On June 21, 2010 Apple Inc. released its most anticipated iPhone OS 4 now called iOS 4. This is a free operating system upgrade for existing iPhone and iPod touch users.

Apple claims that there are more than 100 new features added in iOS 4. While I haven't seen that exhaustive feature list yet, there are some features that are large leaps in the evolution of iPhone. Existing iPhone users can upgrade to iOS 4 and benefit from these improvements. Here are some of the key features introduced in iOS 4 that are useful to everyone.

Multi Tasking

Ability to multi task is the single most anticipated feature, that became real in iOS 4. Until iPhone OS 3.x, iPhone/iPod touches could not run multiple applications at the same time ( except for some native applications such as email and iPod). iOS 4 changes that. With iOS 4, when the user presses the Home button to go to the home screen, the running application is pushed to the background. Pressing the Home button twice displays all apps running in the background. The same is shown in picture below.
Multi Tasking (20269)

Users can touch any application to go back to that application. As long as the App developer has implemented multitasking abilities , the Apps will continue from where they where left when pushed to the background.

With multitasking you can now do things like:
  • Listen to Pandora music while browsing in Safari
  • Quickly open weather app to check current conditions while safari is loading a page
  • Answer a phone call in the middle of a game and then resume the game from where you left

Bluetooth Keyboard Support

Before iOS 4 was released, iPhone bluetooth support was limited to headsets to make and receive phone calls only. In iOS 4, bluetooth support is extended to keyboards. That means, users can pair bluetooth enabled keyboards with iPhone and get a full size keyboard experience with iPhone.

Background Wall Wrapper

Earlier versions of the iPhone OS allowed users to select a picture for lock screen only. The home screen that displayed App icons had plain black background. With iOS 4 this has changed. In addition to selecting the lock screen picture, it now allows you to select the background image for the home screen as well. This image appears in the background of the App icons in the Home screen. This was one of the most requested feature in iPhone. In the picture below you can see a custom wall wrapper behind app icons.

Wall Wrapper

Creating Folders

Ability to organize Apps in folders was seriously missing in iPhone. Users had to swipe through pages after pages in the Home screen to find the App they wanted. iPhone OS 4 has overcome this limitation. It allows users to create folders. The way to create a folder is very simple too. Hold any App icon pressed until the apps start jiggling. Drag one App on top of another and a folder will be automatically created with those Apps. Then you can drag additional Apps into the folder. It also provides a default name to the folder when it is created. You have an option to give your own name. In one folder you can have up to 12 Apps. However there is no limit on number of folders you can create. In the picture below you can see several folders created and categorized.

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Email Improvements

In iOS 4 there are two main improvements in Email management. The first one is a consolidated InBox that aggregates mails from all your configured email accounts. This provides a single point access to all your emails which makes it easier to manage. See "All Inboxes" in picture below.

Combined InBox (20267)

Another improvement in this version of the OS is threaded email support. Email conversation threads are shown in the InBox with the number of emails in the thread displayed along with email . Touching the email opens the list of emails in the thread which makes it easy to follow.

Create Play Lists in the Device

Earlier versions of the iPhone OS did not allow creation of play lists in the iPhone. iOS 4 has improved this. Now you can create new playlists or edit existing ones from the device.

Other Features Worth Mentioning

  • iPhone camera now has 5 X digital zoom
  • Tap and focus feature is supported for video shooting
  • Spell checker has been added to the OS. When you type something in notes, mail or SMS, incorrect words are underlined and alternatives are suggested
  • SMS letter count. When you type a text messages, number of letters remaining is dynamically displayed
  • Search support for text messages

Overall iOS 4 is a leap from iPhone OS 3. This brings in few long anticipated features to the device.

How to upgrade?

Good thing about iOS 4 is that it is a FREE upgrade. Do you wonder how to upgrade your device to new OS. It is simple!

Follow the steps below and you are done.

  • Download iTunes 9.2 from Apple website and install it. It is a prerequisite to upgrade to iOS 4
  • Connect your iPhone to the computer and open iTunes
  • iTunes will automatically pop up a message box asking if you would like to upgrade your iPhone OS.
  • Follow the instructions and your device will be updated.

Entire upgrade process takes less than 30 minutes. All your data and Apps in the device will be preserved after upgrade.