Cupertino, California (Wired) -- Apple unveiled details of its next-generation iPhone operating system Thursday in a press event at the company's headquarters here.
The new operating system, iPhone OS 4, will be released to developers this week and to consumers this summer. It will give developers access to calendar, photo library, still image and video data, and includes features aimed at helping apps run faster.
As expected, the new OS will support multitasking of apps.
"We weren't the first to this party but we're going to be the best, just like cut and paste," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, alluding to the fact that cut-and-paste hadn't been available until a year after the first iPhone launched.
"It's really easy to implement multitasking in a way that drains battery life. If you don't do it just right your phone's going to feel sluggish and your battery life is going to go way down. We've figured out how to implement multitasking of third-party apps and avoid those things."
With the new OS, users will be able to press the home button twice to see a menu of all the currently active apps, which appears as a bar along the bottom of the screen. Tapping one of the apps takes you directly into that app. Apps can remain running in the background.
Apple demonstrated how you can keep listening to music in Pandora while doing other things on the phone, and how the phone could deliver push notifications to alert users to an incoming Skype call.
"It was really simple to implement. Just a dozen lines of code," said Skype's head of product development David Ponsford.
To address privacy concerns, the OS will also let you know (via a notification on the app's icon) when an app running in the background has requested your location from the device's GPS.
The announcement comes less than a week after Apple's launch of its tablet computer, the iPad. Jobs said the company had sold 450,000 iPads to date, and that users have downloaded more than 1 million iPad applications and over 650,000 digital books from the iBooks store.
Jobs also added that the company has sold more than 50 million iPhones and 35 million iPod Touches.
TheiPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad all run iPhone OS 3.0. The operating system is based on an OS X core, but with a touch-centric interface and optimizations aimed at increasing screen responsiveness and maximizing battery life.
The current iPhone OS has been widely criticized for its lack of support for full multitasking: It only allows a few core apps, such as iPod and Mail, to run in the background while another app is active. The OS also restricts add-on software to apps available through Apple's App Store.
The App Store currently contains 185,000 apps, Jobs said, adding than users have downloaded more than 4 billion apps from it to date. About 3,500 of those apps are optimized for the iPad.
The new OS also gives users the ability to group apps in folders, instead of just laying them out on the home screens.
Other features planned for iPhone OS 4 include a 5x digital zoom feature in the camera, and the ability to tap to focus in video. (Tap to focus was already available for still images in iPhone OS 3.)
Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!
Copyright 2011 Wired.com.