iOS4 Arrives: Did You Already Download It?

June 21st came, and iOS 4 arrived with it. The latest version of Apple's smartphone platform brings with it a laundry list of long-desired features, so we have to wonder how many updated immediately?

Frequently, as we have said before, it's not a bad idea to wait a while, and let the dust settle, along with the bugs found by early adopters. Certainly, those with jailbroken devices shouldn't update, and they'll lose their jailbreak: they will need to wait for a new jailbreak for iOS 4 to be created.

Meanwhile, for those who have decided to "go for it," before you do anything, you should update your iTunes software to 9.2, the latest version. If you haven't done it already, and are anxious to install, you'll probably be annoyed: it generally takes quite some time for an iTunes install.

Typical of an iOS update (and yes, it is difficult to type iOS rather than iPhone OS for Apple's newly renamed operating system), you'll be notified via iTunes when you plug in your device and click "Check for Updates" (except for the original 2007 iPhone and iPod touch models, as well as the iPad: none of those are compatible. The iPad will get the iOS 4 features in its own release later this year).

This differs from Palm webOS and Android devices, which usually get their updates over-the-air (OTA), although some Android devices have seen standalone installers. Assuming you've clicked "Check for Updates" and iTunes has told you there's one available, and assuming your device is compatible, iTunes will lead you through the rest of the process. If your settings don't back your device automatically when you plug it in, you should back it up manually.

To do this, right-click on the device icon in the iTunes sidebar and select Back Up. It should only take a few minute to create a backup. It's a good idea, as being the early adopter you are, if anything goes wrong you can use the Restore from Backup option.

What is the incentive to upgrade to iOS 4? First, as developers continue to release software using iOS 4, they will require you have that on your device to run their software. There is also the incentive to be on the latest and greatest OS. Finally, there are a number of new features, some of which people have been craving for a long time.

Some of the new features are actually present in the iPad's version of the OS, 3.2. The most notable of these changes include:

Multi-tasking: Unlike most multi-tasking OSes, iOS 4 isn't a free-for-all. Apple has "distilled" multitasking to seven core services. Apps are already being posted to the App Store that support multitasking, but be aware that the vast majority will not yet do so.

That said, if you fire up a game and answer the phone and come back to the game, don't get annoyed just yet if it doesn't return to where you were. Time will fix this issue. Oh, and don't forget: the iPhone 3G will not support this feature.

Folders: Finally, although this will close down the cottage industry that was Folder Support on jailbroken devices. Instead of having screen after screen of icons, you can combine them into folders, so that all your games, for example, are in one folder.

Orienation lock: The iPhone doesn't have a hardware switch like the iPad, but iOS4 adds a software lock. This keeps the iPhone from changing orientation, and is particularly useful when reading lying down (which is why the iPad had the feature out of the gate). Double-click on the Home button and swipe to the left to find it.

FaceTime: is a new feature, Apple's video chat, but only on the iPhone 4.

There are a number of other lesser features, such as portrait orientation for YouTube, and the addition of Bing as an alternative search provider in Safari (some expected Bing to become the default, but Apple's relationship with Google hasn't degraded that much yet. Instead Bing is simply an alternative, like Yahoo! was).

For developers, one of the big (and contentious) changes to the platform is iAd, which is Apple's new advertising platform for the platform.

The update didn't, at least for us, show up in iTunes until around 10 PDT. While we had no difficulty downloading it ourselves, there were reports some did. Still, Apple's servers were more up to the task than AT&T's were, during the huge iPhone 4 pre-ordering fiasco of a week ago. As usual, we would recommend holding off to be safe, but also as usual, we did not wait ourselves.