Background processes should work on the iPhone

Apple announced version 3.0 of the iPhone OS just a couple of weeks ago. Together with other highlights, such as copy-and-paste and stereo bluetooth music, the push-notification infrastructure was reannounced for coming out this summer together with iPhone 3.0. This was there to compensate the lack of support for background processes for 3rd party apps. Without wanting to second-guess Apple, of course, I think that was a mistake.

Apple considers that multi-tasking beyond the Apple-installed apps will hurt battery life and endanger stability to the system. I don’t disagree that the more apps are open, the more unstable the system may become and depending on the types of apps you have open, battery power may suffer substantially. As a weak substitute they re-introduce the push-notification system.

Don’t get me wrong, once they improve the iPhone notification handling, I really think that push notification is a very elegant solution to a battery usage problem for when an app needs to maintain a data connection continually in order to receive updates – like the famous IM app mentioned by Apple. I have a Nokia E71, which supposedly has a battery that lasts upto 4 days, but when I leave fring or contacts on ovi run in the background , my battery life is cut in half. For those instances, I could only wish for push-notification.

On the other hand, though, there are apps that require background processes to function. A good example is Google Latitude. This app runs in the background and sends my position to the cloud in real-time. Currently, this can’t possibly run on the iPhone, while it is available on all other important smartphone platforms. Here a notification system, simply doesn’t do the job.

I haven’t even mentioned yet how cumbersum the switching between apps is. Symbian S60 has a very basic but working implementation and the Palm Pre simply hits it out of the park on that aspect.

Personally, I believe Apple should focus on making full multi-tasking run reliably on the iPhone and let users worry about the implications for, particularly, battery life. If it is worth sacrificing battery life a little for additional functionality, perhaps that is worth it for the user.


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