How iOS 7 multitasking is even worse, and why I’m in no hurry to upgrade

Sections: Features, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch, Opinions and Editorials, Originals

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iOS 7 looks to be shaping up as the most successful upgrade yet to Apple’s mobile operating system if initial download volumes are any indication.

I’m itching to upgrade to iOS 7 myself. Unlike some folks, I don’t mind the new look of iOS 7 at all. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the old System 6 minimalism that I cut my Mac user teeth on more than two decades ago, at least more so than the first six iOS versions were. (Working in iOS reminds me in several ways of the System 6 experience, but that’s another discussion.)

Aesthetically, the new color theme is more cheerful, and I’ve never liked skeumorphism, so I would not be at all unhappy to bid it goodbye. The new feature set—Apple says there are some 200 changes and enhancements—contains some solid improvements that would be nice to have.

However, I haven’t taken the plunge yet. How come? Well I’m almost never an early adopter of anything computer related, and my inclination is to to wait for the proverbial dust to settle a bit, even for the .01 first bugfix revision (which reportedly may come very quickly with iOS 7).

But I’m also concerned as to whether my iPad 2 will have muscle enough to handle running iOS 7 without a slowdown in performance from iOS 6. There have been reports that seven is a marginal performer on A5 machines like the iPad 2 and iPad mini, and I’m waiting for more real world accounts to emerge now that the final version is out before deciding, but I may wait until an anticipated upgrade to a more recent and faster iPad model in a few months.

My iPad is primarily used as a work and productivity tool, and the iPad 2 runs nicely with iOS 6, which may turn out to be the ultimate maximum performance operating system for A5 devices. Certainly I’ve had the experience of overshooting that peak with some of the Macs I’ve owned over the years.

For example, I eventually installed System 7.0 on my old Mac Plus in order to get better Internet compatibility (so to speak). However, System 7 overtaxed the Mac Plus’s minimal hardware resources, and I kept System 6.0.8 installed on a separate boot partition on the Plus’s 20 MB (!) hard drive for speed and efficiency. However, you unfortunately can’t dual boot an iOS machine, and iOS version upgrades are essentially a bridge-burning one-way-street (almost; there is a faint hope workaround).

However, another issue giving me pause for sober second (and third) thought is iOS 7’s revised “multitasking” feature. It still falls far short of what I would consider real multitasking capabilities, but based on reading many reviews and early impressions, it appears that Apple has taken a step backward with what it insists on calling “Multitasking” in iOS 7.

ios7multitaskingOne of my favorite  iOS 6 features has been the multitasking bar that can be accessed with an upward four-finger swipe as opposed to manipulating the mechanical Home button. Unhappily, as far as I’ve been able to gather from reading literally dozens of reviews and reports, with iOS 7 we’re back to double pumping the Home Button to summon the “multitasking” app switching interface, with no on screen alternative. As one who routinely switches among open apps from dozens to more than a hundred times a day, it concerns me that giving that sort of consistent heavy use will potentially result in failure of the Home Button with attendant inconvenience and expense. I’m not really a fan of touchscreen computer control, but one definite advantage it has is lack of moving mechanical parts, the latter of which always carries with it potential for wear and component failure related to use.

But there’s more to it than only lame actuation. Just as Apple ruined the erstwhile OS 10.6  “Spaces” feature in OS X 10.7 and 10.8, they have now ruined iOS 6’a  reasonably usable and efficient “Multitasking” feature in iOS 7. Gone is the handy and quickly efficient swipe-sliding app switcher bar at the bottom of the screed accessed with a four-finger swipe, your Home Button double-click now brings up a full-screen interface in which appears full previews of other running apps in a card-file like motif. There is still an icon ribbon at the bottom, but for some inexplicable reason. The app icons are widely separated, with only  three instead of the former eight, which of course requires more (and reportedly sluggish) scrolling.

I know I’m going to detest the Home Button bit intensely enough that it could be a deal-breaker for me.

One point in the “plus” column for iOS 7 multitasking is that, while in the past Apple has restricted background operations to only a few apps that use certain accessibility settings, with iOS 7 developers have been provided with an API that can enable an app to refresh in the background (although an associate negative will likely be diminished battery life).  This moves the iOS at least a baby step further toward real multitasking capability, but alas, with version 7 multitasking, it’s a matter of one step forward and two steps back.

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  • Willi

    Of course the multitasking gestures are still present in iOS7! You can still access the app switcher and swipe between apps via the touchscreen just like you could in iOS6. I don’t know where you got this from, but it seems to me you didn’t do much research.

    Also: Yes, the app switcher now only shows three apps at once. However, the switcher is now one long dynamic band of apps and can be scrolled through, rather than the old NES-type “one page at a time”-type where you needed to swipe between pages. This compensates somewhat for the less space-efficient presentation.

    I have not encountered any performance problems for iOS7 on my iPad 3 (CPU is about the same as in the iPad 2). On the contrary, my home button finally responds consistently again when I press it! I always thought that was a hardware problem; turns out, it wasn’t.

  • Dave

    You can access the multitasking menus with a 4 finger up swipe. I just did it on my iPad 2 which runs iOS 7 just fine for me.

  • Will

    All iOS 6 gestures are still the same under 7. In fact, I find it better to multitask in iOS 7 since the four finger upward swipe (or home button double click) brings the previously used app to the center of all other open apps that are displayed as “cards” on the multitasking interface. Ask someone with iOS 7 on their device to show you.

  • Jorge

    You’re wrong — 4 finger swipe works perfectly in iOS 7 on my iPAD 2

  • Jeo

    Gesture is still there … sheesh, do some research first.

  • Luca

    I’m using ios7 on my ipad right now and you can still use all your multitasking gestures. Even four finger up to show the multitasking. I’m using a third generation ipad. Not sure if they deleted the feature from the iPad 2. But I think it would be stupid.

  • Helpful

    Four finger swip in iOS 7 still works perfectly, and my iPad2 that I use all day as my work horse has never been better. Hope this helps!

  • Nick Sharratt

    Running iOS on an iPad mini, an iPad 3rd gen, iPhone 4s and a 5 and it’s feeling “snappier” than iOS 6 on all of them, and your worry about loosing the gesture to access multitasking isn’t an issue, it’s still there and just works nicer. It’s much less of a change to performance than iOS5=>6 was (which crippled my then iPhone 3G and necessitated an upgrade to iPhone4 until they patched it when the 3G became usable again and I donated it to my sister).

    TL;DR iOS 7 seems “safe” to upgrade to, but as always, you’re mileage may vary.

  • Steve

    I’m not sure what you’re reading, but I have an iPad Mini and multitasking is just the same as before. You are absolutely misinformed and highly mistaken. It’s very responsive, swipes up to view and left and right to switch between apps immediately. And the app icons below when it shows the windows above allows you to swipe them instead of the windows, moving quicker between apps. If you had it, you could try it. You can now also swipe on those windows and close multiple apps at once. So, in point of fact, I have found it even more useful than before and not ‘even worse’ as you attempt to articulate.

    If you haven’t used it, you probably shouldn’t write a review of it.

  • Tyler C.

    Maybe if you actually upgraded your iPad 2 you would find that the four finger swipe still works to envoke the multitasking switcher. I am running ios7 on my mini and it runs just as smooth as on 6. Not sure where you’re getting your info from, but first hand experiences trump it all!

  • Bill

    My ipad2 works just fine with ios7 and the four finger swipe works too.

  • Mark

    A word of advice. Don’t rely on dozens of other reports to do your own report on a feature you know nothing about because you haven’t tried it. The four finger swipe still exists on the iPad version of iOS. The home button is only needed on iPhone and iPod as it was with iOS 6.
    The thumbnail view in the new multitasking set up is easier to scroll through, easier to shut down apps with a quick up swipe instead of touching a tiny little cross icon.

    I have iOS 7 on my iPad 2 and it is equally “fast” or faster than iOS 6. In many scenarios it has improved performance as recently my iPad has started to lag a bit.

    But again, don’t write a post on a feature you haven’t even tried based on other reports from others who haven’t tried it.

  • Mark

    Wrong, iOS 7 multitasking on the iPad works with the old gesture. You don’t need the home button at all.

  • Ken

    Really?! You have not installed it and yet you wrote a whole article of an non-existence issue. No wonder the US govt is trying to define who is the journalist here. FYI, four finger gesture works as before.

  • M

    Not sure why there is an article on why you won’t upgrade because you’re worried it will slow down your ipad 2. Does that help anyone? Not really because you’re convincing other ipad 2 owners to not upgrade. Surely you should be upgrading and telling people your experience so as to give them hints on whether it is worth going for. Never mind though as I have upgraded my ipad 2 to ios7 and it’s a great upgrade. I’ve experienced no real change in speed and works fairly similar to my iPhone 4S. There you go people, you can either take the advice of someone that hasn’t upgraded and is basing the upgrade on rumour or you can take my advice which is based on having actually upgraded.

    Oh and the multitasking feature is still available via the four fingered swipe. Pointless article that helped nobody

  • Karthik

    Dude, the 4 finger swipe to access multitasking works in ios7 installed on my ipad2.

  • ajendus

    The four finger gesture does work for multitasking and I’m really glad you’re comparing ios 7 to System 7, from 22 years ago, but this is a different age of computing. You analogy is not relevant. iOS 7 run really well on the mini. Rather than writing an article that is completely off, based on speculation and hearsay, try it for yourself and write and article from experience.

  • Dave

    iOS7 runs quite smooth on my iPad 2 and your concerns about multitasking are unfounded. All of the same multitasking gestures from iOS6 are still there.

  • Andy Herron

    We’ll the four finger swipe up to display multitasking view in iOS 7 works fine for me as does the four finger swipe downwards to hide it again

  • Kevin Davis

    Not sure where you read these reviews, but the four-finger swipe still works with iOS 7 on the iPad…..

  • Sean

    You can access multitasking the same way you would on iOS 6. Your sources are wrong

  • Elisa

    The 4 finger swipe for multitasking does still work on iOS 7. I installed iOS 7 on my iPad mini and so far I haven’t noticed any slowness.

  • Scott

    You’re absolutely wrong about having to push the home button to access the updated app switcher in iOS 7, the 4 finger swipe definitely still works. What’s more convenient is the fact you can close your apps with a quick upward swipe, rather than holding down one of the icons to start them jiggling and clicking tiny little x buttons.

  • David

    Uh…the four finger upswipe does work on my ipad2.

  • Amr

    Multitasking can be accessed by upward four-finger slide as usual, it’s a bit slow on iPad 2 comparing to the previous version of iOS but it’s working.

  • Gian Mignone

    I’m running iOS 7 on the new ipad. Four finger swipe up from the bottom does, in fact, reveal the multitasking bar. The feature can be turned on in Settings, just as in iOS 6.

  • Dan King

    Four finger swipe from bottom of screen does give the multitasking ‘bar’ to switch between apps and a four finger swipe from right to left switches between open apps. In iOS7. No home button ware here.


  • Charles Moore

    Thanks for the info, folks.

    As I said in the article, I wanted to hear more real world reports before I made up my mind about upgrading. Now I have.

    I’m delighted to hear that the four finger upward swipe in lieu of the Home Button double-pump still works. I really did read a bunch of reviews and impressions articles with particular regard to that issue, and not one that I scanned mentioned the four-finger gesture, so I feared the worst. I should clarify that not one said it didn’t work , either. — it just wasn’t addressed. Spooked I guess by what Apple did with Spaces in OS X.

    I really do want to like iOS 7, and the multitasking/switcher activation issue was a potential dealbreaker for me. I expect I’m still going to prefer the way it works in iOS 6, but I’m keeping an open mind. I did with the Spaces/Mission Control transition in OS X, but that one never won me over, although I can live with it, and no doubt I’ll get used to the Switcher change in iOS 7 as well.

    The ease of closing apps does sound like an improvement.

    There seems to be more than one school of thought on whether things are slower on A5 machines with version 7 than they are with version 6, but it’s encouraging to hear that some folks perceive little or no difference.

    I was emphatically clear that I hadn’t used IOS 7 on my iPad, so nobody should have construed the piece as a review or advice, just some frustrated stream-of-consciousness. The nearest Apple Store is 150 miles from where I live, so I haven’t had the opportunity to check it out there.


  • Y

    You know what i love the most, professional writers, bloggers, journalists who write stuff as fact, provide opinions and have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. I am pretty sure the first rule in any of these fields is do your own homework.

    I guess when you’re trying to pour a jug full of knowledge into a shotglass of a brain, you are bound to get spillage.

    Anyone who read this, ignore.

  • Merv

    My biggest problem with multitasking is that for all regular apps, that haven’t got the new API they lose what you were doing much much faster than in iOS6.

    For example. If I’m in Dropbox, reading a pdf, viewing an image, or just in a folder, then go to another app, say to check my email because I got notified of a new one, it loses what I was doing in Dropbox and has to reload the app. But, annoyingly, when scrolling through the running apps there’s an out of date snapshot of the last state of the previous app (Dropbox in this case) which gives the illusion that the app is running adequately in the background, when it’s clearly not!

    I found this to be the case with pretty much every app, including photos, snapseed, photoshop, scrabble, mail, etc…

    Oh, and probably even more annoying than the multitasking mess is the music quick access controls in the swipe up area. THEY DON NOT WORK PROPERLY. I have no idea what apple have done here, but at a guess it appears that instead of reverting back to the music library that’s stored on the device, it is set to remember something else, say the last audio event, maybe a YouTube video? But whatever the case is, the result is that most of the time when I press those buttons nothing happens, so I have to open the music app and start my playlist again! The negative effect of this is when I’m in an app that accesses the music library, which has also lost the connection to the current “now playing” track. Meaning I have to open the music app and lose my current state in the other app! Argh!!!

    All-in-all two major elements of controlling how background data is dealt with have seemingly be downgraded from the previously (just about acceptable) version.

    Very poor oversights, and backward steps from iOS6.

  • Eric

    Not only does the four finger gesture work but the whole thing is much better than in iOS 6. The reason is that if you don’t like the screenshots of the apps running, then you can scroll using the icons on the bottom. If you scroll using the icons, you can go through the apps much faster than in iOS 6. But if you want slower, precise scrolling, scroll the screenshots. You can use two fingers, for example, and swipe up to quit two apps at a time. I would think that it would be hard not to see all of this as an improvement over 6.

  • Steve

    So basically, the entire article was a waste of time because you didn’t do any research ( like asking one person with iOS 7 to give it a try). Thanks.

  • Scott

    Great—a condemnation of iOS 7 by someone who clearly hasn’t even tried it, based on, what exactly? Your difficulty running OS 7 on your MacPlus?

    Yes, gestures—including the four-fingered multitasking swipe—continue to work just fine, and iOS 7 is snappy as can be on my iPad 2. Other system improvements—in particular Control Center—make this FREE upgrade a no-brainier.

    One of the more pointless and ill-informed Apple slams I’ve ever encountered, and the list is long. Yeesh.

  • Charles Moore

    T,’wasn’t a waste of time for me. By venting my frustration with not finding an answer to the four finger gesture question in any of the sizeable number of reviews and hands-ons I checked out, I quickly found out what I needed to know before committing to an upgrade to iOS 7, which I now intend to do at the first opportunity that I can find the time.

    As for “slamming. Apple, I’m an Apple products aficionado and advocate of more than two decades standing. Used to sell Macs back in the day. I’m not an uncritical fanboy, but in general my inclination is benevolent toward Apple and its contributions to IT culture, as well as making the tools I’ve used to make my living for the past twenty-some years.


  • Brendan

    You really should have done more research before writing this article. Perhaps even tried using iOS 7 on a device before making these mistaken judgements. First, yes you can use the 4 finger swipe to activate the multitasking cards. All the same gestures in iOS 6 are present in iOS 7. Second, the new ‘cards’ system is actually BETTER than the previous way because you can now use three fingers to close three apps AT ONCE! If I have 15 apps open in the background and I want to close them all I only hVe to make 5 gestures and I’m done. In iOS 6 I had to close each app individually. What a pain in the ass. Moral of the story: do your research, and upgrade to a far better experience.

    PS. I’m using iOS 7 on my iPad Mini (A5 architecture) and it sails through everything.

  • Scott

    Doesn’t change the fact that it was an utterly pointless article based on shoddy research and zero first-hand knowledge. Your two complaints (it might not run well on my iPad 2; the four-fingered swipe no longer works) are simply wrong. You need to own the stream of derisive comments this article has earned, and you need to do better next time.

  • L

    No I don’t buy this story. You titled it ‘how iOS 7 multitasking is even worse…’ But you based this on the fact that nobody mentioned that it still has a four fingered swipe?
    Why wouldn’t you title it ‘I need help in deciding whether to upgrade’?
    The truth is you blatantly made a headline statement that you didn’t have any authority to say as you seem to be the only iOS user that hadn’t upgraded but then went on to make false claims. Did any of the reviews you read mention that you can copy an paste? No. Did you assume then that you couldn’t copy and paste anymore? No.
    I hope you learn from this. If you’re going to write on tech sites then at least attempt to get your facts right

  • Tom

    The most pathetic part of this whole article is that it took me less than 30 seconds to google “ios 7 ipad four finger multitasking” to find a whole list of websites answering that very question. You wrote an entire useless article about something you were too lazy to actually figure out, and you assumed that your uneducated opinion was important enough that it merited a full article with a title that actually says, in plain words, that multitasking in ios 7 “is even worse”. Not “maybe worse”, not “might be”, not “seems to be”– your title states a fact, as if to say, it IS simply worse for the following reasons. But you’re stating a fact based on your own laziness and stupidity.

    What in the world possessed you to think that writing this ridiculous article made more sense than doing a quick google search and finding out the answer for yourself?

  • Mark G

    Please, Charles, a laughable defense. I only found this site via Zite but its appearance and list of multiple contributors makes it appear to be a site/blog purporting to be serious. More appearances in Zite has brought me back so I decided to check out the comments and am happy to see most are in my camp of disbelief. I’m sure if you had nothing to contribute this week, the other writers could have written something based remotely on fact and first hand experience while you took a break. If, as you admit, you had not used iOS 7 yet, then don’t write anything until you have. Living 150 miles from an Apple store is no excuse for shoddy “journalism”. This article and your reply to our comments is deserving of a Macalope attack.

  • Mark G

    And if you are going to write an article asking for answers to your research, then just ask the question and those of us who know will answer you. It would save us the time wasted reading a 1000 words of nonsense.

  • Nick

    Same here. My iPad Runs 7 amazingly, kept 6 on a USB in case it needs to go back to the old OS and haven’t gone back yet. It runs a little bit slower but still exceeds my expectations for an old processor and a new operating system.

    Multitasking can be brought up and it may not be as nice of an animation, but it’s definitely there with a four finger swipe. I can’t remember the last time I used my home button…