Apple iPhone 4 FAQ: What You Need to Know

Will my instant messaging app use multitasking? What about Tweetdeck? Not really.

Apple is still, pardon the phrasing, pushing push notifications, the feature that debuted with iPhone 3.0 last summer. Push, sort of a poor man's background processing, has the iPhone pinging Apple's servers to see if there are, for example, new messages waiting for your instant message client. The upside? Push consumes less battery power than true multitasking.

Apple did add what it called "local notification" to iPhone 4. By using a new API, app developers can push notices from within the device, from their own apps. Until now, all push has come from Apple's servers, sent to the iPhone. Scott Forestall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software, showed how a television programming guide could ping you when "The Colbert Report" was about to begin.

But that won't really help out the Tweetdecks of the world.

Why is Apple doing multitasking this way? Why not just do it full bore? Battery and performance, said Scott Forestall, Apple's senior vice president of iPhone software.

"How are we adding multitasking while preserving battery life and performance?" Forestall asked, then naturally answered his own question.

Apple has long cited battery drain and processor strain as the reasons why it didn't implement multitasking on the iPhone, a feature familiar not only to computer users, but to smartphone owners. Google's Android operating system, offered multitasking from the get-go.

Concern about the battery was also the reason why Apple went with the "multitasking lite" push notification last year.

But I've heard only some people get multitasking in iPhone 4. What's up with that? You heard right.

iPhone 4 brings Apple's form of multitasking to the iPad, iPhone 3GS and the third-generation iPod Touch, which first went on sale in early September 2009.

Have an iPhone 3G or iPod Touch from the line that debuted in 2008? Sorry, Charlie. You can upgrade to iPhone 4, and according to Jobs, "run many things" with the older hardware, but not multitasking.

Apple said nothing about the original iPhone, the one that doesn't do 3G, or the first-generation iPod Touch. Here, the expression, "No news is good news" probably doesn't apply. Don't expect to run the new OS on the oldest devices.

This isn't the first time that first-in-line customers have been stiffed. Last year, for example, iPhone 3.0's new MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) support wouldn't work on the 2007 iPhone hardware.

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