Analysts Claim iPhone 4.0 0S Plays Catch-Up

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CUPERTINO, CALIF. — More than 100 new features enabled by Apple’s iPhone 4.0 OS will bring to the iPhone and iPod Touch many key consumer and enterprise features already available on other smartphone platforms, analysts said.p

For consumers, such features include multitasking for third-party apps, a unifi ed email inbox, email organized by threads, ability to choose wallpapers, and mobile ads that will appear within an open app. The company didn’t disclose the number of apps that will run simultaneously.

For enterprises, the iPhone OS 4 adds such features as the ability to wirelessly distribute apps developed in-house and encryption to protect email messages and attachments stored on the iPhone.

Other new features announced here by CEO Steve Jobs for both the iPhone and iPod Touch include online social gaming with leaderboards; the ability to open email attachments via third-party apps; the ability to organize and view more than 2,000 app icons, compared with 180; and iBook application to read e-books downloaded from Apple’s iBook store. The new OS will also support Bluetooth keyboards, 5x digital camera zoom, a spell checker and more.

The 4.0 OS will be available as a firmware upgrade during the summer to current iPhone 3G and 3GS users and users of second- and third-generation iPod Touches. A version for the iPad will be available in the fall.

With the update, said NPD Group industry analysis director Ross Rubin, “Apple addresses a number of longstanding limitations and inefficiencies around navigating applications both before and after they launch.” In delivering multitasking, however, Apple did so without giving third-party app developers access to core OS “background functionality” as Google’s Android OS does, he noted. “Other operating systems let apps carry on a broader array of functions, but Apple argues that this comes at the expense of battery life, phone performance, ease of use, and security,” Rubin explained. “The issue is whether the improvements are enough to keep the iPhone significantly ahead of Android in terms of the user experience.

Newly offered in-app ads will further encourage the development of free apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, he added. Google’s Android OS, however, already enables in-app advertising.

On the enterprise side, ABI Research analyst Neil Strother called enterprise capabilities “one of Apple’s weak spots compared to RIM.” Though Apple is improving capabilities fore the enterprise, he asked, “Will this message resonate with enterprise IT managers?”

The iPhone OS 4 beta software and software developers kit became available April 8 so that developers can create apps that take advantage of more than 1,500 new application programming interfaces (APIs). Among other things, the APIs will enable apps to access a user’s calendar or photo library and deliver in-app SMS messages.

Turning to the new iPhone OS, Jobs acknowledged the iPhone came late to multitasking of third-party apps but that it will do the job better than other smartphones because it will not degrade battery life or app performance when multiple apps are open. Multitasking will enable Internet music services to play in the background while other apps are used, and it will enable reception of Skype calls when other apps are in use. Open apps will appear at the bottom of the screen after the home button is double-clicked. The iPhone currently offers multitasking of Apple apps supplied with the phone.

With the new ability to drag and drop app icons into folders, users will be able to organize and access more than 2,000 apps instead of 180. Dragging one app icon onto another automatically creates a folder that is given a name based on the app’s category, such as games. Users can also rename the folder. Consumers will also be able to create and manage iPhone folders on a Mac or PC using iTunes 9.2.

As for mobile advertising, Jobs said Apple will sell and host the ads and will share 60 percent of revenues with app developers whose apps will display the ads. The ads will be interactive and will deliver “emotion,” he said, and they’ll keep users in the app.

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