iPhone OS 4.0: is it low-power, multitasking heaven?

Q. What is the difference between iPhone OS and Android?

A. Android (or even Pre’s WebOS) is a multi-tasking operating system - which means you can check your email while Pandora’s music is playing in the background.

You cannot do this with the iPhone .

Q. Err.. why?

A. Because Apple claims to have tested and found that background tasks consume upto 80% more power.

Q. So what now?

Here’s an idea I have been having for a while now. It started when I started thinking about why are cloned Chinese phones not carrying Android. I mean you have phones with mock Android UI, so why would’nt a clonephone manufacturer simply get Android on.

I believe it is the power consumption.

You see cloned phones suck in battery life anyway… atleast after the first few weeks anyway. But that’s OK - what else can you expect from a $100 phone. Now background apps should make that suck, so much much more.

Which is when I started thinking about even based multi-tasking. I had worked once on a sort of event based P2P in Java.

So, let’s see.

There are four basic types of background activities that a person might want :

1. Sensor based: for example apps tracking changes in your GPS co-ordinates, orientation, etc.

2. Communication based: for example, your bittorrent going on in the background, or a transfer via bluetooth.

3. Media based: for example, your music playing in the background while you do something.

4. Time based: for example, your insulin medication alarm kicking in every 3 hours.

Things like, you having your word processor running in the background is actually useless - because you can save the current document state and reload it everytime you click on it.

Why not make three schedulers, where apps can register themselves and have pseudo multitasking.

For example, Pandora could simply register itself with the media-scheduler and it just provides the URI (full path, either remote or local, along with authentication information) along with the interval during which the scheduler has to invoke a callback (maybe one playlist has finished, should I loop back?). The actual playing is done by the OS and its codecs.

Similarly, you could have a Lonely Planet app running in the background, which registers itself with the location-scheduler, so that a callback gets invoked at every 1-degree change in location.

What this could potentially provide is a way for people to enjoy multi-tasking without paying the battery penalty.

Of course, Apple and its RDF have painted a very different picture in their patent application where all they have claimed is changes in response to ”life events” .. whatever they are.

I believe that they have actually not patented a media-based event, like background playlists. Probably we should be looking at incorporating that into Android, as a fork - say AndroidLite. What could emerge is a low-powered, restricted multi-tasking OS which satisfies 90% of all consumer requirements.


iPhone OS 4.0: is it low-power, multitasking heaven?


July 15, 2009

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