Thursday, June 3, 2010

Multitasking for the iPhone

I didn’t think that multitasking was a big deal for my iPhone when I got it. I’d had it on the Google G1, but didn’t realize that it was a big deal. After all, I really only “see” one thing on the phone at a time. And having come off Windows Mobile 6.0 before that, I was leery of draining resources that are very limited on a phone.

However as I’ve used it more and more, often going from the camera to upload a photo, to Twitter, and the Kindle app to read, I have become frustrated by the time it takes to start up apps, especially for reading. I’ve been interrupted by text messages, and while I can ignore them and continue reading or tweeting or something, if I respond, the app closes.


That was one reason I didn’t but an iPad right away. It would have made a great work tool for me, especially for travel, but the lack of multi-tasking, even limited multitasking like on Android, would be necessary since I often want more than mail running in the background.

My iPhone is jailbroken and unlocked. After all, how else could I have a little “T-Mobile” text note in the upper left.


I had heard about Backgrounder, an application for jailbroken phones that allows them to multitask, but had been wary of applying it. I had an issue once before and had to re-jailbreak my phone and I’ve been nervous about making too many changes. However the battery is dying and I’ll need to replace it or the phone, soon. I am tempted by OS4, so I’m willing to take a chance here. The worst thing that happens is I go back to my G1 temporarily while I decide on something else.


I downloaded Backgrounder the other day and turned it on. It’s a separate app that you configure on the phone, with various options such as the defaults for how a background app runs, but it hooks into the phone OS so it’s always available.

I used the defaults, which means that when you run an application, if you want it to run in the background, you hold the Home button down while the app is running and you’ll get a message that background running is enabled. Something like this:


I was wary of using it on Twitter, since there are API limits and I hit them at times. If I’m on the road, I might, but instead, I used it on the Kindle and Barnes and Noble apps, since I have a book I’m reading on each one of them.

It. is. cool.

When I do something else, I can come back to either book instantly. The downside for the Kindle app is that it doesn’t sync by default, so I need to mark a sync spot if I move to another device.

However it’s very, very calming to not have to wait for the Kindle app to initialize and then sync every time I want to read. And it means I’m more likely to switch between my reading apps more often, and finally get back to War and Peace.

This truly is something that needs to come to the iPhone OS, and I’m looking forward to the announcement by Apple this weekend.

No comments: