All things modern.
I like alot about the iPhone, that’s why I have recently bought one after waiting four generations for it to reach a state to be acceptable as a main mobile phone. One of the things that I like is that Apple continuously adds features useful and not so useful, as do all manufacturers who follow an iterative development process. But Apple also ensures that old models continue to be supported until the hardware simply cannot cope with the new features. Other manufacturers couldn’t be bothered and force you to buy a totally new handset.
Of course there are many things still not perfect about the iPhone experience, and some that are downright annoying. In this article I will attempt to sift through the new features of iOS 5 and filter out the useful features from the waffle and the hype. Here they are:
By Apple’s own admission, the notification system currently use is annoying. I remember trying to watch a music video only to be interrupted about 5 times because a friend was online and commenting on my facebook stuff!. Notifications are good, but shouldn’t be so intrusive. The new system is implemented in a very similar way to notifications on Android. Notifications will live on the previously underutilised top bar. Swipe down and your notification list comes us. Unfortunately unlike Android, there does not seem to be any indication on the bar that notifications are awaiting your attention. New notifications appear on the top of the screen as a double height top bar, staying as far off screen as possible and not interrupting what the user is doing.
Surprisingly for Apple, the implementation of this doesn’t look as refined as one would expect. The look of it just does not seem to blend with the rest of the UI. Notifications also appear on the lock screen, which bearing in mind how bland this screen has looked before seemed always destined for such a feature. In this case the look does blend in with the rest of the UI and is quite appealing. I am assuming that if you have a passcode set on the phone as you should, this will need to be entered before accessing details of any notification. This could possibly open up a back door for hackers to enter your locked phone as was previously the case with the lockscreen briefly before Apple rectified it.
This seems to be a way to push your magazine subscriptions to your phone. This is pretty much useless to me as I have no such subscriptions. In any case why is this a top 10 feature of an operating system when it looks as if it is just a magazine app? And of course your store of magazines has to look like a book shelf. Perhaps this is what Apple means when they say they want to get rid of the confusion of a file system. This one is crap Apple, sorry.
Twitter integration? Are you serious Apple? ‘There’s an app for that’. A simple ‘post to twitter’ option added to the context menus would have sufficed.
4. Safari Reader.
Apple has added to their browser a feature to make it look like old WAP browser. If you like to read web pages like this you probably shouldn’t have a smartphone.
5. Tabbed browsing.
This is nice on a desktop computer, but on a phone with limited screen area, its just a waste of space, especially considering that mobile safari already has competent multiple window browsing using thumbnails of the screens to switch between them.
There is already a calendar in iOS. What they could have done was to let you make an entry into the calendar by pressing on a blank time slot in stead of having to press “+” then select a time using the number wheels.
7. Camera button on the lock screen.
Now this is a useful addition. To take a picture at present with your locked iPhone one must press a button to activate the screen, slide to unlock, punch in unlock code, look for the camera icon, press it, wait for camera to start up, take picture. Apple has implemented this well given the lack of physical keys. My concern is the location of the camera icon on the lock screen. I wonder how many people will start the camera when they only wanted to unlock the phone?
Being able to use the volume up key to take picture is also a good idea implemented as best as they could given the physical button layout on the iPhone. A dedicated key would have been much better, but at least this will reduce camera shake that occurs when trying to tap the on screen shutter key, which by the way is also useless for taking self portraits. This is one of those ‘improvements’ that should have really been there from day one.
8. Indentation control, draggable address, rich text, searching within message, flag message.
These are minor update apple, it would have been better to not publicise that these features were missing before.
9. PC free use.
This is another of those things that apple should never have done in the first place. It’s like tying your hands behind your back and then releasing you four years later and somehow expecting you to be happy about it. At present one must use iTunes to get anything onto the iPhone. However if you are happy consuming web content and podcasts, you really only ever need to connect to the PC to activate the phone initially and to backup and update. This new feature will eliminate even the need for that.
It would appear that Apple is attempting to implement a Blackbery Messaging like messaging system, ingeniously called iMessage. What the difference between this and push email is I cannot understand.
11. Camera app.
You have a grid now when shooting. Yee Ha big deal. In camera editing. This is not what a phone is for, do it on a PC. For simple edits use Photoshop Express (free app).
Now as I mentioned at the beginning, the development of any operating system is an iterative process with new features being introduced periodically. One of the strong points of the iPhone, is the strong integration of phone features to create not just an operating system but one that works symbiotically with human behaviour. Hence many of the features above that I have dismissed as gimmicks may very well find themselves so ingrained into the system that they just blend and become one with the whole experience. It is this experience that sells iPhones, so we will just have to wait and see how these improvements are received by the public.
Even without these minor updates, the iPhone still offers the best all round smartphone experience today. However with Windows Phone 7 for Microsoft being improved and QNX and WebOS for RIM and HP respectively just around the corner, their power and usability may just relegate the iPhone to a niche market of users who want pure integration and are willing to put up with the compromises. Lets see how this pans out. 08.06.2011 Update: Similar article here.