One of the big knocks against the iPhone has always been that it does not allow multitasking by third party apps - as in, the only apps that can run in the background are a few of the built-in apps: Mail, iPod, Safari etc. So you cannot, for instance, have Pandora playing music for you while you jump over to Notes to jot something down. Or quickly copy a link from Safari into a notes app and then skip straight back to Safari without two trips to the home screen during the process.
If you jailbreak your iPhone, quick, easy app switching and full-blown multitasking are both possible. In fact, not only are they possible, but there are some very good apps around for doing these things with.
** It's worth noting that while older iPhones are able to multiask, the iPhone 3GS is where app switching and multitasking really shine - due to its faster processor and larger amount of RAM memory (double that of the iPhone 3G).
Here are the leading jailbreak apps for quick app switching and multitasking:
Backgrounder: the foundation app. Once Backgrounder is installed, you simply press and hold the home button for a couple seconds while any app is open to enable or disable that app's ability ti stay running in the background. You'll see a notification on screen to indicate 'Backgrounding Enabled' or disabled once you've done your press and hold.
QuickDo: This app has multiple purposes but my favorites are these:
-- Adds a Favorites bar on your lock screen that contains five apps of your choosing, that all be launched with a quick tap -- And an action bar that can be invoked at any time via various swipe gestures on your home screen - this shows your favorite five apps as well as any apps that are currently running in the background - and all are launchable with a single tap.
Kirikae: Similar to QuickDo. This one is invoked via home screen double-taps and similar actions, allows you to choose as many instant launch favorites as you like, and also will launch currently backgrounded apps.
ProSwitcher: The slickest and maybe most impressive of the current apps that work with Backgrounder. It offers a Palm Pre style 'cards' view of all apps currently running in the background (showing thumbnails of them) and you can launch an app with a quick double-tap on it, or stop it running via an 'X' to close it or just a swipe to close. You can call up ProSwitcher via a large number of different invocation methods - my favorite is just using a double-tap on the status bar.
I've used all of these and they all work extremely well.
A couple quick points about multitasking on an iPhone 3GS in particular:
-- The 3GS doesn't seem to even break a sweat when you let a handful of apps run in the background and multitask. Battery life does not seem much affected and performance is still every bit as fast and rock solid.
-- Just for testing purposes, I've at times run up to a dozen apps in the background - including games and some resource-hungry apps.
You can find all of these apps in the Cydia jailbreak app store.
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