Apple (AAPL) could be on the way to fixing one of the iPhone’s biggest shortcomings.
The company is considering allowing apps from its wildly successful App Store to run in the background, according to MacRumors’ Arnold Kim. iPhones can currently only run one app at a time, except some built-in apps like Mail, which can run in the background.
What does this mean? For example, you could leave an IM app open — like you do on a computer — and it would keep collecting messages while you’re reading a Web page. Or you could leave a mapping app open to track your location while running and listening to music.
Kim says this could be a feature on the next iPhone — which should be more powerful — with limited support on current iPhones. For instance, while new iPhones might be able to handle many apps open at once, current phones might be able to handle 1 or 2 background processes.
The risk: Poor battery performance. The AIM app on our old Palm Treo destroyed the battery very quicky. And unlike the Treo, the iPhone’s battery is not removable.
Many of Apple’s competitors have offered background processing for years, such as Palm (PALM) and Microsoft (MSFT). Others, such as Google (GOOG) and RIM (RIMM), also offer the feature.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 3G last summer, he said that Apple would offer a workaround instead, including a real-time push messaging feature. But since Jobs announced it last June, there hasn’t been a peep about it.
Conspiracy theorists suggest that Apple’s partner AT&T (T) got angry about the push messaging system as it would compete with their very profitable (and very overpriced) text messaging service — and tried to squash it.
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