On 21 June, Apple released the iOS 4 operating system for all products that previously used the iPhone operating system. Since the software no longer powered just iPhones, but also iPod Touches and iPad, Apple and Steve Jobs found it fit to rebrand the OS with a nice generic new name.
But besides the change in name, the operating system also announced a slew of new features for the devices, including an eBook reader and store, folders for those iPhone app icons that tend to proliferate on your handset, and wallpapers for the home screen. All in all, Apple said the new operating system had around 100 improvements over the previous version.
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Perhaps the most talked about feature in iOS 4, however, is the new multitasking function. There hasn’t been a feature more requested by iPhone users. And there hasn’t been a feature whose absence has been ridiculed more intensely by iPhone haters and critics of the Apple juggernaut.
In all honesty, the idea of multitasking is pretty simple. And if you use any mobile operating system besides Apple’s, you probably already have it on your phone. Essentially, multitasking allows you to run more than one application at a time on your device. You can move between applications whenever you want to, and you can accomplish more than one task at a time.
However, on the iPhone, till iOS 4 came you couldn’t, for instance, keep switching between the Safari browser and a Twitter app. You had to shut one down, summon the other, and then shut that down and summon the previous one. Don’t even think about running three apps at the same time.
Multitasking: Run more than one application on your iPhone.
So on the face of it the iOS 4 multitasking update seems like a good update for iPhone users and a no-brainer for everyone else.
But between you and me, do you really want to multitask on the iPhone? Indeed, do you really want to multitask on any device at all? And I don’t ask this from a technical perspective, but a human one.
For anyone who uses Windows or any other modern operating system, multitasking is probably second nature by now. You have several windows open on your desktop. So you can edit an image in Photoshop, upload it on the Web in one browser window and then send the link to someone via an email application in yet another window. So far it sounds great.
But what if you are trying to focus on just one thing? Like writing a column, or making a presentation for office?
I suspect that in such cases, when you really need to focus on one activity, multitasking can be a complete pain in the backside.
Many people, for instance, get easily distracted by the Internet, and if you have a browser window open, chances are you are going to be pulled away from your presentation by World Cup scores, YouTube videos or Twitter updates.
In fact, forget multitasking across different applications. With browsers that offer tabbed windows, it can even be a challenge to read a long news article in one tab before you are distracted by a blinking update on another tab.
So perhaps multitasking isn’t all it is made out to be.
So much so that many websites, including popular ones such as Lifehacker , have tips on how you can get things done without being distracted by people, noise or the Internet. These tips include everything from wearing headphones, or having a special work computer that is not connected to the Web, to using special applications that let you focus. One such application is Temptation Blocker. This lets you lock yourself out of certain applications for a given period of time so you are free to focus on one thing at one time.
I like to use a Mac application called WriteRoom that gives you a clutter-free, full-screen writing environment ideal for journalists and bloggers. There is a windows version of this software called DarkRoom.
If you are rather tech averse and would prefer doing things the old-fashioned way, then the best thing is to have a work computer that has nothing but only the most basic apps for work. And pull out the Internet cable at the back while you are at it.
But in the end, these attempts to focus and mono-task can easily be undone by human frailty. When you have to update your Twitter stream with a killer wisecrack, no force on earth can hold you back.
How do you focus and combat the temptation to multitask?
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