How much will I pay for the update? Apple didn't say today, but in the past it gave away upgrades to iPhone owners and charged iPod Touch users $10.
However, there's a good chance that the upgrade will be free to everyone. Last year, Apple received approval to change its accounting practices so that it could recognize iPhone revenue immediately, rather than spread the income over 24 months. That older accounting method was what Apple used to justify the upgrade charge to iPod Touch owners. With that now moot, Apple's in a position, accounting-wise, to provide free upgrades.
What's in iPhone 4? Not surprisingly, Apple said the upgrade is a big deal.
Yesterday, the company boasted that iPhone 4 includes over 100 new end-user features, although it described only a handful. It also claimed that the OS offers developers more than 1,500 new APIs that can be used to add limited multitasking, open e-mail attachments, access the iPhone's calendar and more.
What's the most important, or at least most impressive, new feature? As always, your mileage may vary, but multitasking would be our pick.
With iPhone 4, some apps will be able to offer multitasking for specific purposes. The Skype VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), for example, can use one of seven new APIs to craft a new version that receives calls while other apps are in use, and lets users put callers on hold while they check something out in another app. The Pandora and Rhapsody music-streaming services, on the other hand, will be able to play tunes in the background, just like the native iPod app does.
How will I switch between apps that multitask? Double-tapping the home button brings up an app-switching tray that shows the active programs. Think of it as a dock for multitasking apps that slides up from the bottom of the screen.
While analyst Gottheil drew comparisons to Windows' task manager, Jobs disagreed. In a Q&A session after the preview presentation, the Apple CEO denied any similarities. "In multitasking, if you see a task manager...[Apple's designers] blew it. Users shouldn't ever have to think about it."
So I can finally switch between apps without closing the first, pressing the home button, then launching the second? Yes, you can.
Apple, in fact, called its "fast app switching" the biggest news within the big news of multitasking. "This is probably the easiest for developers to adopt, and probably the most important," said Forestall.
Software that uses Apple's fast app switching API can be put into what Forestall called a "quiescent state" in the background. We'd call it what it is ... suspended. The app is frozen in place -- "It's not using any CPU at all," Forestall said -- and then resumes when you return.
"Most people don't need multitasking," said Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "They just want a way to quickly switch between programs."