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New iPhone OS to bring background online radio listening

Soon you can listen to This American Life and tweet about it at the same time. How will you get anything else done?

As an iPhone user I can say with full knowledge that one of the things that holds the device back when it comes to listening to online radio is the lack of multitasking. While the iPod app allows you to play your audio files in the background while surfing the web or using other apps, you can only use third-party apps one at a time. Since listening to online radio, Pandora, or Slacker requires a third-party app, there’s no reading facebook or playing video games.

This restriction is sort of tolerable on a small mobile device like the iPhone, but it’s far more annoying on the iPad. Imagine if your laptop or netbook wouldn’t let you listen to streaming stations while word processing or web browsing. In fact, for work I use a Palm Pre which does permit multi-tasking. I do occasionally listen to Pandora on the Pre while answering emails, even though it kills the battery more quickly.

Wired’s Gadget Lab has a sneak preview of a beta of the forthcoming iPhone OS version 4. Top on the feature list is real multitasking. When the new OS drops later this summer iPad and iPhone 3GS users finally will be able to run their favorite streaming audio app in the background while using other apps. You might even be able to run two audio apps at the same time to test your bandwidth and tolerance for cacophony.

Unfortunately multitasking will not be available for first generation iPhones or the 3G. I guess our puny little processors can’t handle it.

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