Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/08/iphone_4_dot_0/
iPhone 4.0: iAds, multitasking, and 98 tweaks
One billion ads a day
When announcing iPhone OS 4.0, Steve Jobs said that Apple has "no plans to become a worldwide ad agency" - but it appears that he's planning to do just that. Jobs' goal: to get one billion ad impressions per day by the end of the year.
Among the 100 new features that Jobs promised for iPhone OS 4.0 is iAd, a service that will allow developers to place interactive, app-like ads inside their applications.
Other new features include multitasking, folders for grouping similar apps, enhancements to the iPhone's Mail app, improvements in the OS's enterprise-oriented services, social-networking capabilities for gamers in a new service called Game Center, and an iPhone version of the iPad's iBooks capability.
But when speaking to a few hundred of his closest friends gathered at Apple's galactic nervecenter in Cupertino on Thursday morning, iAd was clearly the apple of Jobs' eye.
Jobs promised that the iAd platform, the client side of which is built inside iPhone OS 4.0, will allow developers to create ads that combine the interactivity of standard web ads with the "emotion" provided by television ads.
He acknowledged that mobile advertising already exists, but: "We think most of this mobile advertising really sucks," adding with an air of faux modesty that Apple thought it could "make some contributions" and by doing so could help devs better monetize their free apps.
Jobs also wants to keep users inside their apps and not "yank" them out of an app and into a browser-based ad. To accomplish this, the iAd platform allows developers to embed ads inside their apps as they see fit. Clicking on an iAd link won't close the app, but instead launch the iAd, which can then take over the device's UI. You return to the app from which the iAd was launched - which maintains the state in which you left it - by clicking an "X" icon in the top left of the display.
An iAd will be able to take advantage of all of iPhone 4.0's APIs to deliver, for example, an interactive game (think accelerometer control, multitouch support, and more), a video, or any other app-like experience. At the event, Jobs demoed a Toy Story-themed ad that contained a game and sound clips, a Nike Air Jordan ad that provided both a video and an interactive "build your own shoe" feature, and a Target ad that invited a user to answer a few simple questions that resulted in the presentation of a customized dorm room.
An iAd doesn't look like a traditional ad - it looks, instead, like a full-blown interactive app. Since an iAd, for example, has access to such iPhone OS services as the location framework, it could display nearby stores that carry the advertised item or movie theaters - and, of course, the advertised movie's showtimes - within walking distance.
Since the iAds reside inside of apps, Jobs contends, their ability to deliver ad impressions is huge. He did the math for the Cupertino crowd: if an average user spends 30 minutes or more per day in apps on their phone, and if the iAd platform serves them an ad every 3 minutes, and if there are 100 million devices capable of receiving iAds, that could add up to one billion "opportunities" per day.
And seeing as how, according to Jobs, their are currently 85 million iPhones and iPod touches already in the wild, that 100 million figure by the end of the year certainly seems realistic.
One billion ad impressions per day could add up to some serious cash - and Apple plans to give 60 per cent of that cash to advertisers using the platform, keeping 40 per cent in Cupertino to reward Apple's work in hosting the ads.
Apple will, as is its wont, approve the ads before it hosts them. But Jobs was careful to say that since advertisers will be paying to run the ads, Apple's approval process will use "a light touch." What Jobs defines as a light touch, however, wasn't explicitly stated. We'll wait for the Developers License to suss that one out.
Jobs claims that adding an iAd to an app is a simple matter - developers can do it "in an afternoon," he said. He also noted that the ads are all HTML5-based, so Apple won't provide a development platform for ad creators. And, apparently, neither will Adobe, seeing as how their Flash platform remains banned from the iPhone OS.
iAds appears to have been gestating in Cupertino for some time. Jobs admitted that Apple tried to buy mobile-ad broker AdMob, but that Google "snatched" it away from them. Apple then bought a smaller mobile-ad broker, Quattro, instead. "They're teaching us and we’re learning as fast as we can," Gizmodo quoted Jobs as saying.
The iAd platform depends upon multitasking, and with iPhone OS 4.0, Apple will be bringing that capability to the operating system that - although it may still have "iPhone" in its name - is the basis not only for the Cupertinian smartphone, but also for the iPod touch and the iPad.
Apple is, of course, late to the multitasking party for its mobile devices. Multitasking is de rigueur in other devices such as the Palm Prē and phones based on Google's Android - although, interestingly, it isn't scheduled for the first release of Windows Phone 7.
Thursday's event being a Apple love-fest, Jobs understandably put the best possible spin on the iPhone OS's multitasking tardiness. "We weren't the first to this party," Cnet quotes him as saying, "but we're going to be the best."
Scott Forstall, Apple's head of iPhone software development, argued that the challenge in providing multitasking support for a mobile device is how to implement it without gobbling battery power and hindering performance.
Forstall was less than nit-pickingly specific about how iPhone OS 4.0 works under the hood - the event, after all, was for press and analysts, not developers - but he did enumerate a handful of new multitasking APIs that will be available to developers:
- Fast app switching drops apps into a low-power hibernation state when they're not the primary app being used, preserving their state while they're in the background.
- Background location uses cell-tower triangulation rather than a power-hungry GPS circuitry to supply location info to apps that don't need, for example, the highly accurate location information used by turn-by-turn navigation. Forstall used the social-networking app Loopt as an example of an app that can get by with less-specific location info.
- VoIP calls will now be able to be sent and received while other apps are running - and even be received when the phone is in locked mode. Skype, as might have been guessed, was the go-to app for this demo.
- Audio APIs will enable non-Apple apps to play in the background, something that only Apple's own iPod app is currently able to do - a limitation that has ticked off many a fan of Pandora Radio.
- Local notifications will enable developers to send push notifications without having to go through Apple's servers, as they currently must. Forstall noted that Apple has sent 10 billion push notifications so far.
- A task-completion API will enable a developer to have their app pop up an alert to inform a user when a background task has completed.
The multitasking UI is straightforward enough: a double-push on the device's Home button slips the display showing the foremost app upward, and the icons of the background apps appear below it in rows of four which can be flicked left and right. In Jobs' demo, he showed up to a dozen simultaneous background apps, but we can only assume that the number has an as-yet-unannounced upper limit.
Unlike Google's Android OS, the current iPhone OS has no concept of grouping apps into folders. For app-hungry iPhone users, this lack of heirarchical app grouping can result in home page after home page of app icons, which can make it far easier to use the iPhone's search function to track down the app you want rather than having to navigate through multiple home pages.
That will change in iPhone OS 4.0 with the addition of a folders feature charmingly named Folders. To put an app into a folder - or should that be Folder? - you perform the standard tap-and-hold app-arranging dance, but instead of moving the now-jiggling icon to a new location, you drag it over another app and they merge into a Folder.
The Folder icon changes to display apps that are in it, and it takes the name of the apps' App Store category - you can change the name, if you'd like. The new icon can be placed anywhere you choose - including the dock - and when you tap it, icons for all the apps in it appear.
Jobs didn't make it clear whether you can Folderize apps from different categories, and although he did say that you can have as many folders as you want, he didn't mention how many apps can be crammed into a single folder.
Mail and Enterprise
During his presentation, Jobs buzzed rather quickly through iPhone OS 4.0's improvements in the Mail app and in enterprise support - so much so that we're afraid we must limit ourselves to essentially repeating the bullet points from his
PowerPoint Keynote presentation that describe what glories iPhone OS 4.0 will bring:
- a unified Inbox will let you combine all your accounts into one UI, and not force you to navigate through all your accounts separately, as you must do currently
- the ability to switch among all your accounts rather than use the unified Inbox - a feature Jobs called "fast Inbox switching"
- support for more than one Microsoft Exchange account on the same device
- thread-based message organization
- improved attachment handling, using apps you have installed on your device - another benefit of multitasking
- "even better" data protection
- mobile device management (new frontiers in vagueness)
- wireless app distribution
- the aforementioned multiple Microsoft Exchange accounts
- support for Exchange Server 2010
- SSL VPN support
What would any software announcement be these days without a nod to Web 2.0 and social networking? Forrstall bowed to this social dictum and introduced a new service, Game Center, that Apple will institute "later this year," apparently in an attempt to build a centralized gaming network into which all Apple mobile-game devs can link their games.
Few details were provided, but it appears that Game Center will be hub of what was described as a "social gaming network" that will allow you to invite friends to join in multiplayer games or ask to be matched up with random players you haven't met.
Leaderboards and achievement listings will also be provided, but no details were given - and Apple is looking into setting up an achievement point system à la Xbox Live.
iBooks and more
In the yawner of the day, Jobs announced that the iBooks app recently introduced on the iPad will make its way to the iPhone and iPod touch in iPhone OS 4.0 - another blow to Amazon's Kindle. However, as Engadget noted, "Even Steve doesn't seem that excited about this."
Jobs did seem excited, however, to note that since the iPad was introduced last Saturday, 600,000 books had been downloaded from the App Store, along with 3.5 million apps. True to Jobsian form, however, he didn't note how many were free and how many were paid for.
There will be, according to Jobs, 100 new user features in iPhone OS 4.0, supported by 1,500 new APIs. Among the new features that were merely displayed on a Keynote slide and which weren't discussed from the stage were the ability to gift apps, the addition of the Places feature in the Photos app (which the iPad already has), universal spellcheck, changeable homescreen and lockscreen wallpaper (which, actually, Steve did gush about a bit onstage), 5x digital zoom in the iPhone's camera, the ability to search SMS and MMS messages, support for Bluetooth keyboards, CardDAV support, web-search suggestions, CalDAV invitations, nested playlists, and more.
Not every owner of every iPhone or iPod touch will be able to reap the benefits of iPhone 4.0.
The iPhone 3GS and the third-generation iPod touch will get the whole enchilada when 4.0 is released sometime "this summer" - presumably in concert with the next-gen iPhone. The iPhone 3G and second-generation iPod touch, on the other hand, will be able to run "many things," but not all the new features - with the most glaring omission being multitasking.
The iPad won't benefit from iPhone OS 4.0 at the same time as do the newer iPhones and iPod touches. iPadders will need to wait until "this fall" before a version is released for their brand-spanking-new devices.
And the poor ol' original iPhone - the one that was limited to EDGE and for which early adopters paid $599 for an 8GB model in June 2007 - wasn't mentioned at all. ®
In a Q&A after the formal presentation, one brave soul had the temerity to ask Jobs whether Apple had any plans to allow the iPhone to run "unsigned" apps - that is, apps not vetted by and distributed through the App Store. According to Engadget, Jobs' reply betrayed some of the enmity he may still feel for Eric Schmidt's fiefdom, despite the two CEO's recent coffee klatsch: "You know, there's a porn store for Android. Anyone can download them. You can, your kids can. That's just not a place we want to go."