iPad competitors: Will the true multitasking please stand up?

iPad competitors: Will the true multitasking please stand up?

One of the most persistent complaints levied against the iPhone and iPad were/are the lack of multitasking. This, of course, has always been silly. However, now that BlackBerry QNX PlayBook</a>, Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets like Xoom, and HP webOS 3.0's TouchPad are set to launch, "true multitasking" is again finding its way into the bullet points of competitively positioned slide decks and ad campaigns. It's still silly but it's also more complicated now.

Does iOS offer "true multitasking", does its competitors? Let's take a look, after the break.

The no iOS multitasking myth

Going back to the original iPhone's introduction in 2007, Steve Jobs' demonstration clearly showed music fading out as a call came in, staying on a call while browsing the web or sending email, and music fading back in as a call ended. Those of us who had Treo's at the time were astounded at how smooth iPhone multitasking was, and how it didn't crash or reboot the phone once.

From launch, the iPhone had great multitasking. It just didn't have 3rd party apps. Fast forward to 2008 and iOS 2, the App Store launched and while Apple's own apps continued to enjoy great multitasking, 3rd party App Store apps weren't allowed any background processes at all. This kept things nice and simple and stable for a certain group of consumers but frustrated power users to no end.

Fast forward again to 2010 and iOS 4 (specifically 4.2 for iPad) and Apple set up a system to allow App Store apps limited multitasking. Not fake multitasking. Not untrue multitasking. But limited multitasking. Apps that were transferring data could keep the connection alive in the background for a short length of time after exit to finish the transfer (like a photo upload or status stream download). Music apps like Pandora could be streamed in the background. VoIP (Voice over IP) apps like Skype to keep a process in the background to receive or continue calls. Turn-by-turn navigation apps like TomTom could keep giving voice directions in the background. True multitasking all, it addressed a huge percentage of mainstream needs. (Not all needs mind you, persistent internet connections for SSH, etc. would have been nice for power users...)

In addition Apple added a few others things to enhance the "appearance" of multitasking from a user perspective. Instead of just leaving apps running forever in the background, using battery power and system resources and requiring user intervention to manage, Apple created a way to "save state" on exit. So, the next time an app launches it's in the same place it was when last it was used. They also (re-)set double click on Home to launch a fast app switcher dock. Hidden behind the regular dock, invisible to users who don't need or want it, it can be called up to quickly jump between recently used apps (or to expose controls for audio, brightness, etc). Not at all "true" multitasking but important when it comes to the perception of multitasking.

It's a compromise solution, one that tries to address the aforementioned battery life and resource issues with ease of use and convenience and while it's not perfect and could use some improvement, it's pretty good. (Especially when you see how fast some competing devices chew through battery life.)

It's also something that might be addressed further when iPad 2 -- with more RAM and processing power -- and iOS 5 are shown off sometime this spring.

Competitive multitasking

RIM's QNX-powered BlackBerry Playbook, HP's webOS 3.0-powered TouchPad, and the slew of Google's upcoming Android 3.0-powered tablets, spearheaded by the Motorola Xoom, are all more or less touting "true multitasking" as a competitive advantage over the iPad. These are the same companies and campaigns touting Flash as the "whole internet/web" and both statements are, ironically, untrue. (We won't touch on Flash here but suffice it to say that while Flash is the most popular plugin on the web, it's far from the only plugin on the web.)

Lest you think this partisan or apologist, Kevin from CrackBerry.com was quick to point this out back during CES when RIM first spoke about true multitasking -- what functionality does it provide to the end user?

Having a movie or video game continue to animate while in card view (webOS or Playbook variety) is great eye candy but isn't functionally any better or truer multitasking than having it save state or pause and then resume when brought back to the foreground. You can't interact with it when in background and more importantly -- you can't interact with multiple cards the way you can with multiple windows on a PC which really does offer true pre-emptive multitasking. To the best of my knowledge you can't watch a movie and play a game at the same time, or drag and drop content between browsers and document editors, for example.

Cards (again webOS or Playbook) are a brilliant and elegant way to visualize multitasking for end users but until you can start dragging and dropping data between them the way you can on a Mac or Windows they're functionally no better than the fast app switcher on iOS.

iOS, in fact, used card view before either webOS or PlayBook -- Pages in Mobile Safari date way back to the original iPhone -- Apple simply lacked the vision to (or chose not to) exploit them throughout the OS. (Even in Safari on iPad I'd argue a tabbing system would be more functional than the grid of pages we now enjoy.)

So while I'd dearly love for Apple repatriate cards/page to the iPad multitasking OS, I'd really only love it if it came with that multiple usage functionality. And when/if that comes, I hope Apple can figure out a way that isn't at the expense of mainstream usability. (If part of the success of iOS is attributable to Apple ruthlessly cutting away everything and anything that wasn't simple and easy for consumers to use, is complexity creep -- while desirable to power users -- the best thing for the platform as a whole?)

Android 3.0 Honeycomb seems to be bringing more of the desktop metaphor to the tablet space, including more multitasking. Their user interface and user experience, however, still seem to be on the back-burner. (Apple's priorities are almost directly inverse to Google's in that regard.)

The truth about true

The iPad multitasks fine. webOS and the strikingly similar BlackBerry tablet OS multitask with better visualization but it's arguable about whether or not that's "truer" and I'd argue it isn't. Further, I'd argue that at this point it really doesn't matter in terms of end user functionality. Android 3.0 Honeycomb may multitask more like a desktop but that's neither more true nor proven better for a wide swath of users. Buried in all that, however, are a few important truths. The pad/tablet industry is still in its infancy and Apple, Google, HP, and RIM aren't anywhere near done exploring interactions and interfaces on their devices. They're all getting better. And since there are a few really strong players (and perhaps Microsoft one day as well), consumers get choice and the competition drives all of them to get better so we consumers choose them.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPad competitors: Will the true multitasking please stand up?


I am a technophile and recent convert from the Android platform with the release of the iPhone on Verizon. I was concerned about multi-tasking short comings, but I am happy to report that I can simultaneously use Navigon GPS Nav, take photos, check my streaming stocks on the Internet and my email, and steam Slacker on my iPhone while connected via bluetooth to my hands-free car stereo / phone system. I was concerned with iPhone multi-tasking capabilities, but they have been laid to rest. I used to do the same thing with Android and neither my regular Droid or Droid X could handle all of those functions as well. I think Apple has done a stupendous job of managing the processing power and memory they have available.
The iPad, on the other hand, has been very aggravating to me because it wont keep more than 2 or 3 of my web pages active, meaning they have to reload much more regularly than I would like. This is a pretty bad annoyance to me, but it is likely related to memory, not multi-tasking.

"I was concerned about multi-tasking short comings, but I am happy to report that I can simultaneously use Navigon GPS Nav, take photos, check my streaming stocks on the Internet and my email, and steam Slacker on my iPhone while connected via bluetooth to my hands-free car stereo / phone system."
All while driving 65 down the freeway in rush hour traffic.

Driving 65mph during rush hour traffic seems a bit dangerous don't you think? lol trolls

Brian, I agree using safari on iPad is frustrating due to page reloads as well as excessive animation. I hated using it so now use Pulse. Much better suited to multi-site/multi-article browsing without any of the page reload issues.

This is one of the major reasons why i jailbreak.
Backgrounder with forced native and multifl0w.

I completely agree. And if the iPad had card view I would pick one up over a TouchPad any day.

really great article!! So true too.
can't wait to see what comes from apple (and the others, only for competition's sake ;) ) next!!!

Multitasking is greatly over-rated. Power users don't think they can live without it, but the vast majority of people never use it—other than things like streaming music in the background or surfing while on a call. Drag and drop? That would imply a windowed environment (or the horror called widgets), which I hope we never see in iOS. In fact, Apple appears to be moving in the other direction, if the rumors of full-screen apps coming to OS-X are true.

agreed. not a big deal and the proof is in sales. if it was more important then other things webos would be dominant. it's not more important then stuff like apps and thus people did without it and bought iphone when they had no multitasking.

That's like saying an amateur can't sing better than a professional singer, simply because the former is less popular than the latter.

isheeple unite on why multi-tasking wasn't important until iOS4 and/or isn't that critical even now. Predictable kooks.

And if the iPhone ran WebOS it would account for 100% marketshare. I love my iPad but it really ticks me off when I dont know whether or not my apps will stay open.

I agree its not as big a deal on phones, but it is indeed a big deal on tablets! I have a 1st gen ipad & a Xoom. The Xoom is much more of a joy to use for a variety of reasons, but not least of all is the TRUE multitasking features of it. Let's face it, on these new devices that tend to be used more tha laptops... they needed to be able to match the ffunctionality of a laptop or net book.

I'm still pissed about the way that iOS multitasks. It simply doesn't. My pages in Safari don't load while I'm not looking at them, some of my apps don't create a "save state," & it's obvious that it just isn't multitasking. WebOS multi-tasks on its own. I don't have to hope and pray that this specific app will multitask because the phone and OS are doing it. Also, saying that iOS started the cards idea is a bit of a stretch. Using it in one app doesn't really mean it started the card system especially when those don't even multitask within themselves. Hopefully iOS can do some actual multitasking in iOS 5 so I can not have to start things all over on my iPod.

Oh, and in reference to the iPad, I would never buy one. None of these tablets really appeal to me. They just don't seem like something I would want to use over my laptop especially when typing is concerned. If I were to get one, however, it's looking like the TouchPad would be my device of choice followed by an Android tablet.

If the app doesn't multitask, then that's the developers fault for not using the api's for it, not apple. I have over 50 apps and pretty much all of em run in the background. I like having the best battery and maybe have to wait for a saved state to resume in about 1 sec. There is a reason android is terrible at power conservation.

I am writing this on an iPad and let me tell you that this keyboard is fine and I have actually compared to a real keyboard and the iPad keyboard is only a tiny bit noticeably smaller and takes 3 seconds to get use to it is absolutely fine don't go for android just because it has multi-tasking and a different keyboard because it doesn't

I think this comment is key as to why the most vehement detractors say iOS doesn't have multitasking. You can do regular things very well. You can do several power user things well. But you can't do absolutely everything. Maybe 1 or 2% of things I've seen I thought I wanted to multitask I can't. But I understand that, because I'm comparing what I can do with a PC with a phone or iPad.
We are entering an age of utility and convenience. A tablet or phone may be a better tool than a PC for some things. The important thing to remember is no one device will do everything. You have to find the right tool for the job. I'm happy for the competition and choice.

keep in mide that Google has Chrome OS for a wide swath of users, Android is for geeks. Also in WebOS Blackberry/QNX and everyone else every app works in the background in iOS developers have to add the extra code and it has been proven that developers are lazy and don't upgrade there apps. I am one the lucky ones who has found apps that have been upgraded but I should not have to.

First of all Android is not for geeks. People actually like the phones and the features. The same can be said about iphbone users that they only like it because its "popular" not because of its real use. It has less features, in my experience harder to use. If you read the lines for a iphone 4 are fairly short at verizon stores people are obviously happy with there droid phones.

There are plenty of user benefits to multitasking - to name one, true task scheduling. If that is to esoteric a concept, let's use The Daily as an example. The most common complaint is that it does not update enough, and the initial load/sync times are unusably long. If the Daily could register itself to run something in the background, this could be done while the user is idle, resulting in a much more user-friendly, instant on approach. While I don't use the daily, I'd love it if Flipboard was ready to go when I fired I up instead of having to wait 10 seconds on the home screen on each start - it would be a better user experience.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of similar use cases where background processing can give a better experience for the user without requiring user interaction in the background.

Dev: I agree with you, like I said in the article I personally would love persistent SSH connections, status updates, etc. Apple's approach seems to be to add specific, global API and not just let everything run in the background.
Ultimately I might not be the user they're trying to satisfy most, or they believe there are drawbacks that outweigh the benefits and if webOS better suits my needs, that'll be on the market as well. (I still can't handle the Honeycomb UI -- we all have our preferences).

I don't want The Daily either, but if I did, I definitely wouldn't want it pulling down data every X minutes when I have limited battery and a limited data plan.

I think the issue here though, is that you should have the option to have it download. I'm under the impression, with iOS, it can't.
I use the NYTimes app on a regular basis. It has settings to auto-update every X minutes/hours; but the app has to be open and running, which totally defeats the purpose. I hate mornings I forget to open the app and let it run for 5 minutes to download all of the articles. If I remember right before heading into the subway...I'm stuck with Sudoku and Angry Birds.

Am I multitasking wrong on my iPad? If I'm in an Pages and I double click the home button to switch to Safari, Safari is ready instantly. Then if I double click the home button again to switch back to pages it takes as long and goes through the same animations to open from the multi tasking bar as it does to open the app from the springboard. Am I doing it wrong?

No I just had backgrounder set up incorrectly. It wasn't putting applications into native backgrounding automatically. Silly me.

I really do think that apples multitasking is enough, but I don't want to settle, and I will not make excuses on why full multitasking isn't implemented.
Also, just because they used cards on safari doesn't mean that it was their genius idea. In fact, they probably got that idea from their cover flow idea. Again, works well and I really enjoy using it, but the card idea was not apples.

As far as "true" multitasking is concerned I think this article is a bit one-sided. For example, the PlayBook gives users the options to play videos in the background and you write that off as if it serves no purpose. Really? So NO ONE has ever loaded up a video, opened a different tab and continued to do something else while the video was playing because what they really wanted from the video was the AUDIO, not the video? Keep in mind how often people do that on desktop computers. Not everyone podcast's, so often you may just need to play a video, say a sports recap, but other than watching the play highlights (which only make up like 10% of most of these show's) the rest is just looking at the announcers. So, listen to the audio (FROM THE VIDEO) while you do something else and then tab back over when they say "check out this play".
The iOS is fake multitasking at best and this is from someone who owns iOS products.
For a lot of people it won't matter, but for people who know what true multitasking is, those will be big selling points for other tablets.

i'm sure someone has but i haven't. i don't pandora either though. and i only have a pre right now. so when i want to listen to music out comes my ipod. i don't go to youtube for that. ever.

The question remains what each end user constitutes "True" multi tasking. And it is subjective especially when you read the comments and realize people use their gadgets differently. sure it will be great if i can surf the net and watch a movie at the same time. But to others this will seem wasteful and question " why would i want to be viewing 2 things at one time?" Also allowing this brings up stability issues

You can actually listen to videos in the background on iPad and iPhone. I agree that there's benefits to full multitasking. For me it's mostly instant messaging apps so they don't have to load my new message when I open it. It would make the apps more pleasant to use. However the multitasking on iPhone is good enough for me and I appreciate that I don't have to worry about a task manager and the improved battery life.

What does it mean to "multitask"?
Multitasking: the simultaneous execution of more than one program or task by a single computer processor.
Last time that I checked, I do this everyday on my iPhone. Nuff Said. There is no such thing as "true" multitasking in the sense that the competition use it.
If your phone's functionality doesn't hinder performance, offers great battery life, and can complete tasks efficiently and effectively . I don't care what you call it as long as my mobile OS can do it, I'm happy w/that! But that sounds like multitasking to me ...

Folks -- please remember rude comments will be deleted. You can disagree -- I love disagreement! -- but anything rude or insulting is unacceptable.
Also, please read the article before commenting on my opinion or position. If you want to act all huffy to "disagree" with make, just make sure you're actually disagreeing first.
Hint: I want background internet sessions, I'd love better visualization like webOS, and I'd really like drag-and-drop. However, that's just my opinion and I'm a power user. I've spoken to several really well known developers who want less multitasking to keep things simpler because they believe the market is in mainstream, and mainstream need simple.
There are lots of users and some needs are conflicting.

I've used an ipad and other OS's, and this just isn't true. Multitasking on webOS is far better than iOS and it'll be funny when steve jobs trots up on the stage to announce he has "perfected" multitasking, and the show webOS-style cards on iOS too.

The lack of true multitasking is still one of the biggest deficiencies and all the arguments against it simply aren't true. You don't have to manage your running apps on Android at all! The OS does that nicely and those background apps normally don't drain the battery! It's so much more convenient to switch between apps on Android than it is on iOS. While I'm able to kill apps that cause problems on Android, the worst case for the iPhone would be to wait till the battery's empty to kill a very badly coded app (trust me, I had that case before), because you can't simply remove the battery.
I know that Apple has a different approach to things like that and basically I'm fine with the idea of getting everything that's confusing out of the way of the user. But why for Steve's sake can't they just add settings to enable things like true multitasking, installation of apps without the app store etc. for advanced users?
It's a pity that a non jailbroken iPhone is designed for the most casual user imaginable and doesn't allow advanced users to widen the possibilities!

@beetFreeQ: I've had a Nexus One for 6 months+ There are definitely problems with multitasking and memory management on Android. (PCs have that problem too but usually we can throw hardware at them, not so on mobile yet.)
Everything is a compromise. There's no perfect solution or everyone would use it. Apple prioritizes some things, Google others. Both have strong points and short comings.
(You can also kill apps easily on iOS, so not sure what you're referring to there?)

So true. My Android phones bogged down all the time. My iPhone has only stuttered a couple of times and may have lost Bluetooth (could have been my toyota though too). Priority 1 needed to be an always working device and Android definitely left me unable to do things regularly because it was too busy doing other stuff. On the D1 I eventually uninstally everything but critical apps so the phone would work at critical moments.

I got a Palm Pre
Multitasking is useless when your platform has no good apps.
regardless this is more a phone nerd fight then a regular consumer fight.

The WebOS operating system is basically a visual task manager. Period. It is TRUE multitasking because that's mostly all the operating system is designed to do. Yes, the other operating systems have SOME forms of it...mainly relying on viewing the most recently opened apps, but it's not even close to what WebOS is doing.

Anyone know the cost of battery life between the various versions? I have to believe iOS is conserving mobile battery better than the others, but have no proof. Its one thing to act like a PC, but remember you are not plugged in as you stumble around the world. At some point you have to re-think the way things used to be done. Apple is not afraid to do this, and delay it until its done right. Others seem to throw bells and whistles out there so they can use it as a marketing tool, but honestly once you get the device in your hand where's the benefit. THis article does a nice job of explaining it.
Too bad your Fandroid friends aren't willing to listen.

Don't forget data too. Background apps pulling data can be a killer on limited data plans. UX is a balancing act on mobile devices, and I agree that Apple is doing a pretty good job for most users. The geeks will never be satisfied, though, until they have desktop power in their hand. Maybe someday, but not yet.

I purchased an Ipad recently and I regret having put this kind of money into this device. Don t get me wrong, its a wounderfull decice but I find it is limited in many ways. These types of pads have a long way to go in terms of development. I should have waited a few more months for a better device. The Playbook seems ver interesting with the balance system...

The thing I've learned about a vast majority of Android users is they are on T-Mobile and Sprint. No credit checks, "cheap" plans and desperate pricing. AT&T I believe requires a deposit if your credit score isn't up to snuff. My point is, the pee in your pants to stay warm operating system has temporarily opened up advanced phones to a whole new segment of the population. And their behavior and comments are consistent with this hypothesis. "We've got to squeeze every ounce of value from my phone (because it's the coolest thing I've ever owned) even if the functionality adds nothing to the end user experience and at the cost of convenience." crowd. I don't think Apple is too interested in this market especially with the increased risk of default on the plans.

Really? I find that elitist comment to be upsurd, and that makes it a cheap shot from a cheap guy? You fanboys are insane! Actually putting people down because they don't use the same phone as you, or choose a different provider? You see that as a sane attitude? Discuss the virtues of your phone, OS, and provider on the merits of each, and try to do it without attacking those who might make different choices and you will be taken more seriously.
You have a nice phone, with a good (not perfect) OS, on a provider that has it's merits and weaknesses like any other, you want to believe that owning your iphone makes you somehow superior only shows how insignificant you are.

Really? ,most android phones are on sprint and t-mobile for the unwashed masses to pine over? while you, obviously representing the super elite, super rich over on att get the iphone glory be to you?!
sorry to tear apart your argument but Verizon created the "droid" brand, started to push it as a major alternative to iOS, and it has nothing to do with the "type" of customer the operating system attracts, as ridiculous as that sounds. Many android devices are technologically superior to the iphone, many cost less while doing so, many people don't like that fruitco treats its customers like children, many value using an open source platform. I am on sprint and I use a launch day palm pre. I bought the phone because i felt it was the best operating system available at the time, and i still feel like i made a good decision. I also value the openness you get with webOS, let me know when apple donates a server to the groups jailbreaking the iphone/ipad so they can host updates.... Also never did i consider switching from sprint to att for the iphone or anything else. I have been a sprint customer for like 12 years now, my plan is ungodly cheap for what i receive (thank you retention dept...). This has nothing to do with me being "poor" as you so eloquently argued and everything to do with me not wanting to pay double the money for inferior customer service elsewhere ( I realize my experience with sprint is not the norm...). Could I afford to have an iphone on att? absolutely, but why would i want to. In short you are either a troll, or a misguided elitist jerk with no understanding of the world around him, good day sir.

WOW Sir, you win the biggest idiot award. I will now go drive my $85,000 car (paid for) and talk on my HTC EVO 4G at the same time... Yes I know its dangerous. But I just got to! multitasking!

I have to agree that "true multi-tasking" is a misnomer. However, "much better multi-tasking" would be true IMO. I use both webOS & iOS and find myself frustrated when using iOS. While it is beautiful & works very smoothly, multi-tasking on iOS is a joke. It is just so simple & intuitive on webOS. When I use iOS, it takes so many presses to get back to where I was, & in many cases, I'm completely restarting the app. I find myself wanting to simply jump to card view & go to my desired app... EXACTLY where I left it. webOS is just so easy. If you haven't tried it
Now if iOS did exactly what webOS does with cards then it would be dominant. I love iOS for it's smoothness & apps. But I love webOS for it's better multi-tasking & ease of use. With better hardware from HP, the smoothness issue will no longer be an issue, so now would be the time for Apple to step up it's game.

First good article and just to back Rene on this. I believe the purpose of This article and others like these is for discussion. That said why cant we discuss without being crass. Once insults are thrown then your whole argument becomes null and void.
Multi tasking for alot of people is different and most people wouldn't know the difference. Correct me if i am wrong but WebOs is based on Webkit right? which is what safari is, with that reasoning it makes sense how card view is rendered with each page/App viewable as you switch form one to the other and has Rene pointed out not too far removed from safari's multi page view.
Yes it is not perfect, but again can you be writing an email while watching a movie on WebOs or Android? Do we want the same multi- tasking on our tablet as with PC's with the same headaches associated with them when applications hang up because you are running too many apps at one time? Many people want technology to work and be simplified and that is where i hope IOs continues to push and innovate user experience

I prefer iOS multitasking compared to Android multitasking. I've only have my iPhone for 3 days and Apple's version of multitasking is better than Android as it doesn't drain the battery. It's been five hours since I unplugged my iPhone and it's at 97% charge (At time of writing) and has been sitting on stand-by for most of the time. My old Droid would be around 70% to 60% with the same amount of usage as the stupid thing reopens programs that I used the task killer to shut off. While iOS might not have this "true multitasking" that Android and Blackberry have, at least it's more efficient than what those two have to offer.

That task killer was probable part of your problem on battery life. They really are unnecessary and can't reduce battery life horribly in some cases. People who don't know what they are doing set a task killer to kill certain apps that will then restart themselve because they need to run and then the task killer kills them again. This process going on in the background can have a very bad effect on battery life. At Android Central one of the first things n users are told is to ditch the task killer that some person at the cell phone store said they needed. Android the OS manages its own tasks fairly well.

Saying iOS is w/out multitasking is crazy. Although it may not be as wide open as others it is still there.
With that said, this post reminds me of the days when Apple touted their processor as faster than PC+Intel then the next year Apple went Intel and the computers were 2.5 times faster. :-)
Apple will announce better multitasking, I'm sure, and this will be claim chowder. lol

That was a really well written article.
You need to remember that the apps on pretty much all of the mobile platforms are self-contained, so multi-tasking with each other will never really happen. As for the amount of apps that is cached to memory (cause that is what having those apps in the background is),it's really just a hardware issue. The iPad has a pretty low RAM count so of course it's only going to store a few webpages or a few apps before restarts of the app itself.
On another note...
I giggle when I read comments claiming your just hating on other OSs- remember your on The iPhone Blog.
I think it's cool this type of discussion is even brought up ;)

@Rene you should copy and paste your .....Folks — please remember rude comments will be deleted. Into every post.

Is there multitasking on the iPhone. Yes, and Rene you are correct that Apple kept the secret sauce to themselves for a while but now offer it to others. I think the count was 6 multi-tasking background services that were enabled. They are there and they work.
The problem is that webOS brought into the world a more elegant solution even if it was borrowed to some degree from Safari. On a phone handset the multitasking that Apple enabled seems like a solid solution. However, on a tablet, especially the way it was demoed as a day in the life scenario by HP this week the Apple solution looks dated. The other part is that the additional screen real estate makes moving cards from stack to stack or from stack to a new stack make that form of multitasking more of a visual task making Apple's execution appear less than it is.
IMHO, the problem is not as much that the activities continue to go on in the background versus the limited activity enabled by Apple. The problem is one of philosophy. Apple seems to want to grow the install base and number of apps and stay out of the way of integration. webOS and the others that mimicked their execution went in a direction where they believe that a user wants more interconnections between device and web, web and app and as well as app and app. This is the synergy approach of webOS which is what Palm was always about - productivity. Different philosophies, different outcomes. That is, until next product cycle.

I still miss "truer" multitasking on the iPhone. I can't open a YouTube video and let it load (on a slow connection) in the background while doing something else. I can't open an app or a game that has a few seconds to load and do something else while it loads (exiting it immediately quits it when it's not fully initialized).
All those various loading times where you can do nothing but stare at a spinning circle or filling bar could still be put to better use if there was better multitasking.

Multitasking is multitasking there is no true or not multitasking. And why do people say android is for geeks. I've been a geek before android was out. Hell before cellphones where out. And I don't like android. I had some geek friends that liked android till the iPhone came out on on verizon. I guess there not geeks anymore.

iOS multitasking is good enough , the only thing I would want them to fix is app switcher , very primitive and poorly done compared to webOS or QNX

The multitasking on the iPad works fine to me. Regardless if it's flashier on another device, I would stick with Apple.

I remember, not to long ago, we had NO Multitasking on IOS. 
So I appreciate what Apple has provided, and use it all the time.
One of the problems I see cropping up on these and other forums
Is that no matter what Apple does, some people are never Happy.
Before an item even hits the shelves they declare it's not good enough
And will wait for the next generation.
Go ahead wait.  
Those of you who think you can do it better go out and create an OS and make it 
Satisfy everyones wish list, the first time out, have at it.
I am happy with multitasking as is and look forward to improvements.

multitasking would be a lot more useful to me if i can browse the internet while i am watching a video. i would hope apple implements this because i would much prefer a tablet that does.
say im watching a show or a long movie, sometimes it helps if i can quickly check e-mail or a website withour exiting what i am watching.

I never use the iPhone's multitasking dock. Why search through every single app that's installed on my phone in a 4-app dock, when I can swipe through 16-app home screens? :shock:

I own an iPad and a Htc Evo. Both devices are very sweet in their own respected areas. But with that said both devices suffer in some areas. Multitasking is a no brainer my Evo wins, but that win comes with very bad battery life. I have to charge my Evo several times a day. Many folks talk abou Android slowing down and it just being laggy, not so on my Evo, it runs very well all the time but as stated before eats up battery life while doing it. I like a lot of things on the iPhone, and battery life is one of them. There are two very important things (important to me) that made me chose the evo over the iPhone. 1) screensize 2) navigation. I don't see very well and the extra real estate on the evo really helps. The navigation is something I use very often due to my job. If you have never used google navigation you really don't know what you are missing out on. It is just so nice to go to the google website on your phone and type in auto zone for example, and the five closest auto zones come up each with a navigation button in the browser. You simply touch the navigation button next to the auto zone you want to go to and voice guided turn by turn navigation starts with full free traffic. The points of interest are live within google and unlimited. Give me an iPhone with a larger screen and google navigation and I might switch. But for now I will keep charging my evo.

Um...Palm has been saving states in apps since 1996. They have also been able to play music, etc. in the background since about 2001. I have however moved from Palm to Apple, just because there are so many more apps. Most use only one app at a time anyway.

When all is said and done, its a catch 22 situation. What most people would term "traditional" multitasking, that is multitasking supported at the operating system layer (of the type your Windows, MacOS, or even Android is running), which is transparent to the applications running on it, makes for a much more flexible environment. On a fully fledged machine, this isn't a problem, as you generally nowadays have enough CPU and RAM to cater for applications that are resource hogs, which is the main drawback of this method. When I develop a Windows App though, I don't need to worry about if my program will continue to run if the user minimizes it, I know that Windows will just "handle it" for me.
What iOS does is not traditional multitasking in that sense though. It says to developers, "unless you tell iOS to do it, I'm not going to do anything to keep your application functioning after the user switches away. And even then, your application cannot "run" as it was when it was open, but it can perform a set of predefined functions we will allow to run in the background (eg Saving the state of an app to resume later)" Its not as flexible, and its not as capable, but it does allow some control of resources, which is so much more important on a mobile device. However of course its putting the onus on developers to have to think about how their applications will react to being minimized. This can lead to application issues, and makes developing supporting apps that little bit more complex. In other words, when I develop and iOS app, I do need to worry about how it will react to being minimized, because iOS isn't going to just "handle it" for me. I need to do some additional work there.
I think its pretty disengenous to say that iOS supports "full multitasking". Clearly the multitasking experience we have all been exposed to is not what iOS supports. But in terms of "is iOS a good solution for mobile devices?", its a elegant solution that makes the best of the restrictions of mobile hardware, and the historical design decisions made in previous versions of iOS.

This article is laughable. You simply cannot compare Apple's "after thought" of multitasking or even Android's to webOS. Android's is a complete joke and Apple's is not user intuitive AT ALL. Now that webOS will be run on hardware that isn't complete crap (palm pre) I believe Apple and Google have a lot to worry about.

Why is this site always writing negative posts about android? People who are fearful of the competition try to make their device look good by saying negative things about the competition. People that are confident in their device just talk about their device and don't feel the need to say anything about the competition. You keep saying that you have a nexus one but you do not seem to understand it. You should sell it and stick to iPhones. There is a free task killer for android that shows the background apps and processes in different colors so you can tell which are running, which ones are suspended, and which ones are system resources. Try installing that so you can see that even though an app shows up in the list it doesn't mean that it is draining the battery or using processing power.

And most android seabirds don't take every moment they can to rip on tour iPhone? And the fandroids are even worse! People are always going to rip on the competition because they think there thing is the best when it actuality, none of them are the "best".

I can't speak for fanboys as I don't hang out in forums with kids. The android blogs I read don't talk about iPhones, and as for me, I am using an iPhone 4 right now. I just hate reading negative stuff about other platforms instead of positive things about iOS

The True multi-tasker will stand up, and its the webOS devices. Mostly for the stacks feature, I can see myself making a Work Stack/Media Stack/ and Social stack, all easy to get to. Love webOS implementation of multi-tasking.

Wowww! I didn't know multitasking is such a touchy issue. For me its the display & the UI. Lets debate about those two topics. Anyway im impress with the explanation of multitasking by everybody especialy Rene!

I consider myself a power user, and iOS multi-tasking does what I need it to do 90% of the time. I think this is a fair compromise for a mobile device, and more than adequate for the majority of users.
I'm looking forward to any refinements in iOS 5, but I'm happy in the meantime.

Since iOS4 was released I've really enjoyed the multitasking. I did find it very limiting in iOS3 but now have no problems with it, other then being on the iPhone 3GS which is a bit underpowered for it. I have played around with it on the iPhone 4 and it's like butter, a big stick of butter.

On my phone or what ever I'll trade "true multitasking" for battery life and performance any day. I don't need the weather channel constantly updating in the background. I can wait the 3 seconds it takes to load after launching from suspended state.
I like Apple's implementation of multi-tasking in iOS. If it doesn't work you then get a phone that does. It gets the job done, if I need to do work with "true multitasking" I'm going to do it on a desktop. I'm not going to complain and wish that the iPad will some day suit my needs and try to make it work.

I think what many of you call multitasking is different from what many people want, or visualize, multitasking as.
All this background stuff going on isn't what I am thinking about. I guess it's what needs to be done for multitasking, i.e. how it works, but it doesn't feel like it is multitasking when I have to close out of something to open something else. The cards thing on webos makes it just feel "right" and it's simple. A very natural flow from one thing to another, that my ipod just doesn't have. It's also nice because when I switch back and forth between apps I don't forget what I was doing as often as I do on the ipod. Yes, I have a terrible memory!
So all this background multitasking mumbo jumbo is beyond what us "simple" users can understand. (And I mean simple in the way that we are not "geeks", I do use my phone a ton and want it to work the way I want it to, I just don't understand how it actually works or what it is doing)
It may all be true multitasking and for all I know the iphones or andriods multitask better than my pre... but it FEELS like I am multitasking soooo much better on the pre. And I can't imagine any other simple users not wanting that as well.

I think we all agree that iOS's multitasking is visually unappealing and generally not very intuitive. I had high hopes they would introduce something akin to Palm's cards style but it didn't come to pass unfortunately. Maybe they'll will overhaul this in the (near) future. However, as far as the underlying processes are concerned, I feel Apple has made the right decision to limit access to multitasking tasks and processes because battery life is such a valuable resource.
One thing I would love to see explored is the idea of working on two apps at the same time - at least as far as the iPad is concerned. I can imagine a split view where each app takes up half the size of the screen. There's tons of useful scenarios for this in my opinion here are a few:
1) video app + browser
2) browser + social media app
3) im messenger + something else
4) email + browser
with a setup like this, one could really multitask easily and possibly even drag and drop content between apps. They'd have to come up with an intelligent way of integrating the keyboard but I think it's doable.
That said, I really like the recently introduced multitasking gestures and I hope they make their way into consumer's hands quickly. They're pretty much perfect for switching apps efficiently in a non-windows UX.

If you are looking for a mobile device that presents you with the ability to work on multiple tasks at the same time, an iPhone is not the way to go. Having not used the new Blackberry PlayBook first hand, I cannot testify to it’s user friendliness. Being both an Android and webOS owner however I can testify first hand as to the pros and cons to both. WebOS, while not nearly as polished as Android or iOS, offers the best solution to mobile multi-tasking. But in the end the choice is yours as to which works best for you.

Sorry to have to point out the error, but since no one else has...the Playbook does in fact allow the user to interact with a game such as Need for Speed, while a HD video plays in another card. Check out the demo from MWC. If the author hasn't seen it, he should. Then should update his article.

While I don't disagree with the author's argument that Android, IOS and even Windows Mobile, offer "multitasking" I do disagree with the perception that it is "true multitasking" or that the card format offered by Palm WebOS or even Blackberry's rip off of it, is just an overblown graphical representation of what others are already doing. As with any of the other options, it allows you to keep apps running in background, and cut and paste between them. It also offers a much easier way to manage switching between apps, as well as the ability to actually see what you were working on in each open app, in minimized form, exactly like you would if you had multiple open windows on a desktop system. Android and IOS let you pull up a string of icons representing the apps that are currently open, but you can't see where you were until you open to full screen. To me, this is an immeasurable difference. And, when you swipe a card away, the app is closed, and no longer using resources. Arguments abound about the value of app closing programs to preserve resources and battery life in other OS's.
Now, while I have a Palm Pre, and hope that Sprint and HP will work together to preserve it's presence in the Sprint universe, I don't think it's the ONLY OS out there, and won't drop a 12 plus year relationship with my service provider and spend twice as much money elsewhere to follow WebOS to ATT or Verizon. If I did that, I would buy an iPhone (ironic, no?)
Nor do I believe WebOS will ever gain the foothold it needs to be a true player. But, it can be learned from. If Blackberry stole the cards idea for their tablets, they can do it for their phones. If IOS had cards long before, in mobile Safari, but failed to implement the concept across the whole platform, there is no time like the present to make up for that. Everyone is basically emulating everyone else and trying to show how they do it just a little bit better. Why not add "true multi-tasking" to the list?

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Really? You are calling the IOS multitasking comparable to WebOS?
You obviously shouldnt write this kind of stuff.
WEBOS and PALM (HP) PRE 3 will soon show the world what a REAL multitasking phone WITH flash support can do!
Ive gone Palm - Winmob - Ios - Android - WebOS route - believe the hype, and stop saying there is TRUE multitasking in IOS, its all about presentation, bells and whistles if you like.
When the smoke clears, there is nothing to show and WEBOS still is king of TRUE multitasking.

It just amazes me to observe the hoops that Apple zombies wll jump through to rationalize the shortcomings of Apple's products. It is obvious to me that if the tables were turned, and it were the NON-Apple products that didn't offer true multitasking or Flash support, this reviewer would be using this as an argument AGAINST them and FOR Apple, because he is clearly biased (and "biased" is an UNDERSTATEMENT) in favor of Apple. How would he rationalize the lack of SD card support? Well, since it is the IPad that lacks this, I'm pretty sure he would find some way to construe this as a POSITIVE thing. Why not simply accept and admit your bias? Why try to rationalize it with these transparent, long-winded arguments? You like Apple, and you DON'T like the other products. Fine. I can accept that, but please don't try to convince me that a negative is a positive. I don't buy it, and I don't buy Apple products--in part because the biases of their users obstruct any chance I might have of receiving a fair comparison between them and their competitors, and in part because of Apple's dictatorial, monopolistic, litigious tendencies.

The iPad is:
1. An excellent video and audio playback device
2. An excellent platform for running some really cool apps
3. A great way to stay in touch using Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc
4. An awesome toy to carry around
The iPad is NOT:
1. A replacement for your personal computer, PSP or GBA
Do not purchase the iPad if:
1. You require a personal computer and do not own a laptop/desktop PC
Final remarks:
I love my iPad 2!