We all know that the iPhone 4 launches this coming Thursday. But on Monday, current iPhone users get an early treat in the form of iOS 4, the new iPhone operating system (formerly known as iPhone OS 4). It comes with several enhancements, but the ones people seem most excited about involve multitasking (or background tasks). A little over a week ago, Apple began urging developers to submit their iOS 4-ready app, and a number of them have. And actually, some have already been approved, or will be shortly.
The component that all of these apps share is the ability to do fast app switching. What you may traditionally think of as multitasking isn’t the same on iOS 4. Multiple apps aren’t running all of their functions in the background at once — obviously, this would take up resources and eat up battery life. Instead, Apple allows third-party apps to do certain functions in the background now, as well as create an easy way for all apps to save their states to enable this fast app switching. Basically, these apps get paused, put in the background, then un-paused when you come back to them. That may sound a little lame, but the effect is actually quite nice and will end up saving users a lot of time if all app makers implement it.
Here’s a list of some of the best iOS 4-ready apps so far. First, the ones that are out now:
Evernote — The latest version (3.3.5) brings some pretty solid iOS 4 support. This means not only does it offer fast app switching, but it also uses some of the more advanced background APIs. For example, you can both download and upload notes while the app isn’t currently open. Even cooler is that if you start recording an audio note and then leave the app, it will keep recording. A big red bar along the top of the iPhone will let you know that this action is still taking place, and clicking it will take you back into the Evernote app. The Evernote blog has more on it. You can find the free app here.
Dropbox — The latest version of Dropbox (1.2.2) also support fast app switching. It also seems to support uploading/syncing in the background, though this isn’t in the notes for the latest version. You can find the free app here.
Zagat To Go — The latest version (3.1.2) has fast app switching but also the new ability to add events to your iPhone Calendars (this is another new API). Also nice is that Zagat says it has updated the graphics of its app to be ready for the iPhone 4’s new high resolution screen. You can find Zagat To Go in the App Store here — it’s $9.99.
LinkedIn — The latest version of this app (3.1.1) only seems to support the fast app switching for the moment, but seeing as this is a very popular app important to a lot of users, it’s good to see them implement this so early. It’s great to be able to start typing a status message, leave to go find something on the web, then come back to the LinkedIn app and it’s still exactly where you left off. You can find it here for free.
Next, the iOS 4 apps coming soon:
Loopt — I got a chance to see a build of Loopt for iOS 4 that offers both fast app switching and location running in the background (another new API of iOS 4). It’s really impressive (and the app itself has a much nicer, completely new main UI). I noted last week that iOS 4 is going to up the ante for some of these location-based startups, and seeing this in action reaffirms those beliefs. The new Loopt is still check-in based, but with background location, it can now tell when you leave a place (and more importantly, let your friends know). Look for more information on this shortly and for the app itself sometime around the iOS 4 launch.
Pandora — I can only assume the iOS 4-ready version of Pandora will be launching soon considering that Apple had it installed on all of the demo units at WWDC (here’s a video of me playing with it). I can already say that at least on my iPhone, Pandroa will benefit the most from iOS 4 because its music can now play in the background while you’re doing other things.
Twitterrific 3 — Developer Craig Hockenberry tweeted a few days ago that it the iOS 4 (and iPhone 4)- ready version (version 3) of the app has been submitted to the App Store already and should be out soon. Having a Twitter app that can be quickly switched into and out of will be pretty vital.
Navigon — Another key new use of the background location API will be for turn-by-turn navigation systems. Navigon recently showed off a version of their app that is iOS 4-ready and they plan to submit to the App Store soon.
Foursquare — This is a bit of a wildcard, because in an interview we published today, co-founder Dennis Crowley makes it seem as if Foursquare is taking the wait-and-see approach to iOS 4 and background location. But at the WWDC iPhone 4 hands-on, Foursquare was installed on the demo units, and fast app switching was working on it. So perhaps that will be ready to go early, but Foursquare will evaluate whether or not to do something with location in the background.
So that’s the list so far. Anyone know of/have seen any others? Feel free to ping us or leave them in the comments. A few quick notes: I know Facebook’s app was just updated today, but that doesn’t appear to have anything iOS 4-specific in it. Both Fandango and Boxcar say they’re iOS 4-ready, but neither appear to even support fast app switching, so if they’re doing something else with the new APIs, I’m missing it.
Update: Here’s a few more via the comments:
How To Cook Everything — It brings fast app switching, local notifications, gesture support, calendar support — and updated graphics for iPhone 4. This may be the most robust iOS 4 app overall! Find it here, the app is $1.99.
NYTimes — The paper’s app support fast app switching. You can find the free app here.