Steve Jobs: Why iPhone 3G Was Held Back in iOS4

Contributing Writer
Updated

The iOS 4 launched yesterday, allowing those with iPod Touch and iPhone devices to enjoy the updated software packed with new features.

Sadly, not all devices were equal in their treatment. The iPhone 2G EDGE model is now no longer supported, and the iPhone 3G doesn't get multitasking or wallpaper capabilities. Only the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 get all the new features.

While there has to be a cutoff point somewhere for end-of-life, there are still lots of iPhone 3G users out there who feel that their devices are still relevant. Sure, multitasking takes more memory and the 3G has half as much RAM as the 3GS, and a quarter of the RAM of the iPhone 4. But what about a simple wallpaper?

A Gizmodo reader wrote to Steve Jobs wondering why even wallpaper wasn't allowed on the 3G phone.

She wrote:

Hey Steve! I just upgraded my iPhone 3G to iOS 4 and was really looking forward to setting a background on my home screen. Guess that's not happening, but I'd like to know why.

See, I get why you don't include multitasking. My iPhone gets pretty hot when certain apps run, couldn't imagine how multitasking would fry my phone.

But the background thing, I don't see how that would be memory intensive and/or battery draining. It doesn't seem like that feature needs to be exclusive to the 3GS and 4G.

I hope this email finds you in good health.

Erica

Steve Jobs replied:

The icon animation with backgrounds didn't perform well enough.

It was an honest and clear answer from the Apple CEO. It seems that Apple toyed with the idea, but even the mere fact that animation wasn't as smooth as the company liked meant that the millions of iPhone 3G users will be stuck with the black background.

Of course, it would have been better to leave the feature in and let the user decide for him or herself whether the choppier animation was worth the background image – but that's not how Apple rolls.

Thankfully, jailbreaking software will allow iPhone 3G users to gain both backgrounds and multitasking. In fact, we've tried the jailbroken update on our 3G models, and things work well. We're not sure what the long-term effects are of running the iPhone 3G with multitasking with only 128MB of RAM, but at least we get the choice for ourselves.