while or will have specific methods called back by the OS as info is needed.

This means that any app that’s been run accumulates in memory in a suspended state, with the least-recently-used apps finally cleared out when memory runs low (which is why the apps must save their state before suspension). Thus, there is really no difference between a closed and a “backgrounded” app, except for those apps actually running specific background threads.

I believe that this means that when you double-click the Home button, you’re really just getting a list of the most recently launched apps as a convenience. There should be no difference reentering an app from there or from Springboard. Deleting an app from here also likely does nothing except remove the app from the list, like selectively deleting from any Recents list. I believe this is why Steve doesn’t consider it a task manager. There is no real task management (resource control) happening at all. That’s all part of the way the OS gracefully purges an app from memory upon termination, first suspending and ultimately removing. Someone should verify this by seeing if an app takes longer to launch after removal from the task switcher list or restarts from the startup screen rather than from where it left off (suggesting it’s been purged from memory).

Note that this suspending is different from the prior behavior of terminating and restarting and should result in fast app-to-app switching.

Posted by DavidG in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 7:00 PM (CDT)


What ever happened to the ability to toggle which was announced one year ago and promised by the end of last summer? Why does nobody raise this issue? If the problem is AT&T’s limitations, why is it that iPad users are going to get 3G service for their iPads before I am able to use my iPhone to provide a broadband connection for my MacBook Pro when no WiFi is available? I am willing to pay for the privilege, but I am astounded that more folks haven’t brought this issue to Apple and AT&T.

Posted by Mitch in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 7:33 PM (CDT)


Great review! Thanks for all the good insight.

Posted by Rick Courrau in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 9:53 PM (CDT)


@jiji: Not sure turn-by-turn was ever promised for Google Maps on iPhone. Turn-by-turn is a tricky beast, and there’s plenty of 3rd-parties that do it as a day job and have apps in the app store. Good turn-by-turn direction solutions aren’t free for a reason, and you don’t/won’t find them free on any other mobile platform either.

Posted by Chris Pratt in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 9, 2010 at 11:23 PM (CDT)


@Chris Pratt:
Good free turn-by-turn navigation on another platform? Nokia Ovi Maps (even worldwide, not just USA, and works offline) from the world biggest manufacturer of mobile phones and on the smartphone OS with the world’s biggest marketshare. Plus some telcos started to provide free turn-by-turn navigaton apps for the iPhone (e.g. t-mobile offers Navigon select for free). That’s good free turn-by-turn on over 50% of all smartphones worldwide (according to Gartner’s worldwide market share numbers for 2009).

Posted by Mike11 in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 12:28 AM (CDT)


The Calendar app now also shows birthdays.

Posted by V in c ent in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 1:44 AM (CDT)


new iPhone should have more processor power, more RAM, better camera and a second front-facing camera. Also, I want to be able to shoot HD videos with the main cam. This is a must for today!

Posted by anton in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 1:57 AM (CDT)


Can I FLAG messages in the Mail application now? (I want to follow up only some mails when I return to my Mac, not have to re-read/scan all of them again.

Posted by Thomas in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 2:33 AM (CDT)


did you do anything to enable tethering? I used to have it with 3.1.3 on my officially unlocked iphone. but now the option is gone.

Posted by farah in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 3:00 AM (CDT)


The character count in SMS does show up but only once you get to 60 characters or so.

Posted by Bryan in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 3:25 AM (CDT)


Dont forget birthday calendar :)
At some point hopefully they’ll allow the user to add a reminder to every birthdY event as an option - you currently have to check the calendar manually to see that there’s a birthday.

Posted by Tom in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 5:50 AM (CDT)


Was search in notes like search for SMS there before ?
It’s a shame you can’t search by specific sms thread yet but qt least they’re working on it.

Posted by Tom in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 6:03 AM (CDT)


it would be great if you could check if these features work now:

vCard import / opening through Safari (on OS 3 only works when vCard is mailed)

push-IMAP on mail using the IMAP-IDLE command. This would make push mail compatible with all servers that support it without need of having Exchange, Yahoo, Google or Mobile.Me accounts just so you can push. As far as I know.. this has never worked properlly

Can you SHARE events from the calendar? for example send an *.ics (iCalendar) file through e-mail? Opening the file is currently not supported on Mail or Safari.. only webCal subscriptions work through Safari

Posted by ricferrer in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 7:58 AM (CDT)


@ DavidG: I believe fast-app switching is different from quiting and starting an app. I think now with fast app switching the “state” of the app stays in RAM but the app is technically suspended. That way it loads up faster than having to execute the app again from NAND Flash and loading to RAM and reading a saved state, also from NAND.

@Mitch: What you probably mean is tethering… If that is what you mean. It’s a problem with ATT and not apple. This feature is supported in other countries.

Posted by ricferrer in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 8:11 AM (CDT)


Can anyone confirm if:

You can bulk delete email - or mark all email read (these missing Blackberry features have annoyed me ever since I swapped !!!) ?

Can you spotlight search for a photo album ?

Posted by Not the Stig in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 9:01 AM (CDT)


One slide in the iPhone OS 4 video mentions direct syncing with Nike+ if I’m not mistaken.

Posted by Christian in East Amherst, NY, USA on April 10, 2010 at 9:35 AM (CDT)

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