Unlike the original attempt for iOS 4 that was somewhat limited — probably because Apple wanted to preserve battery life — the introduction of smarter multitasking APIs in iOS 7 will give users and developers the opportunity to utilize their iDevices more than ever before. So for those who’ve always wanted something like a PC’s multitasking capabilities, your wishes are a bit closer to coming true.
One major feature of the new multitasking APIs is the ability to perform app updates in the background at times convenient to the user. Apple’s iOS developer portal explains: “The new services allow your app to update information and download content in the background without draining the battery unnecessarily. The updates can happen at opportunistic times and are intelligently scheduled according to usage, so your app can update content in the background just when your users need it.”
The content update feature also waits until the device is connected to wi-fi or a strong 3G signal before trying to perform updates, periodically waking up in the background to check for new content. Developers can also use push notifications to trigger the updates so users see the new content when they launch the app.
The most obvious change in iOS multitasking is the new preview screen and user interface. You can still double-click the home button to bring up the preview screen, but it now features a card-based display that shows the current state of each app and its icon. To kill an app, you swipe upwards on its preview card and watch it disappear.
While users won’t get the full multitasking capabilities of a desktop computer, iOS 7 greatly enhances productivity while saving battery life. But until iOS 7 actually reaches the market, and developers update their apps to use the new features, it’s hard to determine how the new operating system will affect the battery.
Still, if you’re responsible for apps that rely on regularly updated content, multitasking alone is worth updating for iOS 7. If you haven’t started yet, you might want to burn the midnight oil. Rumor has it the iOS 7 Golden Master will make its debut in a matter of days.