Apple has released iOS4, a software update for the iPhone and iPod touch â€“ here’s how to get the most from the new operating system.
:: Folders â€“ Sick of having your applications spread across multiple pages on your iPhone? Never fear, because iOS4 allows you to create folders for your apps. Each folder can store up to 12 apps, allowing you to collate your travel apps, productivity apps, games and social networking tools into single folders. The iPhone will automatically give each folder a name, based on the kind of apps it contains, but you can also give the folder your own label if you want. You can create folders through the iPhone emulator in iTunes, or on the device itself, by pressing and holding an app icon until it wobbles, and then dragging and dropping it over the icon of another app you’d like to place in the same folder.
:: Multitasking â€“ iOS4 brings multitasking to iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS and the third-generation iPod touch. It means that you can have multiple apps running simultaneously, such as listening to Spotify while writing an email. At the moment, very few app developers have upgraded their apps to support multitasking, but expect to install a rash of app updates in the coming weeks as software writers rush to support the new capabilities. Apple’s official apps, such as Safari and Mail, are already multitasking compatible, so you can get the merest hint of what that new function will eventually offer by playing around with those programs. Double-tap the Home button to bring up a Dock containing recently opened apps â€“ swipe to the right to scroll through the carousel, choose the app you want to switch to, and it will flip in to view.
:: Unified mailbox â€“ If you’ve got multiple email accounts, you can view your messages as a single unified inbox in iOS4. The new software also “threads” conversations, which makes it easier to keep organised; a small number appears on the inbox preview pane beside an email to denote the number of messages in that conversation. If you click on a threaded message, you are taken through to a second inbox-like interface that expands all of the messages in that conversation. If you prefer to keep your home and work life separate, you can still view emails by account.
:: iBooks â€“ Apple’s ebook-reading software, iBooks, is now available on the iPhone and iPod touch, as is its ebook download service, iBookstore. If you download iBooks from the App Store, you also get a copy of Winnie the Pooh, complete with too-cute-for-words illustrations. From your virtual bookshelf, you can click through to the iBookstore to buy and download other titles of your choice. The selection is a little more limited than, say, Amazon’s Kindle store, and pricing still seems high, but it’s not bad if you’re miles from a bookshop and want something to stave off boredom on a long journey.
:: Better photography tools â€“ If you want a better camera, you’ll need to upgrade to iPhone 4, which boasts a five-megapixel snapper with LED flash. But if you simply want your existing iPhone camera to do more, then iOS4 does offer some neat new features. The first is an update to the Photos app, so that it now supports Albums, Events and Places, and you can also search through photos by Faces â€“ by the names of people featured in an image. The software update also adds the “tap to focus” feature (allowing you to tap on the screen to decide the focal point of a shot or video recording) to older iPhones, and it also adds a 5x digital zoom for still photos.
:: Web search â€“ Spotlight search on the iPhone is already pretty cool, allowing you to search through apps, contact, emails, music and notes to quickly and easily find what you’re looking for. The iOS4 update adds one clever party trick â€“ the ability to use the Sportlight bar to search for something on the internet or on Wikipedia, without having to boot up Safari first.
:: Orientation lock â€“ If you’ve ever tried using your iPhone in bed, then you’ll know that the screen often flips annoyingly from portrait to landscape mode as soon as you snuggle down in to your pillow. Apple has thankfully solved this problem with the addition of an “orientation lock”, enabling you to keep the iPhone screen in portrait mode regardless of how you’re sitting or laying. Double-tap the Home button to bring up the multitasking Dock, and swipe to the left. This brings up music playback controls (which will not only operate the iPod, but any music app, such as Last.fm), and, on the far left of the screen, an arrow icon. That’s the orientation lock, and you simply tap it to keep the screen locked in portrait mode. A padlock symbol then appears on the status bar at the top of the iPhone’s screen to remind you the display is locked.