Tag Archive for ‘Multitasking’

A Fix for iPad Multitasking ➝

A good solution to the iPad’s multitasking problem from Ryan Christoffel. In short, he thinks the long-press contextual menus that appear on app icons should include options for split view and slide over. I think this is a great idea, but I’d still be concerned about discoverability.

I hesitate to advocate for an omnipresent menu that could be used for these type of system functions, but I’m not sure how else you could include advanced features like multitasking in any other way without always dealing with issues of discoverability. At least with a consistent button in the system status bar there would be something indicating that options are available.

➝ Source: macstories.net

Comparing iPad Pros ➝

Ben Brooks weighs the pros and cons of both iPad Pro form factors and concludes that the larger, 12.9-inch iPad Pro is better for productivity while the 9.7-inch model is superior for portability. I couldn’t agree more. And while I’m more than capable of getting all my work done on a 9.7-inch device — an iPad Air 2 — I can see where the larger display would come in handy.

From what I’ve gathered — by reading numerous takes on the two iPad sizes — most, including Ben, cite a couple major areas in which the larger iPad Pro improves upon the smaller model — the keyboard and multitasking. I’m all-in on the idea of multitasking being a huge step-up in the larger iPad Pro. I use the feature dozens of times each day on my Air 2, but too often I feel constrained by the physical limitations of the display. I just want to see more content without having to scroll so frequently.

But as for the larger iPad Pro’s on-screen keyboard, I completely disagree. I haven’t used the 12.9-inch iPad Pro full-time like Ben has, but every time I’ve had the opportunity to use one I’ve felt lost while typing. Perhaps that’s because of how accustom I’ve become to the 9.7-inch keyboard, but I find my hands floating in one direction or another beyond what autocorrect is capable of compensating for.

This’ll put me in a pretty tough position when I’m ready to buy my next iPad. I love the idea of seeing more of my apps while I’m multitasking, but I don’t know if that’s worth sacrificing my typing experience. Maybe I’ll buy the larger iPad anyway with the idea of returning it after a few weeks, if I’m not able to get used to typing on it.

iPhone OS 4

Yesterday, Apple unveiled iPhone OS 4 and along with the rumored multitasking and unified email inbox, Apple had a slew of other features that will push the platform even closer to perfection.

Steve Jobs and Scott Forestall talked about their seven “tentpole” features in iPhone OS 4, but they also mentioned that there are over 100 new user features. Before I get into the big stuff I think there are a few smaller ones that deserve mentioning. Playlist creation, spell check, Bluetooth keyboard support, 5x digital zoom, and home screen wallpapers are some of the more interesting ones.

Apple has introduced folders for the iPhone, just drag and drop an app icon onto another one and a folder is created with a name automatically populated for you (although it can be edited). Folders is just a simple way of organizing your applications but I have a feeling it’s going to make it a lot easier for people to find their apps. I also think many will consider this a way to hide some of the default applications that they don’t ever use.

The rumored unified email inbox was there and with it came a threaded conversation view as well. I’ve been hoping for a unified email inbox since day one and I’m incredibly happy that it’s finally been implemented. Threaded view will be a boon for those of you who get a lot of email, but for people like me it’ll never get used. Apple has also announced the ability to open email attachments with applications from the App Store, so if you receive a photo you could choose what photo editor you’d like to open it in.

Apple has brought iBooks to the iPhone. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, Apple clearly has been working on this for a while but decided that the iPad announcement wasn’t the right time to talk about it. Buy a book once and read it on either the iPad or the iPhone. Current location and bookmarks will be wirelessly synced, so you’ll be able to read on your iPhone and pick up where you left off on your iPad.

Apple has made some enterprising enhancements, including: better data protection, mobile device management, wireless app distribution, support for multiple Exchange accounts, and SSL VPN support.

A new social gaming network has been announced called “Game Center.” In essence it is Xbox Live for the iPhone. You can challenge your friends to a game, it will do automatic matchmaking that will find you opponents of a similar ability to you, leaders boards, and achievements. Game Center is an obvious slap in the face of Sony and Nintendo who as of yet haven’t really been able to make online gaming work too well on handheld devices. I’m incredibly excited about this because two of my family members just recently purchased an iPhone and another one will be doing so in two months. I really like the idea challenging them to a game of Scrabble or checking their achievements in Ramp Champ.

Apple’s acquisition of Quattro Wireless has resulted in a new mobile advertising network for iPhone apps called “iAd.” This announcement appeared to be targeted directly at Google. Jobs made a point to mention that search on mobile devices just doesn’t happen like it does on the desktop, if you want to find a restaurant you open the Yelp app not Google, if you want to find a movie playing you open the Fandango app not Google. Apple is also attempting to increase the quality of ads by creating interactive and emotional experiences. What’s amazing about the implementation of the ads is that even before I saw them I imagined exactly what Apple displayed. A simple banner-style ad that expands to a full screen ad with a close button in the upper-corner. The ads keep you in your app instead of jumping you into Mobile Safari. The ads are built using HTML5 and can make use of audio, video, maps, etc. Apple will be selling and hosting the ads and 60% of the revenue will go to the developer. I think this is a great opportunity for developers and I can assure them that I for one will not hesitate to tap on these ads.

I’ve decided to leave the biggest announcement for last, as it deserves the most attention. Multitasking is finally coming to the iPhone. Apple claims to have implemented multitasking while avoiding battery life issues and performance degradation. Apple has made it easy for applications to save state so that when the app is opened again you are exactly where you left off the last time it was used. This is key to the way Apple has designed their multitasking experience because apps don’t actually run in the background. Instead, Apple has decided to implement the most common background services themselves and will be providing those services as APIs to developers (more on that below). The most striking part of multitasking on the iPhone is fast app switching. Rather than having to go to the home screen and choose your application you can double click the home button and a dock will pop up on the bottom of the screen showing you all of the applications that are “running” in the background. You can then choose one of those apps and jump right into them. This fast app switching seems daunting at first, at least currently I haven’t found any limit to the number of apps that can sit in that dock, I’ve had as many as 37 in it at a time. And people thought trying to find an app in a screen of 16 icons was hard, try swiping through screens with just 4 icons on each. Luckily, Apple makes it a little bit easier to deal with by letting you remove “close” those applications by tap and holding on the icon and tapping the minus button. Also, your most recently used applications always sit close to (or on) the first four spots.

But, let’s get back to those background services. Background audio was the first service mentioned in which Pandora was demoed playing audio in the background. The player controls that appear on the lock screen are also available to developers, so you can skip to the next or previous song or pause the audio. The next service is voice over IP. When developers implement it you’ll be able to stay on a VoIP call while using another application. Location services will also be able to run in the background. If you are using the TomTom application you’ll be able to open another app and continue to receive directions. Since GPS uses so much power, some applications that don’t need your exact location will be able to use information from the call towers to determine your location. They’ve also added app by app controls for location services and an icon to the status bar that let’s you know if any application is currently asking for your location.

Push notifications was Apple’s first background service and they’ve made sure you remind you that it’s around. But, they’ve also added local notifications which are exactly as the name suggests. The final background service is task completion, such as uploading photos to Flickr.

I have to admit that Apple seems to have hit a home run with iPhone OS 4. Multitasking alone would be a big step forward, but with all of the other announcements, 4.0 is a real leap. I’ve had a little bit of hands-on time with iPhone OS 4 and will be publishing more observations and screenshots over the next few days.

iPhone OS 4 will be released this summer for the iPhone 3G, 3GS, second, and third generation iPod touch. The second generation iPod touch and iPhone 3G will not support all of the new features (such as multitasking). iPhone OS 4 will come to the iPad this fall.

Apple iPhone OS Event Rumors

Apple is holding their iPhone OS event today and there have been a couple more rumors circulating regarding the announcements. The first of which is from Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu. Yes, the same Shaw Wu who predicted that Steve Jobs wouldn’t be at September’s iPod event (in other words, his track record is a little hit and miss).

Shaw Wu claims that Apple will unveil iPhone OS 4.0 with full multi-tasking support and a new “iAd” mobile advertising service. Multi-tasking shouldn’t come as a surprise since it has been mentioned by multiple sources over the past few weeks. But, the iAd platform is something that hasn’t had nearly as many mentions. The first report I managed to find regarding the iAd service was from MediaPost late last month. There wasn’t any solid details about the service’s features but it’s safe to assume that it would be based off of Apple’s recently acquired Quattro Wireless and would give developers of free App Store apps and web apps the ability to monetize their offerings.

The second rumor is based on speculation about Apple’s Pages, Keynote, and Numbers for iPad documentation that states “printing directly from iPad is not currently available.” While this doesn’t come right out and say that these applications will support printing, it does leave the window open for the future. It’s possible that Apple decided to include this simply to make it clear that printing isn’t supported, but they also could have included it because it’s something they’re working on.

I have little reason to believe that printer support will be included in today’s announcements but I can’t imagine it will never make it’s way into the OS. If Apple sees this as a serious content creation platform (and the existence of Pages, Keynote, and Numbers indicate that they do), printing is one feature that can’t be overlooked for too long. It will happen, but when is a different question entirely.

I likely won’t be able to write about today’s announcements until later tonight but rest assured I’ll be waiting with bated breath to see what Apple has in store for the future of iPhone OS.

iPhone 4.0 May Deliver Multitasking ➝

AppleInsider claims that Apple has developed a “full-on solution” to multi-tasking on the iPhone.

From the article:

From a user-facing perspective, Apple plans to deliver a multi-tasking manager that leverages interface technology already bundled with its Mac OS X operating system, according to those same people. It was requested that specifics be withheld at this time, as the iPhone Software 4.0 remains under development and reportedly has a quite ‘way to go’ before it’s ready for prime time.

I would love to hear a little bit more about how Apple plans to impliment multi-tasking on the iPhone. As much as I hope to see something like Expose or webOS-style application switching, I have a feeling Apple will come up with something very different.

But regardless of how multi-tasking will actually work, we at least know one influential writer who believes AppleInsider’s report.

iPad Dashboard Widgets

It’s been a week since Apple announced the iPad and some have started to realize that the images of the iPad’s home screen are missing several icons. More specifically Weather, Clock, Stocks, Voice Memos and Calculator are all missing (iBooks is also missing but it is likely a late addition that simply didn’t make the deadline for inclusion in the promotional material for January’s unveiling).

When Apple first announced the iPhone at Macworld Expo 2007, Steve Jobs proudly announced that the iPhone had widgets. At that time Weather, Stocks, and Calculator were all built in HTML and JavaScript. Apple scrapped the idea before launch and the idea of widgets on the iPhone was never heard from again. I have often wondered why Apple decided to abandon widgets on the iPhone, given the iPhone’s screen size, widgets seem like the perfect fit. I assume (and John Gruber has been informed by his sources) that it is mostly due to performance concerns — HTML and JavaScript just can’t render as quickly as native code.

It’s very possible that Apple could be moving back to widgets in iPhone OS, but on the iPad. The applications listed above would work perfectly as widgets and they are exactly the kind of apps that you want to have access to at all times.

Charles Ying points out that Apple didn’t reveal the YouTube app on the iPhone until 9 days before it’s release. If Apple were to announce dashboard widgets for the iPad it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest for them to wait as long as they could before announcing it.

I must give credit to Kevin Fox for first mention the idea of dashboard widgets on the iPad, but I don’t know if his idea of implementation is quite there yet. Instead of a five-finger pinch gesture, wouldn’t it be more natural for Apple to add this as another option for the double-click home button shortcut? I see the other options for that shortcut to be practically useless on the iPad, especially if it has widgets. The current options on the iPhone are Home, Search, Phone Favorites, Camera, and iPod. Because of hardware limitations the iPad wouldn’t need phone favorites or camera and I could easily see the other options implemented as widgets themselves (with the home option simply being replaced with the ability to disable widgets altogether).

Just like the addition of Push Notifications, dashboard widgets will be the way Apple quiets those complaining about multi-tasking on the iPad. Dashboard widgets are unobtrusive and easy on the battery life. As Kevin Fox puts it:

It might not be OS multitasking but it’s user multi-tasking and, unlike running several apps simultaneously, it behaves nicely. OS X dashboard widgets sit quietly when the dashboard’s not up and make their calls and updates quickly when the dashboard is called up.

This is exactly the kind of thing Apple would do. And as an added bonus, Apple might be able to leverage the ever-growing catalog of Dashboard widgets for Mac OS X.

Imagine downloading the same dashboard widgets you currently use on your Mac and installing them on your iPad to be called up while running any application, simply by double clicking the home button.

Update 2/11/10: It turns out that iBooks isn’t bundled with the iPad at all. Instead, the app will be available in the App Store.

Craig Hockenberry on the iPad ➝

Craig Hockenberry seems to agree with me in regards to multi-tasking:

There’s an inherent benefit to only doing one thing at a time: the load of worrying about other tasks is lifted. Knowing that there isn’t anything else competing for your attention is quite liberating. […] I suspect that we’ll all benefit from working in Pages, Numbers and Keynote without the distractions of the web, Twitter or chat. And in the long run, we’ll prefer it.

He gets it.

Multi-Tasking, Productivity, and the iPad

The complaints about the lack of background apps never ends. It’s surprising really, you’d think everyone would have gotten it out of their system the first time Apple released a product that didn’t allow you to run multiple apps at once. And guess what? The iPhone and iPod touch are both wildly successful.

The argument against the iPad usually starts by mentioning that it is pitched to replace a netbook, sitting between the cell phone and laptop. Then the writer usually goes on and on about how they can’t imagine being able to get anything done on a device that doesn’t allow you to run two things at once. The argument is often finished off by mentioning the software keyboard.

We’ve had the iPhone’s keyboard for two and a half years, it works just fine, get over it. The iPad keyboard will be different, but given enough time (just like the iPhone) you’ll get used to it and speed and accuracy will inevitably increase.

Now on to the multi-tasking issue. I hate to break it to you but the way to really get stuff done is to do one thing at a time. Why do you think applications like Spirited Away, Doodim, and WriteRoom exist? Their developers and users understand that the best way to actually get things done on a computer is to get rid of all the distractions.

Think about it, I mean really think about it, aside from all the “walk and chew gum scenarios” when are you actually productive at doing two things at once? Your not. Doing your best work requires focus, the iPad will help you do that.

Even the majority of scenarios brought up in favor of multi-tasking are moot, though. If you want to have your email client open in the background, you don’t have to, just set Mail to check for new email every 15 minutes. If you want to have an IM client open at all times, enable push notifications. If you want to listen to music, open the iPod app and hit play.

The best argument I’ve heard in favor of Apple allowing background apps has been the idea of running a third-party music app while using another application. This scenario is probably the only valid one I’ve heard. If you use a service like Rhapsody, it would be nice to listen to that music on the iPad and still be able to use other applications. I’m still convinced that Apple will debut a subscription service some time in the future but in the mean time this still isn’t a problem. Apple fully expects you to have your iPhone or another handset with you when using the iPad. You can’t listen to Rhapsody on the iPad while browsing the web on the same device but it doesn’t matter because you can listen to that same content on your iPhone while browsing the web on the iPad.

Another good argument in favor of multi-tasking is put best by Milind Alvares on Smoking Apples:

On a desktop computer, I would have a Safari web page open in one window, and floating beneath or beside it, is a TextEdit window. I can research multiple articles using different tabs, all the time copying stuff over to TextEdit for my research.

Milind brings up the fact that you can jump between applications from the home screen, pointing out that most applications save state when the home button is pressed. But, it’s also worth mentioning that Mobile Safari allows you to have 8 windows open at once, one of those could be a text editor in the form of a web app.

Regardless of whether you “need” to be able to multi-task, how do you plan to actually get anything done with all these distractions and interruptions? All those push notifications and new mail alerts aren’t helping your productivity. I have my “Fetch New Data” setting set to manual and it has been that way for two years. I want to know if I have new email when I check it, not when I’m browsing the web, or waiting in line at the bank, or shopping at the grocery store. I’ll check it when I have time to deal with it.

But beyond my email settings, I have been spending a large portion of my time with computers trying to get rid of all the excess stuff, so that I can actually do what I sat down in front of the desk to do. I suggest that everyone tries this at some point in their life. After just a short period of time, you’ll be amazed at how little you miss those alert tones and notifications. And when you turn all that stuff back on, you might just realize that they’re just plain annoying.