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iPhone OS 4.0: will you upgrade this year?

Apple took the wraps off its updated iPhone firmware this morning, giving us a good indication of what to expect from the fourth-generation iPhone this year. But is it enough to have you re-signing your iPhone contract?

(Credit: CBSi)

While this morning's event fails to generate the excitement of Apple's annual iPhone announcement at its WWDC event in June, the unveiling of the new iPhone OS is perhaps a better indication of what to expect from Apple's smartphone in 2010 than the hardware reveals. So, based on what you saw this morning, will you be upgrading to a new iPhone this year?

What every phone manufacturer knows is that 2010 is an election year. Two years ago, millions of people worldwide signed 24-month contracts to buy the iPhone 3G and those contracts will expire in July, paving the way for Apple to push upgraded handsets on their loyal following, and for the competition to persuade the rest of us to choose a phone on a different platform.

This morning Apple revealed a major card in its deck for 2010, the iPhone OS 4.0 revision shows us how the next-generation iPhone will look and work on the inside, with multitasking, customisable wallpapers, a game server and iAds being the highlights of the new features. But is this enough to have you signing another iPhone contract when your iPhone 3G contract expires? These new features definitely extend the functionality of the iPhone as it stands right now, but how do they compare to features available on other smartphone platforms? Here is a list of things you can do on other platforms right now.

Widgets (Android, Symbian, Windows Phone 7): live widgets are one of best parts of nearly every other smartphone platform, but are especially interesting on Android phones. Widgets deliver updated information from news, weather services and social networks directly to the home screen, allowing you to digest information and interact with networks without having to launch applications.

Advanced gesture controls (HTC Sense for Android): Apple is the real pioneer of gesture controls for touchscreen smartphones, designing the now ubiquitous pinch-to-zoom gesture for the iPhone. We'd loved to have seen Apple take this concept further for the 4.0 release, taking its cues from some of the cool gestures implemented by HTC in the Android-powered Desire.

True multitasking (BlackBerry OS, Nokia's Maemo-powered N900): Apple's iPhone multitasking is the same basic saved-states concept that's been in Android since day dot. Sure, VoIP services and GPS location tracking can run in the background, but everyday tasks like web browsing and instant messaging will become inactive once you cycle through to another app. This means that if you start loading a large website, navigate away and choose a song to listen to, then return to the browser you'll find that the page data has not continued loading and you'll still have to wait for 30 seconds or so for the page to appear.

Speech to text (Google's Android 2.1): this is one we thought Apple would include for sure, it seems a natural extension of the voice commands function released in the 3.0 firmware update last year. If you want to compose text message by speech then the Google Nexus One is still the only way to go.

Will any of these missing features effect your decision when July rolls around?