Apple to Allow Limited Background Multi-Tasking for Apps in iPhone 3.0?

iPhone SDK: No Multi-Tasking

Business Insider rumormongers that Apple might be considering some limited form of multi-tasking, perhaps as early as iPhone 3.0, which would allow 3rd party apps to run as background tasks. They point to two possible models:

  1. Apple might allow users to select two apps that can run in the background.
  2. Apple might selectively allow some apps to run in the background. We assume that developers could apply for permission to run in the background, and that Apple might approve or deny them based on the resources they need and how well they behave with the operating system's stability.

Daring Fireball steps up to throw a combo of water and fuel on that particular fire:

I heard something very similar from a decent (but second-hand) source back in January during Macworld Expo. What I heard then was that Apple was working on a vastly improved dock for your most-frequently used apps, and that there’d be one special icon position where you could put a third-party app to enable it to run in the background.

Gruber also rightly points out that the iPhone 3G's 128MB of RAM is likely the constraining factor to current generation multitasking and that won't change with the iPhone 3.0 firmware. If reports of at least 512MB of RAM in a 3rd generation iPhone are to be believed, however, this could be a much more compelling and powerful feature.

A dock that slides up like a slot-limited version of Google's Android app shelf maybe? And one that grants background permission to anything placed inside it? Yes please.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 21 comments. Add yours.

TosaDeac says:

I think the idea of a dock with spots for ANY third party Apps to run in the background, but if they do it a different way and make it a SECOND application process it is just going to open up a bigger can of worms

j says:

yes, please. while most apps would do just as well with PNS, there are few like pandora, that have no use for notifications.

josh says:

i gotta say. i hope this gets thoroughly tested first. lag and 'spinning hour glass' hang-ups are one of the main reasons i'm sick of BB and looking to convert. if Apple allows background processes to run, i'd hate to see them hinder the iPhone's reputation for a dependable OS.
i tried using a 3rd party app on my BB last night to simply send an MMS photo to my wife. between the lag from background programs (google sync, viigo updates) and battery-pulls, it took nearly 20 minutes to complete. rediculous... before you ask, yes, i've switched to 'manual updates' from now on.

killakow says:

I would love to be able to have the MLB app running in the background. It sucks when I have to relaunch it after each time I get an SMS

Danny says:

From being a previous jailbreaker I know that my only app that I want ro run in the background is f-stream and I know that the current hardware setup can (just about) handle it... I'm sure that apple can implement something!

Ed says:

Allowing background apps would be huge for the enterprise user. It would allow for Goodlink and would permit me to add the iPhone to our list of "approved" enterprise devices.

Drake says:

I've been wondering if they would allow certain devs to apply and they could get it OR allow a few apps to run. Hopefully Apple will. :)
Tweetie and Pandora in the background would be awesome!

dloveprod says:

They should allow it and just let people chose which ones they want to run themselves, were big boys and girls, if we notice our battery is draining quick or phone is lagging we can chose to cut back which ones we run

jasonact says:

Why do you need Twitter running in the background? If the Push notification service works the way it's supposed to, that would be all Twitter needs.
Streaming audio apps like Pandora, MLB At Bat, and Public Radio are the apps that really need to run in the background. Also, I think this would open up the possibility for a third party to build support for a universal BT keyboard with the new API. Sell it with a free app that integrated with the phone, have it running in the background, and you have a BT keyboard without Apple doing anything new.

YoungKevin says:

Good point but 3rd party apps can't read or write to others apps therefore even if Apple were to allow that app background processes the Bluetooth keyboard still wouldn't be able to work outside of that app.
This is why you don't have enter a pin when connecting to Bluetooth in 3.0 because Apple knows there will be alot of connecting and disconnecting when switching between apps.

Rajiv says:

Why doesn't Apple limit the total number of apps that can be run in the background (say, two or three) instead of picking-and-choosing which apps to allow? Perhaps giving the end-user freedom-of-choice would be a better decision.

Danny Rodri says:

Apple Approving Apps to be able to run in the background?
Yeah right I think this would only help fuel the current controversy about Apple not approving apps to the store. That's what we need more angry developers arguing why their app didn't get approved to run in the background and another one with similar functions did.
Just a thought.

Tim Lems says:

This report could have some truth for the following reason- google latitude! Google announced ages ago there would be a app for the iPhone, but now we are months later, and still nothing! What is google waiting for? I think they might have convinced apple to let it run in the background on 3.0! I believe apple will choose what apps we can run in the background, at least it is something.

Milo says:

Sounds good.
Hopefully the iPhone won't lag like hell though

Appleking says:

Ha apple now wanna do it because the pre has done it well. The sling player issue already has me leaving wack ass at&t to sprint for the pre.

Steve says:

Why is it so hard to believe his could be true? Apple could simply allow us to choose one or two 3rd party apps to run in the background in exchange for using the iPod and phone in the background.
For example, if one wants to use BeejiveIM and MLB in the background, they couldn't listen to the iPod or receive calls. That would leave the RAM issue basically the way it already is now.

fassy says:

I would be surprised to see this right away - except perhaps for select test partner apps like Google latitude - because I would expect Apple at the very least would release APIs so an app can respond to going foreground-> background and vice-versa, to conserve resources. They also seem the type of company who would set guidelines, if not restrict what can be called, for being a well-behaved background app. It will eventually happen, but not right away for 3.0.

frog says:

Steve: if Apple allow customers to run MLB in the background in exchange for not being able to receive phone calls - I'll eat my iPhone!

Steve says:

What's the difference whether one receives calls or receives voicemails? People can already choose not to answer their phones.

Dave Jackson says:

Great info...thanks for the post. Came across a site which had some pretty cool wallpapers.