What is the future of the iPhone App Store if we can't run things in the background?

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by ajthomason, Aug 7, 2008.

  1. ajthomason macrumors 6502

    #1
    This is a question that is really annoying me. From the start (correct me if I'm wrong, please) both BB and Windows Mobile allow devs to run their apps in the background. What is the point in some of the apps in the store if you can only run them when your iPhone is turned on, unlocked and with the app open?

    I've just installed a GPS tracker app that monitors and times where you walk - which would be useful if only I could use my phone for other things while it plots where I am. As it is, it's useless - the same as netshare (although I didn't actually manage to get a copy) - I don't want my iPhone sitting on the desk with the screen on; I want it in my pocket out of sight using as little power as possible when I'm using it as a modem.

    I want other apps that edit the iPhones OS as well - I want messages to appear on the lock screen (there are some awesome mock-ups floating around by forum members), I want someone else to have the chance to implement a system-wide copy and paste system. To put it simply - I want an authorised way to jailbreak!

    It wont be as secure admittedly, it wont be as reliable (not that it is currently), but it will be a proper phone - the iPhone will then become a phone that really belongs to us and not one that a company half the world away is still telling me what I can and can't do with it.

    Does anyone actually see this happening? The real OS X is what I want - I like having iStat menus installed on the bar at the top of the screen - I want something like that in the bar on my iPhone; something that is always running telling me the network transfer speed, the CPU usage etc. There is no technical reason why I can't have it... just because Apple say that I cant.

    Don't get me wrong, the App store is a great addition - but why are we not allowed to go further? When I've paid this much for a phone, I want to use it properly - the apps just feel so limited and pointless at the moment.

    Is this something that everyone wants, or am I alone in my requests?
     
  2. TEG macrumors 604

    TEG

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2002
    Location:
    Langley, Washington
    #2
    First - While the apps can't run in the background, sucking power, some continue to work while the screen is off (AOL Radio, Pandora, NetShare). Others will be able to access a special push server to get data passed to it at all times (by September).

    Second - Anything that uses location surfaces keeps those services running even in the background.

    TEG
     
  3. Dimwhit macrumors 68000

    Dimwhit

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2007
    #3
    Apple has already said background apps will be coming, and it's widely anticipated to happen with the 2.1 release or soon after.

    Personally, I don't want it. Too much expected drain on the battery life. But I could see the use for it.
     
  4. sushi Moderator emeritus

    sushi

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    #4
    And Apple will want to bring this on board slowly so everything works okay when they do. Too much too quickly could cause problems.

    That will definitely be a negative for some.
     
  5. ajthomason thread starter macrumors 6502

    #5
    I stand corrected then - I read a post that said NetShare stopped worked as soon as the iPhone locked. The author could have been mistaken then.

    It seems from the other replies that it isn't actually a feature that you want. How about the ability to edit the OS e.g with notifications?
     
  6. paj macrumors regular

    paj

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2003
    Location:
    USA
    #6
    It's not official and requires jailbreaking, but this app does what you, me and many others want. http://intelliborn.com/index.html
     
  7. Jeremy1026 macrumors 68020

    Jeremy1026

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2007
    #7
    No they didn't. They said that they will offer Push notification for 3rd party apps. Which means, you can tell Apple's servers that your app might be receiving some data for your user. The server will then Push that notification to the users phone. The apps will NOT be running in the background.
     
  8. Niiro13 macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2008
    Location:
    Illinois
    #8
    No, they said push service, which is the best way for most applications. AIM in the background will drain your battery cause it's still updating the buddy list and all that stuff while maintaining the connection for incoming IMs. With push, it quits the application, and only keeps the connection.

    Unfortunately, this doesn't help certain applications like radios or NetShare (they only would continue to run on the lock screen but as soon as the home button is hit, then it stops.

    I wonder if Apple is just waiting for simplicity right now just to get used to App Store and everything. Then later, they will add more complex commands that allow stuff like radio music to play in the background.
     
  9. admanimal macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2005
    #9
    I think it's better for everyone if Apple keeps background processes off limits until all of the newbie programmers trying to make a quick buck selling crap in the App Store go away. The only thing worse than having a lot of background processes slowing down your phone is having a lot of buggy background processes freezing your phone.
     
  10. admanimal macrumors 68040

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    Apr 22, 2005
  11. DamnDJ macrumors regular

    DamnDJ

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    Feb 17, 2003
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #11
    You know, there's all that menu space at the top of the phone...They should have small icons just to let you know what is running in the background. Perhaps even allow you to tap the area to bring up a task manager of sorts so you can enter the App and shut it down properly.
     
  12. Jeremy1026 macrumors 68020

    Jeremy1026

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    #12
    The demoed why they don't want to use a task manager at WWDC, and I think they made a very valid point.
     
  13. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2008
    #13
    Since when? They made a huge deal about how they won't allow background apps because of the major battery suckage. You must be thinking of the push server to mimic background apps that's coming out this fall for stuff like AIM.

    I don't see the need for background apps until the battery life gets to a point where you can run your phone for like a week without charging it. That won't happen because as batteries improve, Apple will jack up the processor speed or add 802.11n to enhance other features.
     
  14. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    Aug 29, 2006
    Location:
    Washington DC
    #14
    Although there are no announced plans to allow background apps, I'm certain they'll happen. They've been taking it slow on EVERYTHING iPhone related, just to be safe.

    I expect that when this happens it will be something the developers have to program in (so not just every random app...just the ones that want it) AND you'll have to go in the preferences and turn it on, app by app.

    That's a nice "safe" system that lets you turn 'on' the background-running of only the apps you really want to be doing that.

    My guess: This will happen by summer 2009.
     
  15. QuarterSwede macrumors G3

    QuarterSwede

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    Oct 1, 2005
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    Colorado Springs, CO
    #15
    NOOOOO!!! That's why Windows Mobile is garbage! Anything but THAT!
     
  16. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2006
    Location:
    Washington DC
    #16
    Agreed this is WHY there aren't background processes.

    If Apple can find a way to do it without the words "Task Manager" coming within 100 miles of Cupertino, they'll do it.

    If they can't, they won't.
     
  17. DreamPod macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2008
    #17
    Windows Mobile just plain sucks and isn't worth using *because* it allows apps in the background. They slow the device down, suck up batteries, suck up precious memory, and in general make the system extremely unstable. The iPhone is far from unstable, the worst that usually happens is an App crashes, but when that happens *only* that App crashes, not the entire system. And when an App has a memory leak, it only affects that one App as well. While there are some things that just can't be done without running in the background, I'm much happier with a speedy PDA/phone I can rely on where everything happens in a snap.
     
  18. DamnDJ macrumors regular

    DamnDJ

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    Feb 17, 2003
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    Denver, CO
    #18
    The only reason I brought up a task manager is because of what others have said about some Apps remaining running in the background. It would be nice to know what they are.

    Call it what you want, I don't care. Just would be nice to see.
     
  19. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

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    Aug 29, 2006
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    #19
    I think my idea of having the system preferences show this (and change it) for each app is a good way.

    "Task manager" implies something you can bring up to shut down frozen apps. The iPhone is very elegant in this regard. A crashed app just goes away by itself. No one wants to do that manually.

    I know that's not what you were suggesting, but that's what everything thinks of first.
     
  20. DamnDJ macrumors regular

    DamnDJ

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    #20
    Well said. This is what I was aiming for.

    :)
     
  21. Mr. Giver '94 macrumors 68000

    Mr. Giver '94

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2008
    Location:
    London
    #21
    I agree, unless Apple has some kind of App management system to remind you what you have running and allow you to shut it off because my old phone didn't have this, so I got charged like 150$ extra because it gave me no indication that I was still running AIM. Oops... I would still use some in the background regardless of how they are managed. Thankfully you don't have to pay every time you use an App.
     
  22. LinMac macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2007
    #22
    I want it and I have just as valid of a reason. :)

    Let's consider the way instant messaging works on a desktop compared to how it works on a mobile device.

    Desktop:

    Your desktop be it based on Mac, Linux, or some other less savory operating system uses the client to connect to the IM servers. There is (typically) no third party server between your IM client and the service such as AIM or MSN.

    Software such as Adium provides build in support for almost every major protocol via open source software because there is no additional cost incurred beyond having a website for you to download the software from. HTTP servers can serve a massive amount of static content with relatively low resource requirements (other than bandwidth) so the cost there is still fairly minimal.

    Mobile:

    Your mobile device be it based on OS X, Linux, RIM, or some unstable buggy bastard child of a desktop OS has a variety of ways to connect to the IM services. There are those based on SMS which make those without unlimited plans cry, those based on a direct connection to the IM network via a data connection, and those based on a connection to a third party server over a data connection. Each of these has problems, but on the iPhone you are given a framework which makes each problematic.

    SMS: The iPhone is a data device so it makes less sense to use this primitive method of sending messages. I will not elaborate on this method due to the unusual requirements of it that will make it (most likely) unused on the iPhone.

    Direct Data on iPhone without background notification: This method will work as we can see with AIM, but has one obvious flaw. No background processes means you log off every time you leave the IM program. This is a pain. How many times has someone sent you a link that you want to visit? If you're me then that is a lot. You want to open the link in the most advanced mobile browser yet, but wait.. that will mean you log off and can't continue the conversation about the content of the page. That is irritating!

    Direct Data on iPhone with background notification:

    Call me ignorant, but this flow chart seems to suggest that a third party server will send notifications to the apple notification system that will then alert you. Swell. Who is going to run this mysterious third party server that services the hundreds of thousands (or millions as they sell more mobile phones) of sessions and alerts?

    Hmm.. sounds like this might require a subscription or a very expensive application that needs many "upgrade fees" for a universal client like Adium. Swell. No perfect Adium for iPhone. Forget the NDA, the SDK won't let it do what it needs to do.

    I'm ending my rant, but you can see this might be a problem. Background application support isn't necessary for most applications, but for IM it seems to be pretty vital if we ever want to see the day where we can use an Adium for the iPhone.
     
  23. ajthomason thread starter macrumors 6502

    #23
    I read this as "I don't want it" which was really confusing as I was wondering where you were going with your post. I certainly agree - IM is useless without the ability to run in the background. There are a couple of services out there that will save all your alerts and make it seem like you stayed online (but I believe, as you say, they require a subscription) and it's pointless.

    The option to allow each app to run in the background is a good one - it would be better to do in the same way that it asks if the app can use your current location; "App X would like to stay running in the background. You can disable this in 'Settings'. Do you want to allow it?"

    Although you seem to have a thing against a dedicated 'Task Manager' - I believe that it is essential just to find out what is running. It would not be a stand-alone app though; you just go into settings, tap 'Processes' and a list will appear of all running Apps / Processes, tapping the name of one will give the option to Quit, Force Quit and may give some info as to how long it has been running and how much power it is using (again, this is entering desktop territory).

    If Apple decide to make a phone that CAN do some features of a laptop, then they have to be prepared to allow us to do more features of a laptop - I know that it is a phone, but we all know what it is capable of.
     
  24. razorianfly macrumors 65816

    razorianfly

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2007
    Location:
    Cheshire, United Kingdom
    #24
    In answer to the threads title. Stability.

    Apple's idea of keeping a persistant IP connection to any applications that need it, is a very good substitute to running background applications.
    You think the battery life is bad now? - Just you watch how many hours you'd get, if they allowed you to run Palringo Messenger, Maps, and other high CPU-intensive applications.

    Also app caching will cause applications to crash less frequently.

    Apple are doing right in providing a solution to a problem that actually does need resolving.
    I imagine the Push Notification Service to act exactly as if the application were still running, only, it won't be.

    This is a good move on Apple's part, and will benefit both developers, Apple and us in the long run.

    Be patient. :cool:

    R-Fly
     
  25. paj macrumors regular

    paj

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2003
    Location:
    USA
    #25
    I don't know how you kept a straight face while writing this. If the current state of the iPhone is your idea of stability, then you have obviously never used any other PDA or smartphone. :rolleyes:
     

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