Steve Jobs: Why iPhone 3G didn't get iOS 4 wallpaper

iOS 4 default homescreen

When it was subtly footnoted that iPhone 3G and iPod touch G2 wouldn't be getting iOS 4-style wallpaper, our only guess as to why was CoreAnimation performance -- Apple couldn't do their transitions over the textured background at levels that met their auteur standards.

Erica emailed Steve Jobs to find out:

Hey Steve! I just upgraded my iPhone 3G to iOS 4 and was really looking forward to setting a background on my home screen. Guess that's not happening, but I'd like to know why.

And Steve Jobs replied:

The icon animation with backgrounds didn't perform well enough.

Jailbreak users have been theming since before there was an iPhone 3G, of course, just like they were recording video and multitasking, but Apple won't put their brand on anything they consider sub-par in the performance area.

So there you have it.


Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 52 comments. Add yours.

Bshecko says:

My 2G doesn't run nearly as smooth with jailbroken themes. That being said, aren't the phone specs the same as the 3G? If that's the case I agree. Performance lagged considerably. Not to say it can't be done, just not smooth at all.

Pinny says:

Even on my 3GS, things definitely lag. I would say it was a smart move to keep certain features off the 3G.

macharborguy says:

I can agree as well. I had a background on my 3G with a jailbreak, even the bare minimum jailbreak to get that feature, and it just seemed to lag the home screen switches even more than it was lagged before jailbreaking.

fastlane says:

I said this over two years ago (that Apple didn't want things half-azz) when features weren't being added, and I was met with arguments from many others telling me I was dead wrong because other phones had them.
HA!! So there!

ichorus says:

The background seems to work just fine in the folders....IN fact would the folders not be more of a drain on things? Maybe they sacrificed wallpaper so folders would work well. Or maybe its all BULL. Either way, I'm getting an iPhone 4 next month on pay day (if a contract is out of the question)

Tis says:

But a Bluetooth keyboard is sill missing, come on that can't hurt performance that bad.

alf says:

@ pinny. Good point when I was jailbroken on my 3gs, thing did seem laggy. It worked but something just didn't feel right.

marcell says:

A lot of the animations that were silky smooth on the 3GS have been slowed down with the addition of the wallpaper. It's not quite 3G bad, but it is noticeable. It would be god-awful if that was on the iPhone 3G.

Maniacfive says:

I was also a little disappointed by this, However, I soon got over the home screen disappointment with folders. Its not like the 2nd gen devices were completely left out in the cold :-)
but with any luck come thursday I wont be stuck with my 3G :)

Glenn#IM says:

The black, and grey looks nice with folders. It would have been nice to have wallpaper, but I can wait.

WilhelmR says:

Then just enable the wallpaper and disable the cheap animations?
I just seems so steve-jobs-obvious to do that.. yet he didn't.

Greg Braddock says:

Might I recommend to to get a disqus style commenting section so that we can reply to each other without having to scroll through all of the messages?
On topic, I am definitely noticing a small lag in my 3G since upgrade to iOS 4. I can't imagine how terribly bad it would be with certain features like multitasking and I guess wallpapers. Have no fear, Thursday will soon be here.

Geo Coldz says:

It added a whole bunch of shadows that we didn't need. Those could have been removed. Then it would run smooth on the 3g and 2G iPod.

taupecat says:

My husband (iPhone 3G owner) remarked that he didn't even like the icon animation. Now we learn that he can't have background wallpaper on his home screen because of it? That's kinda sucky.

Orangensaft says:

Translation of Steve's email:
Buy an iPhone 4. You know you want to.

ghostface147 says:

People should be happy that they even get the update. Not many companies still update phones that are more than 1 generation behind. Android comes to mind...

excaliburca says:

I actually keep my background black with my JB 3G. Had a wallpaper before and fine, like a lot of other people, that it works much better without it.

Plaz says:

Could we have at least gotten the screen orientation lock?? I don't think that would have affected performance at all.

terryzx says:

That sure looks BORING now
I'm really glad I went with my VERIZON DROID INCREDIBLE instead of going to AT$T

Drake says:

We all know that's bull (to an extent). Apple is forcing an upgrade and they know it.
On the other hand, I'm on a 3G and I noticed that iOS 4 is little sluggish at times. So part of it truly is the hardware. But they want to sell iPhone 4's like hotcakes and preorders have shown that they are.

iDavey says:

17 Ghostface
You're speaking out of ignorance. Android doesn't keep older phones from being updated, manufacturers do.
And what phone (besides G1) isn't update worthy? Only other phones I see that aren't being updated are phones that didn't sell (read: Behold II). So why would a company waste time and money to set up an update for a phone that barely sold.
That's like Apple taking the time out to make sure the iOS 4 was for iPhone First Gen. Almost nobody has that phone anymore, so they have quit support and kept focus on the phones people still own. It's basic business. You support phones still in rotation; making a profit. All put to the side.

Faulkner2392 says:

GhostFace147 is right. The 3G is an old phone especially in the technology world standards. Stop complaining and upgrade. You're running old ass hardware. Deal with it, or pay to upgrade to a current model phone like those of us who do. 3G dosen't deserve an upgrade at all. It's out of date and won't be sold anymore. Stop whining about your outdated hardware not getting up to date software.

iDavey says:

20 Plaz
Dear Plaz,
Screen orientation would have affected the GPU and caused mass meltdowns of over 20 nuclear power plants.
Steve Jobs
Sent from my iPad

Dood says:

I'll accept that answer from Steve.

francolasalsa#IM says:

Truth be told is apple wants you buying an iPhone every 2 years. That's not that bad considering that's when people should be upgrading anyway.

cardfan says:

If Apple doesn't do half azz, then explain itunes on windows.

E$F says:

I'll explain iTunes on windows - office on Mac

Joel says:

I wish we would have known this! I've just spent the last hour re-restoring and re-updating my iPhone, thinking something was wrong.

macharborguy says:

@Joel: Wish you would have known what? That the iPhone 3G was not getting wallpapers? Where have you been since the Gold Master was released? Most anyone who was actually paying attention to the Apple/iPhone news sites knew that the iPhone 3G was not getting features like Multitasking, Bluetooth Keyboards and Home Screen wallpapers.

Jumbo says:

...or push notifications

Joel says:

@Rob: I must have missed the news about the Wallpapers, I've head about everything else. I received an error that my update didn't complete successfully when I first updated to 4.0 yesterday. I was thinking that may have had something to do with it.

ichorus says:

@Rob maybe he saw the apple website and thought otherwise seen as they only updated the 3g version to have no wallpaper yesterday.

ZC says:

What a crock, another lie from SJobs. When I did have a liePhone, it was jailbroken and entire themes with custom icons, etc, worked just fine on my 3G. Its quite funny to watch you all highjacked by this fool.

Max Bloom says:

On my 3G, when I first updated it it did show the water drop background but as soon as it started to restore my other phone it went back to all black.

Jumbo says:

Apple doesn't do half-ass? Obviously Jobs approved iOS4 for iPhone 3G, as this very email indicates, certain features were specifically removed for a custom 3G build. And yet, our perfectly functional 3.1.3 phones of yesterday are slow and unstable turds today. Either
A) Apple is incompetent at determining the capabilities of its own hardware
B) Apple is being disingenuous and offering an upgrade to customers - with no simple downgrade path - purposely designed to make people unhappy with their current model and buy a new one.
There is no option C.

Mom of NaaX2 says:

I finally got the software update, but can't seem to get the waterdrops wallpaper to set. Oh, well. It took 6 tries to get the update as I kept "timing out" so beggars can't be chosers I guess.

brian1269 says:

Well this is still unacceptable to me. Looks like it's a fault of Apple's OS if it can't handle a simple thing like changing wallpaper.

Dexter says:

Mom of NaaX2,
Did you even read any of the previous entries?

brian1269 says:

You know, when I got my 3G two years ago, it was the best option on the market. Android was not out yet, Palm was a joke, and Crackberry does not appeal to me. But I'm getting tired of these silly restrictions that Apple puts on its phones. Is it time to go to Google?

Dexter says:

I still have a 3G and will keep it even after my iPhone 4 arrives and guess what? I will never update it from OS 3.1.3 because my jailbreak is working awesomely! I've got video wallpapers without much slowdown to the phone as a whole and I can't wait until they jailbreak the iPhone 4 so I can use biteSMS where I can reply to text messages from the lockscreen! ;)

brian1269 says:

@Dexter, There you go, you've proved my point perfectly. If others can figure out how to do all this stuff that the iPhone supposedly isn't up to according to Steve Jobs, then what is Apple's excuse?

Al says:

They should also take out animations completely if that's the case. My iPhone 3G rarely produces an animation at full frame rate.

J1CA says:

Ok once again I update a app and it keeps showing up on the app store to update it. When I already did WTF anybody else with the problem??

jasonact says:

The "excuse" is that Apple has certain standards for its products, and it has a right hold all of their products to that standard, even if the end user doesn't always have as high of a standard. I think time has shown that customers are willing to put up with these restrictions because of the other benefits the iPhone provides. I'm glad to see Google coming on strong and Palm and even Microsoft making strong contributions to the field, but I can certainly see Apple's point. And for now, I don't think they have any reason to change that. It's not like it's hurting sales. People are free to explore other options, but for now enough people still find the iPhone the most compelling option.

Chad Tanaka says:

I'm enjoying the update on my 3GS. My gut feeling is that the slowdown on 3G is real, and gave Jobs just enough justification to remove it and cause users to desire upgrading to 4.
It's not BS, but rather savvy, sneaky marketing by one of the modern masters.

Yarrah says:

Thank god for the jailbraking scene.
I can't believe I am finally considering to ditch iPhone at all. I've always been an stubborn Apple Iphone fan, telling everybody why iPhone is so great. But I think I've come to realize it is not that great. It has very strong points, but also there are some stupid flaws (like this one).
A wallpaper on the background won't slow down the phone at all. I mean, even my old trutworthy RAZR can change its backtground, it even has animated backgrounds. That is just STUPID. I hate it how Steve is so cheeky and people support all that nonsense.
I'm kinda dissapointed :(

Ascaris says:

Eh... I jailbroke my 3G with redsn0w earlier today and had it give me wallpaper and multitasking support. And trust me, I think Apple was right not to include both of them considering how effing laggy my phone's become. It's laggy even if I'm not running ANY apps in the background, which is probably the wallpaper hogging resources.
This little incident has sure changed my mind. I plan to upgrade to a 3Gs at least as soon as possible.

Maddy... says:

Are there any reasons why a 3G phone owner who is happy with OS version 3.1.3 should need to upgrade to iOS4? The only one feature I can think of is the unified mail box where you can read / delete emails in multiple mailboxes from one place... Rest all is BS from a 3G point of view. Folders is not really needed as not many people store hundreds of apps on their iphones unless they dont go to work and keep on playing with their iphone like they cant get lunch if they dont.

Ryan says:

Just noticed that folders won't go into the dock for 3G iphones. Anyone else having this problem?

Lopeltyno says:

I think a patch or a firmware downgrade option is necessary for the sluggish 3G ios4 performance anyway.