1. Scott R's Avatar
    I just got the iPhone 3GS for myself and my wife on release day. I'm a long-time Palm OS user (most recently with the Treo 700p). There's a lot of hubbub among the pre fanatics who seem obsessed with the multitasking advantage that the pre has over the iPhone. I find this ironic since a year or so ago, there were many Treo users who were apologists for the Treo's lack of multitasking, as this limitation was often brought up by WinMo users. My tune hasn't changed: Multitasking is great, and preferrable, but it has costs associated with it (in terms of performance degradation).

    What's more, there are few scenarios where not having results in being unable to do something important...rather, most of the time, not having the ability to multitask simply means a loss of efficiency. And many of the scenarios in the first category (e.g., talking on the phone while jotting down a note, or listening to music while using a different app) are often already supported in so-called non-multitasking phones (like the iPhone and Palm OS Treo).

    Anyways, as an iPhone user writing on an iPhone forum, I'd like to talk a bit about the inefficiency impacts and whether there are any ways to mitigate them. Unfortunately, this is where I do have a big gripe with Apple. I'm not mad at them for not supporting multitasking of 3rd party apps, but I do get upset that they don't allow apps in their store that are what I referred to on the Palm OS as hack-style apps. These are apps that would allow for replacing the iPhone's home screen, or taking over control of hard button presses. I can appreciate them wanting to protect inexperienced users from installing apps that take over control of these things without them realizing it, but here I'm talking about an app whose sole purpose is to do these things, so an end-user would be downloading the app for that very purpose.

    I loved the classic Palm OS, and the Treo in particular, for the great efficiency/usability it offered. I think that Palm threw much of what they were good at out the window with the pre, which is why buying a pre was far from a slam-dunk for me. They lost the always-available keyboard, the D-Pad, the app-specific hard menu button, categories in various places (the app launcher, notepad, etc.). On my Treo, to improve efficiency when needing to "multitask" things, I installed an app called HiLauncher, which was a powerful little hack-style app that allowed you to create a Windows Start-like menu which would pop-up over any app you were using. So, it was like a quick-launcher. I actually didn't use it to its full potential, because I just wanted a simple task-switcher to jump to recently used apps. This program allowed you to design your own "Start" menu and one of the widgets you could pop in there was a recently used app slot, so I created a menu which consisted only of four slots for recently used apps.

    With the iPhone, I can deal with the lack of multitasking of 3rd party apps. When switching between apps, it usually does a good job of remembering where I was last. And with Safari, I appreciate that it doesn't have to refresh the page I last downloaded when I return to Safari, and I'm really happy that when I log into my work's web-based Outlook email app, I don't have to re-enter my username/password every time (like I did with the Treo if I left the web app, did something else, then went back to the web app to check for new email).

    But having to go through the iPhone's home screen every time I want to switch between recently used apps is definitely frustrating. As I said before, I believe that Apple doesn't allow hack-style apps, like the HiLauncher app I described for the Treo, in their store, but just in case I'm wrong...are there any Apple-approved apps which allow for this sort of thing?

    If not, I'll definitely be considering jailbreaking my iPhone once I feel a bit more comfortable with things. I know that with a jailbroken iPhone you can get multitasking support for 3rd party apps, but what apps (if any) are available to improved the efficiency of task-switching? Thanks to Apple's "less buttons is always better" approach to design, we don't have a lot of hard buttons to work with, so I'm thinking that the ideal app would probably allow a single press of the home button to do its normal thing, but a press-and-hold or double-press to launch a pop-up task switcher. Does such an app exist?
    06-27-2009 09:21 AM
  2. chobbs1's Avatar
    Right now on my 3GS pressing the home button does a great multitude of actions, which are somewhat customizable, but not to the degree your asking for.

    Pressing the home button once while the phone is asleep- wakes the phone up
    Pressing the home button twice once the screen has been unlocked brings up my favorite phone contacts...this is one that can be customized
    Pressing the home button twice, before the screen has been unlocked, brings up the IPod controls
    Pressing and holding the home button brings up the voice control
    Pressing the home button once, if your already on your home screen, brings up spotlight, if your not on your home screen it takes you back to your home screen and if your already in spotlight it takes you back to the home screen.
    If you press and hold the home button on conjunction with the on/off button you can force quit applications and do a soft reset.

    I understand why apple does not want to change the home button functions. the functions the home button are rooted deep in the OS and if changed would not provide a seamless experience from one phone to the other and I am sure it would cause many other problems that I am too much of a layman to understand. There could be a software solution some time in the future. and as far as jailbreaking goes I have heard that "backgrounder" can be quite buggy
    Last edited by chobbs1; 06-27-2009 at 10:47 AM.
    06-27-2009 10:40 AM
  3. OmariJames's Avatar
    Yep. I agree. I actually sent in a request to apple for exactly what you titled this article. I would love to have a recently app launcher. However, I personally do not mind the whole multi-tasking disadvantage because what I do on the phone doesn't expose the disadvantage.

    A way Apple can implement this is simply by turning the phone in landscape while on any of the springboard screens. I think that's a very simple and easy way. I think apple already has enough going on with the home screen.

    I've been hearing about having to quit a game to answer a text message. I have games that I can save manually or automatically before I exit. That's not a problem for me. PNS works fine. AOL released AIM with PNS few days ago, it works great.
    Last edited by OmariJames; 06-27-2009 at 03:49 PM.
    06-27-2009 03:45 PM
  4. BBMaverick's Avatar

    I like your idea (or if it's not your idea, the idea itself) of implementing a recently used App list by switching the orientation of the screen while on the Home screen. That would be easy. It would also need a toggle switch in the settings, of course.
    06-28-2009 09:19 AM
  5. Scott R's Avatar
    Personally, I'm not crazy about the idea of rotating the phone to get different functionality. Rotating the phone switches to landscape mode. So I'd be rotating my phone to get a landscape-mode task switcher, then launching an app, rotating again and waiting for the GUI to rotate?

    I think Apple could allow for the user to customize what a long home button press does. Some people may not care about the voice commands anyway. But here's another idea I had along the lines of the Palm pre...You could swipe up starting below the touchscreen area. The OS could detect a swipe starting at pixel 1 and moving upward, and interpret that as the user wanting to launch the recently used apps list. BTW, this approach is also what Android uses for bringing down (you start your swipe at the top of the phone) the notification list, and I think that would be great to have on the iPhone as well.

    Another idea for recently used apps: Have the home page overlayed over the existing app (the existing app would darken) and have the quick-launch buttons at the bottom of the home page instead be the last four apps you used.
    06-28-2009 12:11 PM
  6. touchyphone's Avatar
    Spotlight search makes things quick for me. I am jailbroken(but on AT&T) and us 'backgrounder' to use apps like PocketTunes in the background. I would like a way thoug to reply to a text or pushed IM without opening the app and replying(even with limited text space) via the alert.
    06-30-2009 03:05 AM