Today in Apple history: iOS 4 brings multitasking and FaceTime

By

The iPhone 4 was a beautiful iPhone on every level.
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 brings FaceTime and other important updates

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-check, 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.

In addition, iOS 4 delivered a host of other neat innovations. These included Home screen folders, a new unified Mail inbox capable of managing different accounts, and a zoom mode and tap-to-focus features for the camera, web and Wikipedia results in Universal Search. It also added geo-location to help sort your images (an early precursor to the AI filtering seen in iOS 10).

FaceTime, Game Center and iBooks

iOS 4’s biggest talking point was the addition of FaceTime, Apple’s proprietary app that 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.)

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 Game Center in 2016.)

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.

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