Today in Apple history: iOS 4 brings FaceTime and multitasking


Next year's iPhone could resemble the classic iPhone 4.
iOS 4 brought important new features to iPhones and the recently released iPad.
Photo: Yutaka Tsutano/Ste Smith

June 21: Today in Apple history: Apple releases iOS 4, which brings multitasking and FaceTime June 21, 2010: Apple releases iOS 4, which introduces a range of productivity features as well as the FaceTime videotelephony service.

iOS 4 represents a big step forward for Apple’s flourishing mobile devices. Due to the arrival of the first-gen iPad earlier in the year, iOS 4 also brings a transition from the mobile operating system’s original name, “iPhone OS.”

iOS 4 release brings important updates to iPhone, iPad

Steve Jobs first showed off iOS 4 at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 7, 2010, alongside the iPhone 4. The new mobile OS made it exceedingly clear that the iPhone was now a productivity tool in its own right, rather than simply an entertainment device.

iOS 4 ladled on new features, including spell-checking, Bluetooth keyboard compatibility and Home screen backgrounds. Most crucially, however, it brought multitasking to the iPhone for the first time.

The update gave users the ability to keep certain apps running in the background while using others (for instance, playing music while reading a website). It also made it easy to skip between different open apps.

FaceTime, Game Center and iBooks

In addition, iOS 4 delivered a host of other neat innovations. These included Home screen folders and a new unified Mail inbox capable of managing different accounts. A new geolocation feature made it easier to sort your images (an early precursor to the AI filtering that arrived in iOS 10).

Apple’s new software for iPhone and iPad also added a zoom mode and tap-to-focus features for the camera, plus web and Wikipedia results in Universal Search.

However, iOS 4’s biggest talking point was the addition of FaceTime. Apple’s proprietary app let iPhone and iPad users communicate in real time using audio and video. FaceTime earned good reviews from most users, but the deaf community in particular embraced the new technology, which worked well with sign language. (Apple emphasized this capability in a FaceTime ad at the time.)

Some new iOS 4 features proved controversial

Not everything about Apple’s new mobile OS proved successful, however. It also introduced two controversial new apps: Game Center and iBooks.

A social network for gamers, Game Center never really caught on. (Apple quietly killed the Game Center app in 2016, although it continues to function as a social gaming network.)

iBooks, meanwhile, showcased Apple’s new excitement about e-books. That ultimately landed the company in hot water after Cupertino colluded with publishers to fix e-book prices.

iOS 4: An important update

Do you remember iOS 4? What were your thoughts on it? Leave your comments below.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.