iOS 8, the next iteration of Apple's mobile operating system, may come with side-by-side app support after all.
App developer Steve Troughton-Smith tweeted Monday that Apple's iOS 8 software development kit has code built into it that allows users to run multiple apps simultaneously on the display. According to the developer, apps can be displayed in "one-quarter size, one-half size, or three-quarter size."
Side-by-side app support is a highly coveted feature. It's already supported in Google's Android mobile operating system and available on Android smartphones and tablets from Samsung and LG. The feature is also seen as critical toward turning iOS devices -- the iPad in particular -- into true productivity tools along the same lines as a laptop or desktop PC.
The ability to support split-screen apps was widely expected to make its debut Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference last week. Despite showing off several improvements, including support for sharing on-screen content in iOS with a Mac, the side-by-side app support was not announced.
So... just in case there was any doubt left... iOS 8's SpringBoard has code to run two apps side-by-side. 1/4 size, 1/2 size, or 3/4 size
-- Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) June 9, 2014
That Apple didn't announce side-by-side app support isn't all that surprising. The company typically updates iOS each year with hundreds of tweaks and can only show so many upgrades in its two-hour keynote address. Earlier reports also suggested the feature was coming but that it wasn't ready for WWDC.
If the feature is built into iOS 8, which is due to be released this fall, it would likely be most useful on Apple's iPads. When turned to landscape mode, the feature would allow users to have one app open on the left side of the display and another on the right side, effectively increasing their multitasking abilities such as reading the news while videoconferencing or checking email while catching up on social networks.
The feature could conceivably come to iPhones, but smaller displays typically don't handle the side-by-side effect as well because of the limited real estate.
That may change, however, if Apple comes out with a larger display for the next iPhone. The company is rumored to be readying two new iPhones, each with larger displays than the current 4-inch screen of the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5. Split-screen has been a feature available to Android smartphones such as the LG G2 or Samsung Galaxy S line.
There is, of course, one other future outcome for the side-by-side feature: that it never comes to the final build of iOS 8. Troughton-Smith is currently using a developer build of iOS 8, and Apple typically makes changes to the platform before it's released to the public. Between now and the fall when Apple plans to launch iOS 8, many changes, additions, and omissions can be made.
CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the feature. We will update this story when we have more information.