In March, Apple announced its next major revision of the iPhone OS, version 3.0. In conjunction with the next generation iPhone, this new OS should have existing iPhone users everywhere salivating at its hot new features; although many – myself included – expected these features to begin with.
Better late than never, right? Yes and no, for ‘never’ seems to be Apple’s unequivocal answer to our cries from the wilderness. Some features – which should be standard on any modern mobile device – are still missing in action from this new release, a simple fact which threatens to make an extraordinary device, well…ordinary.
Here are a few of the major updates to the operating system used ’round the world. These ones all fit into my category of FINALLY!, and most of you will agree that they should’ve been there to start with.
Most interesting (and useful) new features:
- Ability to search the iPhone
- Cut, Copy & Paste functionality
- Send multiple photos via email
- Send photos, contacts, audio files, and location via MMS (iPhone 3G only)
- Read and compose email and text messages in landscape mode
- Video recording (rumored)
There are many more proposed features for the OS (I’m not going to deal with those now, but I may if I do a hands-on review), which is scheduled as a free update for all iPhone users this summer. OS 3.0 beta 5 is currently available for registered iPhone developers, and while I normally shy-away from beta releases for gadgets I used on a frequent basis, I may bite the bullet and install it so I can provide a hands-on review. I’ll keep you posted on that one.
I’ll cut to the chase. While I’m eager for the aforementioned add-ons, I still have some issues with the OS. Simply put, there are things which would make this little gad the only gad to own, if only Steve Jobs didn’t hold every exec at Apple by the short and curlies.
MIA: (Better) Browser Support
It’s been no DaVinci code that Jobs decides what goes and what doesn’t at the Cupertino Gravenstein. First, there was the airtight policy for iPhone apps that means not only does Apple restrict what apps are available, but they also reserve the right to cancel them after the fact. Then there was Jobs’ all-out snub of Adobe by choosing not to provide Java or mobile Flash support in Safari, the native iPhone browser. This move crippled what is otherwise a superb – and has potential to be the best – mobile browser out there.
Nor will we see any such support in the proposed future. This to me has to the most glaring omission from what is otherwise the best gad in the world. Seriously, I mean that. I’ve been a gadfreak since I was a little tater tot and I’ve never come across anything so close to the perfect app. “It’s a phone. No, it’s an iPod Touch. No, it’s a mobile gaming device. No, it’s a GPS. No, it’s a MID. No, it’s a…” See what I mean?
The glaring omission of the two most ubiquitous technologies on the web today – Java and Flash – means that the browsing experience is going to be stilted. And you’re going to notice it, I guarantee you. You just can’t surf to a page today without finding some sort of implementation of the aforementioned code and it just sucks when you’re on a good-looking page – like this blog – and you see an ugly gap where the Flash should have been.
MIA: Skin(ny) Dipping
Another feature missing from the iPhone OS is the ability to use skins and themes. This is just a theory, but I believe Apple is so in love with its own OS that they can’t imagine why anyone would want to mess with perfection. But if you’re anything like me, then you like a little novelty in your life and the Spartan black screen just doesn’t do it. If you’re really brave, then you probably went and jailbroke your iPhone. Once there, you’d have access to all sorts of skins and themes using apps like Winterboard.
That Apple isn’t implementing this feature into the next OS is troubling, because while it has little to do with functionality, it’s one of those things that people expect in their gads today. If you doubt me, walk down to your nearest Apple Store, BestBuy or Radio Shack and browse the iPhone/iPod accessories. There you will find rows upon rows of things which, while relatively useless, make your phone pretty and somewhat unique.
MIA: Better Ringtone Support
Surprisingly absent from all iterations of the iPhone (including the upcoming OS 3.0) is the pretty-much standard ability for ringtone customization. Standard in even entry-level cellphones on the market today is the ability to assign specific ringtones to contacts, change ringtones for things like calendar events, MMS messages, emails, and so-on. Of the ones I’ve listed, this missing feature is probably the most frustrating, since we’ve been spoiled to expect this in our phones. Custom ringtone support is akin to leaping through tiny hoops, too, requiring a computer engineer and two level 5 wizards to get it working seamlessly in iTunes. On this one, I have no choice but to give Apple a big ‘for shame.’
MIA: Background Apps
Arguably the most glaring omission from the iPhone’s bag of tricks is the ability to run applications in the background. If you’re like me and still suffer from an early childhood diagnosis of hyperactivity disorder, then you should be able to share my pain. A staple for any multitasker, background apps can allow you to do neat (and basic) things like flip over to your camera app in the middle of writing an email; or access a third party app while you’re browsing with Safari. Unfortunately, the iPhone forces you to head on back to the home screen every time you switch between applications, and you needn’t expect that to change with OS 3.0.
It’s gadget 101. Everyone is vying for a piece of that big ol’ apple pie, and even though iPhone has a solid installed base, one only need look at the device it usurped to get there. The new features of OS 3.0 are great, exciting even, but with a few unbelievably glaring omissions, is Apple giving the competition a chance to knock it off the throne? Time will tell, I suppose, but until then, I’ll guess I’ll just have to keep surfing the net without Java and Flash, live with my old fashioned ringtone for all my calls, and look away from the Spartan black screen when I’m swiping my finger.