In my opinion, multitasking is the single biggest feature that has been added to the iPad since its more humble beginnings in 2010. While it was certainly possible to use earlier iPads as tools for creation, rather than just consumption, it was this feature that allowed users to take the greatest advantage of tablet’s the screen real estate and increasingly powerful processors. For me personally, this is the feature that makes my 12.9″ iPad Pro more than just an oversized tablet. As much as I love using the Apple Pencil, I use multitasking multiple times a day, every day.
Just about everyone I know who has updated to iOS 4.2 and tried out the Multitasking Bar for rapid app switching loves this new feature. I definitely do as well. But .. nearly everyone I talk to about the ‘multitasking’ of apps (which is misused term, but that’s another story) is concerned about how many apps end up running in the Multitasking Bar. They worry about what effect this has on their battery life or even on general performance of their iPad.
From what I can gather about how the Multitasking Bar works, there are a couple of things to note about apps and ‘running’ in the background via the Multitasking Bar (which I’m going to shorten to MT Bar for the rest of this post), such as:
— Very few apps are actually running in the background when you see them listed in the MT Bar. The only ones that are really running (and multitasking) are ones that use one of the very limited set of allowed background services – for example navigation apps or music apps like Pandora Radio – each of which are allowed to have a defined sort of process that can run in the background.
— The vast majority of apps that are shown in the MT Bar are just recently used apps that are ‘resident’ to some extent, but without any truly active process associated with them, but not fully closed. To fully close them you tap and hold on any one of them, wait for the apps to wiggle and show a red minus symbol above each, and tap the minus symbol for the one you want to close.
Image Source: columbia.edu
Apple Insider has a great article up today, offering a very good reminder on what multitasking really means, and what some of the downsides of it are (more opportunities for malware for example). It also outlines some of the ways we may see multitasking and rapid app switching implemented on the iPad.
Outside of notifications, there are other features related to multitasking that iPad users may want to see addressed. One is local background services such as Pandora radio. Apple’s forthcoming iPhone OS 4.0 is anticipated to either allow users to select specific apps to run in the background, or roll those services into the system, or to enable specific background tasks.
This could allow apps like Pandora to begin a background task that continues even when the user quits the app. With the iPad’s faster processor, the ability to run a limited number of background services might be less of an issue as it currently is on the iPhone.