For those of you who have jailbroken iphones, and have read my top ten reasons to jailbreak, know about backgrounder.
This is a great jailbreak app that allows you to run applications in the background. And its one of those apps that I have a hard time living without. Yes, I have a feeling it could be making my phone slower by getting in the way of memory garbage collection, but the jury is out on that. And even if that was the case, its still worth it.
So now we have iOS4 available for download. So far I have not heard anybody complaining yet, but I’m going to hold off for a week and see if those on the 3g with the slower processor feel the difference. But that is not what I want to talk about.
Instead, I’m going to explore the question of whether we need backgrounder anymore with mutitasking on the iOS4. I read a good review on Artstechnica talking about what iOS4 multitasking will and will not do. Here is a quick bullet point summation.
- Streaming Audio: You saw in the demo how streaming audio can continue in the background. This is a Major win. I have tested with AOL Radio or Stitcher, but I would assume they will update their apps if a new call is needed.
- VoIP: Like streaming audio, you can run your VoIP in background as demo’ed with Skype. Another MAJOR win.
- GPS : Apps can keep calling GPS while running in the background. This is fantastic, BUT what if its a driving app? Like GPS Drive? Will voice commands still work in the background?
- Kind of multi threading: I think we all know now that iOS4 does not support multithreading as we think about it on the desktop or WebOS. (At least I have the impression the WebOS supports it), but it does let some tasks that have been sent to the background to finish up. But when you are ‘fast app switching’ what you are really doing is setting one app to ‘pause’ while you run the other app.
So this all sounds great right? What could be the issue? Well, the problem is, as I understand it, that the apps still do not have full access to all API calls that iOS4 offers. In other words, you have a limited set of functions that can be allowed to run in the background, so if your app relies on just one function that is not on the background white list, then your app will not run in the background. Perhaps you want to film something on the camera while reading something off the web. Or perhaps you want an app that is always checking for SMS message in order to read them to you while something else is running. (This is an actual case btw). So since only a select few apps will be able to fully take advantage of running multitasking, I’m thinking there is still a case for the jailbreak version of backgrounder.
So based on what I have read, I think I still want my backgrounder, and thus until I hear of a good reliable jailbreak for 4.0, I’m going to hold off because that is really the only interesting new feature iOS4 is offering.