Multitasking on the iPhone (a developer's view)

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by Rudy69, Feb 25, 2010.

  1. Rudy69 macrumors 6502a

    Rudy69

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    #1
    A common complain I hear about the iPhone is the lack of multitasking, all the other smart phones can do ti so why not the iPhone? Well it CAN do it (there are some hacks to enable it) but Apple doesn't want it enabled. Now it has some basic multitasking, you can listen to music while doing something else or even be on a call and do something else but for most applications pressing the home button means quitting. What are the pros and cons of this method?

    Pros:
    - Your application always has full access to the hardware (you know there's no other app in memory or using the CPU except the iPhone OS)
    - The user doesn't have to worry about "closing" apps (closing vs leaving it running in the background). I remember on Windows Mobile some people would have trouble running some apps because they had to much stuff running in the background that they didn't even know about
    - Applications have evolved around this "limitation" and are a lot more flexible, most apps on the iPhone will remember their last state when quitting and will bring you back exactly where you were

    Cons:
    - Some apps would be good candidates for multitasking, instant messaging, audio streaming apps etc. But unfortunately it would be too hard for Apple to start deciding who is allowed to multitask and who isn't
    - Some apps are not as graceful in restoring the previous state and some might just start from the beginning (can be very frustrating for the end user)

    Now with the iPad coming soon people are again complaining about the lack of multitasking. It would be a big deal if the iPad ran regular desktop apps (like OSX apps) but it doesn't. It will run iPhoneOS apps which have already been designed with that in mind (and the new iPad specific apps will be designed that way too).

    The only problem I can see is when programmers don't work around this limitation properly. Now I'll have to admit I'm far from perfect, my own game Tangled doesn't do it properly, it will allow you to go back to the last puzzle you were on but the state is gone and you have to start over :( . Why was it done this way? Well when I was working on Tangled I had an iPod touch and I didn't really see why people would just go out of my game and want the same state when they would come back (I figured they could just put it to sleep and come back later). Now earlier this year I finally got around getting an iPhone 3Gs and I was playing Tangled and I got a text message, so I went to reply to it and when I got back in Tangled I had to start my puzzle over! It was actually the first time I realised how frustrating it was. The first thing I did after that event was improve the way Tangled quit and resumes. The new version coming out soon will remember the exact state the game was left when it quit and will resume it properly! (plus there will be a lot more features added...see my previous post about what's coming)

    Now I'm sure I'll come up with more pros and cons so I might update this post soon but in the mean time, developers and users what do you think about the lack of multitasking on the iPhone/iPad?

    Source: (My blog)
     
  2. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    #2
    Really, you couldn't have imagined at the time why a user might have wanted to leave your game to go do something else for a while and then come back to where they were in your game? I'm not sure who that speaks more poorly of, your opinion of your target users or your opinion of your own game.

    Sure, there are places where lack of multi-tasking improves the experience for the end user, but overall, it's just a ridiculous limitation. Not only for music, but generally for anyone who is used to, hmm. what's that word? oh, right, multi-tasking it's convenient to be able to move quickly from one app to another without quitting, scrolling through screens of apps, opening another app and vice-versa. With backgrounder and Kirikae a double-tap of the home button allows me to switch between apps seamlessly. That's how it should be.
     
  3. labman macrumors 604

    labman

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Location:
    Mich near Detroit
    #3
    Well played sir!

    Great marketing trick talk about backgrounding to help plug your game, and your blog too! Good show!
     
  4. Rudy69 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Rudy69

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    #4
    It was very poor on my part not to think about it and I freely admit it in my post. I was also hoping bringing this topic out might reach other developers who might have not thought about it and make them realize how important it is (like I did).

    To be 100% honest with you I'm just trying to get my opinion out there (notice how I included the full text? You don't even have to check out my blog). What pushed me to write this post is all the iPad/iPhone bashing happening because of the lack of multitasking (mostly from posts on other forums like Neowin).

    Also the "plug" for my game is very minimal and to be honest with you I really doubt it will increase my sales (what will is my next update, new graphics/music etc etc). As for advertising my blog...well did you look at it? I mainly use it to announce news for my game, I don't really expect people to come check it all the time.
     
  5. FSMBP macrumors 68020

    FSMBP

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2009
    #5
    I think the OP makes a very good point.

    If devs made more apps have a "freeze" when you hit the home button - it would be very helpful since we can't multitask.

    Of course Games would benefit the most while Instant Messaging apps get 0 benefit from this. However, Push Notifications really take care of IM apps as you instantly get the message but you just can't reply that second.
     
  6. gigapocket1 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    #6
    I'm actually quite pleased with the iPhone without multitasking... The only time I wish I had multitasking is when I use pandora...

    Like mentioned above when I receive a text message.. If apple utilized the great idea of quickreply and include it with the default SMS program. I would have no complaints.. Instead. I could just type while I'm playing the game.. And send the message.. Thats a good way around multitasking. Also if apple utilizes that with push notification some kind of way and let other apps use the quick reply.. All of our problems would be solved...
     
  7. Rudy69 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Rudy69

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    #7
    Great comments guys! Like I said the big issue is with IM and streaming music (since they HAVE to run in the background)

    Gigapocket1: great point about SMS, it would be great if it wouldn't require you to go out of your current application/game
     
  8. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    #8
    But it's not just about those things. If these devices are ever to move into the realm of serious work tools, there needs to be a faster way of switching apps. Currently it's the equivalent of having to manually navigate into your Applications folder through the hard disk icon every time you want to go from email to web browsing to chat, etc. etc.
     
  9. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #9
  10. Rudy69 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Rudy69

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    #10
    some of his main points are in my post (eg: iPhone already has multitasking, it's just not available to 3rd parties)

    Really? Bait and switch means (at least to me) that I promised something and once you've come (eg: come to my blog), you realised that I tricked you and what I promised isn't there. I was pretty upfront (the WHOLE article is in my post) and the link to my blog is only posted as a "source".
     
  11. RiceRacerDX macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2009
    #11
    I remember hearing somewhere (please cite this if you've seen the article too) that running things in the background opens the door to exploits, spyware, and the such. I think if a hacker wanted to attack a vulnerable population, iPhone users would be the most mass-effected choice. A while back, there was a report about viruses affecting jailbroken iPhones only. I'm not saying that it was solely due to backgrounding capabilities, but it makes you wonder. Nonetheless, I fully support multitasking.

    It's 2010. I hate having to do one thing at a time. Apple, make it happen!
     
  12. anjinha macrumors 604

    anjinha

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2006
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #12
    I agree completely. Apps like Pandora is the only case where I think multitasking is really needed. Quickreply for SMS would be sweet.
     
  13. TheSpaz macrumors 604

    TheSpaz

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2005
    #13
    A lot of people on this forum try to find everything wrong with you post no matter how helpful you're trying to be. I actually liked your post. You have some very good points.

    By the way, IM apps do not need backgrounding because of push.
     
  14. SXR macrumors 6502a

    SXR

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2007
    Location:
    Netherlands
    #14
    I really want this feature. I think im going to use it alot. Being able to have an app running in the background and coming back to it when you need it is great, its how a computer works.
     
  15. Rudy69 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Rudy69

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    #15
    Thanks for your comment. The point of my post was to give out my opinion on the multitasking issue (we often hear about users complaining but not very often from developers)
     
  16. AforAndromeda macrumors member

    AforAndromeda

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Location:
    UK
    #16

    Thanks Rudy for explaining.

    I am one of those from the 'pro-somemoremultitaskingapps' camp, and I would love to see more mt apps, but your post is very helpful in explaining the dilemma.

    For me, allowing two-three main 'built in core apps' with a choice of two bought apps would be enough. But I see the dilemma.

    Thanks

    Ann
     
  17. hippo206 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2007
    #17
    When I first joined the forums, it wasn't as bad as it is now. It seems like we spawned a whole bunch of Tallest skil followers.
     
  18. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    #18
    The problem for Push as a work-around for apps in the background, even just IM, is that the developer needs to host and maintain a Push server to handle those notifications. Many of those apps are just Pushing notifications on the behalf of other services and wouldn't be necessary if true backgrounding was allowed. It may work in the short run, but it is no long term solution. It's also a terrible hack for voip providers to handle incoming calls.
     
  19. labman macrumors 604

    labman

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    Location:
    Mich near Detroit
    #19
    well

    I have been a JB for about 2 years so I can multitask and I never background games I just never do! yes I play them but most games restart right where I left off so there is no point to put it in the background. I do use it for Pandora and podcast radio or regular radio. once in a while SMS or Twitter, Facebook etc that's it! games can help steel memory as well as battery life! And Spaz is a rebel here in his own right ask him what version firmware he is running. :p
     
  20. chowmein macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #20
    Like the OP stated, many people are complaining about the lack of multitasking in the iPhone OS. But, I think that there's two main issues with implementing multitasking in the iPhone OS's current state. First, how would you implement this in the UI? The iPhone's (and other related products) simplicity is built around the home button, the home screen icons, and the fact that each of those only does one thing: exit or open an app. If you add multitasking, then that whole paradigm shatters. Second, how would you distinguish between exiting an app and leaving it open? If this isn't addressed, then the OS will eventually run out of memory. If this is answered with a task manager, then it'll just become another Windows Mobile. The whole reason the iPhone was built to only single-task is because Apple believes that [ordinary] users don't want complexity. Since Apple appeals not only to the people smart enough to complain about multitasking on blogs but to everyone, it has to figure out a way to implement this in a simple and natural way that everyone would understand. Until Apple can do this, we won't see multitasking.
     
  21. Rudy69 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Rudy69

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2009
    #21
    +1

    Apple's choice of simplicity over overly complicated features (task managers) seemed to have paid off
     
  22. joebobthehob macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    #22
    There's really no reason for Apple not to bring full multitasking support with the next iPhoneOS. You flub your way around it to some degree with push notifications, apps saving their state and so on, but it's no substitute for the real deal. As other platforms like WebOS and Android continue to mature and get more powerful hardware behind them the iPhone's like of real multitasking is going to become a more and more glaring fault if Apple just leaves things as-is.

    Palm already knocked the ball out of the park on this one with WebOS's cards and notifications. Simple, intuitive, any idiot can use it. Done with an app? Just throw it off the screen.

    ...Which of course means that it's all probably patented and Apple will have to come up with their own system. But it's not exactly like they have to work a miracle here or anything.
     
  23. chowmein macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #23
    The problem is that the iPhone OS is designed around the home button. Adding multitasking to a phone that was originally designed for single-tasking makes no sense. Apple has to rethink the iPhone while at the same time make it compatible with the existing ecosystem. The Pre, on the other hand, was designed from the ground up with multitasking in mind. It doesn't have a home button (well, the Pre Plus anyways) because it doesn't need it. Apple needs a new phone and OS to make multitasking work. Putting multitasking in the current iPhones would be like putting Flash in the iPhone. It doesn't work because it wasn't designed for it. The whole user experience just falls apart.
     
  24. firewood macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2003
    Location:
    Silicon Valley
    #24
    Might not be that hard at all. Have the OS set a budget. Any app that allows itself to be put in the background (responds to a permission callback) and that retains more the 512kB of memory or uses more than 20 milliseconds of CPU time per second gets terminated and a 1-star rating automatically gets sent to the App store. Too many of these 1-star ratings and the app gets removed from sale. Slight improvements to Safari and Mail background memory usage should allow room for 1 or 2 other tiny backgrounders. Developers of multitask-capable apps will self police in order to not get tossed from the store.
     
  25. CocoaPuffs macrumors 68010

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2008
    #25
    Here's the problem with this post and why a lot of people could simply interpret this as a shameless plug.

    OP has simply stated all the "obvious" facts about multi-tasking and nothing more, and end with the plug about his app and the simple fix to his problem.
     

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