iPhone 4 Firmware Reveals File-Sharing, Orientation Lock, and How to Close Multitasking Apps [Updated]

Apple‘s just released the latest developer firmware before the official iPhone 4.0 roll-out. This is geeky. What is not geeky is some of the secrets it reveals about the future iPhone workings. Apple seems to have utterly nailed it.

iphone file share


Apple‘s just released the latest developer firmware before the official iPhone 4.0 roll-out. This is geeky. What is not geeky is some of the secrets it reveals about the future iPhone workings. Apple seems to have utterly nailed it.

File sharing direct to iPhone

This is an oft-requested feature by the more traditionally minded iPhone user, used to managing files in folders on desktops rather than the iPhone OS’s hidden file management layer, but it’s going to be damn useful all the same: Apple’s enabling direct user-manageable file transfer between your computer and your iPhone (and later, presumably, your iPad). It’s a question of syncing the two devices, then clicking through to the Apps tab in the iPhone and scrolling down to the “Files” section, from where you can drag and drop stuff to and from your main computer. As the name suggests, Apple’s keeping a certain degree of control over this, and you can’t just dump files of any type willy-nilly–it’s app driven. For now it looks like only Mail is enabled, but it’s certain that other apps, like Pages and whatnot, will get this power by the time the OS officially rolls out.


Orientation lock and widgets

The iPad’s physical-switch orientation lock is handy for those reading-an-ebook-in-bed moments when the device’s gyros might otherwise detect your reading position incorrectly. It too is a feature oft-requested for the iPhone, but it looks like it won’t be replicated in hardware for the iPhone 2010–it’s appeared as part of iPhone 4.0’s multitasking pop-up panel as a virtual button. Hence, for users prone to using their iPhone when…erm…prone, a quick double-tap of the home button then a left-swipe will bring up the menu, then it’s just a question of clicking the icon.

Apple’s engineers have obviously decided that this new menu has some useful functionality, though, and have viewed it as a mini widget portal, of sorts, because there’s also now a quick-access button to get to the iPod app (previously accessible by a double click of home in earlier iPhone OSs) as well as very basic iPod controls.


Closing Apps

Introducing multitasking also introduces the issue of users managing which apps are running (though iPhone 4 does a pretty good job of this automatically). That means letting users close active apps from the multitasking menu. Apple’s just tweaked this, not a lot, but in a way that makes it super easy to do: It’s now just like the old “delete app” function, where you hold your finger down over an app’s icon. The OS then enters a “close app” mode, which lets you shut down as many sequentially as you like.

iPhone 2010 summary

iPhone 4

So with this news, the earlier iPhone 4.0 data, and information gleaned by Gizmodo from the leaked iPhone 2010 prototype, what can we work out about this year’s new iPhone experience? A lot. Here’s a guesstimated specs list:

  • Size: Similar to iPhone 3GS, just squarer and a tiny bit shallower
  • Weight: Similar to iPhone 3GS
  • Battery life: Possibly up to 20% more for all functions, dependent on software power management
  • Screen: High res, possibly 940 by 640 pixels (four times as many as before)
  • Camera: Front facing, possibly VGA (may be higher though.) Read facing, 5 megapixels, with flash
  • Multitasking: Check
  • Direct file transfers: Check
  • Screen orientation lock: Check
  • Direct wireless printing: Probably
  • Proper support for Bluetooth keyboard in iPhone: Possibly (to support iPhone iWork apps.)
  • ARM-based 1GHz CPU: Very likely

Add those together and you have a smartphone positioned to challenge the growing army of Android phones, but coming with the provenance of the iPhone’s history, lots of Apple chic, and hundreds of thousands of existing apps. iPhone 2010 with iPhone 4.0 aboard is going to be, let’s face it, the bees knees…and since many of these powers will also be available on older iPhones too, when their firmware is updated, it’s a bit of a win-win for iPhone fans.


Update: Well, who’d’ve thunk it? With fabulous timeliness, MacRumors has been digging through the new SDK codes and has uncovered hints that the iPhone 2010 will be able to record video in 1024 x 720 pixel resolutions. That’s 720p, folks, or the same resolution as many a basic HDTV sports. This implies the camera (and its ancillary hardware) is better than we may have hoped for. Dare we imagine it also has a physical zoom capability?

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About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)