Apple iPhone OS 4 Event – The Good, The Bad, and the Meh

Today’s Yesterday’s iPhone OS 4 preview was chock full of announcements, and I’d wager to say there was at least something for everyone to like (assuming you don’t run an iPhone advertising or social community). As always when there is a big Apple event, we like to go over the key points of the day, and rate them as either good, bad, or meh. So sit back, relax, and prepare to have your opinions formed for you.

The Good

In a rare turn of events, just about everything we saw today was good, quite frankly, at least from an end-user POV.

- Multi-tasking: This appears to rock. As many of you know, the lack of ability to listen to internet radio while doing ANYTHING else (web surfing, email, twitter, etc) has long been the biggest iPhone “bug” up my arse. I previously jailbroke my iPhone in order to get this capability, and I would have kept doing it if it wasn’t such a pain in the aforementioned arse to keep up with the updates. Apple’s solution looks like it works far more elegantly than the jailbroken solutions, and I really can’t think of any better way Apple could have gone about doing this. My only problem with this, and most of the new changes, is they each add a new layer of complexity to the iPhone OS. Sure, they may not seem like brain surgery to those of us who have been growing with the iPhone all along, but these new multi-tasking behaviors are going to be something first-time iPhone users are actually going to have to read the manual to use.

- Game Center: Personally, I don’t really care about global leader boards. I’ve never been good enough at any game to be ranked at the top, and all these boards do is rub my face in just how bad I am. I suppose the best one of these I’ve found is Flight Control’s, where coincidentally my 3000+ score is good enough to have a top score locally. But I can definitely see how having a unified ranking system would be a benefit to players. I have signed up for at least three of these systems in the past (with three different usernames) and had to re-sign up at least 9-10 times over various devices and such. So the idea of having only one username and password to forget is appealing. If Apple does this correctly I assume there is no reason for anyone to use the current ranking systems out there, so I feel a little bad for anyone who was making money on their system, but hey, when you deal with Apple, you know the risks.

- The new Mail Apple is adding the ability to have a unified inbox, which when you run a couple websites and have to check 8 or more different e-mail addresses a day, is a great blessing. For business customers Apple’s created a new Mobile Device Management system to make it easier for companies to manage large fleets of iPhones, and enhanced Exchange support to allow for multiple accounts. Odds are I’ll never care about any professional features, as I doubt I will ever act professional in my entire life, but I like that they’re there if for no other reason than it means less iPhone bashing and more iPhone buying.

- Folders Being able to group apps into folders is great, and it means I will now be able to load all 1000+ apps onto my iPhone and actually be able to see them. Of course, I’ll still probably only use the same 12 I always do, but just like I like to carry around music I don’t particularly ever want to hear, I like the idea of having all the bad games and apps I’ve bought with me at all times.

- Customizable backgrounds Customization was probably the other major reason I jailbroke my iPhone, and the ability to add your own home screen backgrounds is great. Of course, odds are you will discover, as did I, that icons over straight black actually looks better than icons over a picture of your kids’ face or a Bugatti Veyron. But hey, at least you got the chance to try it.

The Meh

- iBooks for iPhone I personally don’t plan to do much reading on my iPad, so the thought of doing it on the iPhone’s much smaller screen is somewhat… Meh. But again, Apple’s implementation is quite nice, with synced bookmarks between the iPad and iPhone, and the need to only buy a book once and be able to read it on either device is nice. So if you are into the whole eBook thing, this is pretty sweet, I suppose.

-iAds Well, no one loves ads, and while these look nicer than other ads, they’re still ads, and odds are interactive ads will just waste more of my time than regular ads. It will be interesting to see how these ads work though, as they appear to take a hell of a lot more time and thought to make than a standard text banner, so I would wager not every advertiser is going to want to spring for one of these ads over the traditional AdMob types.

- 5x Digital camera zoom: I never understood the allure of digital camera zooms. I suppose this is for people who want to ruin their photographs while taking them instead of getting home and blowing them up in Photoshop. Aside from taking a grainy pic to proove you saw Big Foot 500 yards away, digital zooms are useless.

- No multi-tasking for anything but the latest gadgets: I’m not going to get too angry about this one for 2 reasons. First, I would assume that while multi-tasking something like an internet radio station and surfing the web at the same time isn’t too taxing on an older iPhone (and in fact, I used to do this just fine on a jailbroken 1st gen iPhone), things like making Skype calls and playing a game might be, so it was likely easier to just not support the whole thing than to figure out what specifically it could handle. And Second, and more importantly, it doesn’t bother me because I have the latest gadgets. :) Also, by the time OS 4 comes out, the latest gadgets will not be the latest gadgets, so multi-tasking will technically work on the last TWO generations of gadgets by then.

The Bad

Well, for once I can’t think of anything outright BAD to say about the announcements. And I’ve tried. I’m sure if I were a mobile ad agency or leader board developer I would have something bad to say, but as a consumer I am more or less thrilled with this update, especially given the last one’s more or less lackluster offerings. I suppose if anything I can still complain about missing features, although there are now fewer and fewer that I really care about.

– Still no custom SMS alert sounds.
I haven’t played with the new OS myself, but reports are that you still can’t choose a custom alert sound for a text message. Back in my jailbreaking days I made an AWESOME Kim Possible beeper sound and was able to use that as my alert, and it is more or less criminal that Apple still doesn’t let you add your own text alert tone. We had to fight for a couple years to get ringtones and we finally did. Maybe once Apple figures out a way to make money from them we will have the honor. But the least they could have done is add a couple new sounds to the library, as I think only 2 of the current alert sounds are anything you would not be embarrassed to hear go off in a meeting.

- Still no tethering on AT&T?: WTF?

No useful Lock Screen: These days adding a bunch of widgets, alerts and such to the lock screen seems to be all the rage in iPhone clones, so let’s steal a little something back and add the ability to put Weather, Facebook/Twitter updates, stocks etc. on the lock screen.

- No Disk mode: I’m really not sure what the problem is with enabling a disk mode, like in other iPods. Maybe Apple fears it would be easier to hack if we could drag and drop files to the iPhone, but let’s face it, the iPhone has been hacked, and will be hacked.

– Ability to remove Apple apps
Well, at least now I can make a folder called USELESS and throw the stocks, contacts, and weather apps in there.

Final word

As much as I enjoy, or PLAN to enjoy all these new features, I do think Apple is beginning to run out of things you can do with a 1-button + touch interface. Soon all the necessary swipes and “hit the home button 4 times and make a diagonal slash from the bottom left to the top right” type of video parodies may actually begin to come true. While these new features are powerful and will no doubt spur even more innovation from developers, the iPhone now appears to be a bit more complicated to use, especially for the non-tech savvy. I can certainly see a segment of the population (those people over 55,mainly) wondering where their apps went when they accidentally dropped on on another and made a folder. These people might get scared into reaching for something with a bunch of ugly, easy to use physical buttons over an iPhone, mainly because as the OS advances, there is going to be more and more to remember just to be able to make a phone call.

But all that being said, my young children love their iPod touches, can use my iPhone to make a call, and knew exactly what to do with the iPad 2 seconds after picking it up. So perhaps Apple’s evil plan of indoctrinating the young with iPod touches will work and the iPhone OS will become second nature to a whole generation of mult-tasking, multi-touching 8-year-olds who are (unfortunately) about 2 years away from owning an iPhone. God I really hope a carrier with a better family text plan is carrying the iPhone by then.

Comments
16 Responses to “Apple iPhone OS 4 Event – The Good, The Bad, and the Meh”
  1. Justin says:

    “odds are you will discover, as did I, that icons over straight black actually looks better than icons over a picture of your kids’ face or a Bugatti Veyron”
    Yeah, took me about 6 hours to decide that. I think what put me over was getting the calc icon over black yesterday. I was like, hmm… this looks better than my stupid wallpaper.

    “I never understood the allure of digital camera zooms.”
    Me either, I’d rather just crop my picture in photoshop later than zoom in. I mean you can zoom in the same now, just move your eyeball closer to the iPhone screen in the area you want to zoom.

  2. len says:

    I am still hopeful for a useful Lock Screen. That is a no brainer!?!?! Where is the email & sms notifier blinky light thingy we saw Apple try to patent a year or more ago. Give the home button a LED so we don’t have to turn it on and unlock the phone just to check status of messages.

  3. Jody Woodcock says:

    the meh: iAds – So they will be the same as your site, having adds no one want to see and taking up bandwidth. :-)

  4. @ Jody,

    true. But baby needs shoes.

    – The Doc

  5. Andy says:

    iAds rocks. What you don’t agree? Then you must be a looser, ah I mean user. We developers what to get something for our work, and that means we are more likely to make ever more great apps for all you SOBs. So monetizing apps is a god thing, get it?

  6. Min says:

    I like the iAd. Admit it, ads will be around us whether we like it or not. So, why not make it better? With iAd, for consumers, we can actually enjoy the ads when we want to and find useful information from it. For developers and advertisers, they can get get more hit from their ads and more revenue from their ads, so they can make better products in return. I say, it’s win win situation.

    A better example. Let’s see here, I never clicked any of these ads on Dr.’s website. But with these iAd, I think I will more than happy to click them on iphone or ipad. This will give Dr. more funds to buy Baby Dr. shoes, find more Mac chicks of the month, etc. So, everybody is happy.

    Believe it or not, I actually like to watch or “play” with ads as long as they are creative. I also tend to buy things from the companies that create interesting ads.

    What do you think Dr. ?

  7. darrell says:

    tethering – i have a theory that if Apple makes the iPhone available to other carriers (by making new hardware) at&t will roll out tethering for FREE. the iPhone is the only thing unique to at&t. they need to hold on to it for dear life.

    lockscreen – i jailbroke my 1st gen iPhone and used intelliscreen for its trial period. it’s a great concept, but it’s a privacy nightmare. especially if you selected the option to preview your emails from the screen. anyone could get a hold of your phone and read emails, or sms without getting into your phone.

    i do agree with you that the gestures are becoming more complicated. in fact, i’m sure with this latest update – many won’t even use multi-tasking because they won’t know how to access it. the same group may not have even used copy/paste. it’s there for the benefit of the users who wanted it.

    apple does have more to look forward to though – remember the placebase acquisition, or a front facing camera, or a camera with flash. there’s still more to come in the 4th gen iPhone / iPhone HD.

    here’s something interesting: now that you can pair a keyboard to the iPhone, wouldn’t you be able to play games using the keyboard to control?

  8. Jonro says:

    You’re right about tethering. What’s taking so long. I’m a lot more likely to pay for a tethering plan than I am to buy a data plan for an iPad.

    I think that if you double press your home button when the phone is off, you will get the iPod control screen, but if you double press it when the phone is on, you will get multitasking dock. Not a big deal, but doesn’t that break Apple’s GUI guidelines? I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple added a second “control” button to future products. At any rate, I will be grateful to get multitasking on the iPhone.

    Regarding iAd. No one likes ads, but it does become a powerful incentive for developers to release free software, and that’s a good thing. I think that most ads will remain simple, non-interactive ads, but time will tell.

    Oh, and Bluetooth keyboard connectivity. Finally!

  9. ObamaPacman says:

    About iAds,

    It’s HTML5 based so it can be made just like a regular banner ad or full featured mini-app.

  10. Donut says:

    multi-tasking- been able to do that on my iphone since 2008. sure Apple’s way is more elegant. but Jobs said that multi tasking wont work on the 3G, which is what i have. so that really pissed me off. he says cause the hardware cant do it. he said the same about MMS on the original iPhone, yet it could do it just fine.same deal with recording video, been able to do that on my phone since the beginning. so if my iphone has been capable of multi tasking for years, why is it that im shut out of this ‘new’ feature??

    game center- dont really care for it. seems many games already have this capability.

    mail- i just use Safari or VanillaSurf to get to Gmail, cause Mail still does not have the nice threading feature that Gmail has.

    Folders- already had this feature on my iPhone for a long time.

    Customizable Backgrounds- have had this since i first got my iphone. would have been great if they allowed themes.

    ibooks- i dont care to read books on my phone.

    -iAds – these look really cool but i doubt ill ever tap on one.

    digital zoom- apps already do this

    as for The Meh , a jailbroken iPhone can do all those things already.

  11. Daniel says:

    +1 for custom SMS alert sounds. Why, Apple? Why, why, why, why???!!!!

  12. NotAnonymous says:

    Digital zoom is available in some camera apps now and I’ve actually had a couple occasions where it was useful. For instance at a recent tech awards event they misspelled one of the few words being largely projected on the background of the stage. Without digital zoom I would have had to wait until I got home to photoshop the picture before posting to Facebook. With digital zoom I was able to capture the error and post it live.

    Definitely looking forward to the multitasking and folders.

  13. Joel says:

    Where was this blog when the TRS 80 or Apple II were the computers to have?

    The 55+ age group were the consumers of the time, without us you wouldn’t have an iPhone or iPad.

    Click or double click, hmmm, that’s way over my head.

    By the way, ALL apps go into multitasking in OS4. If you open an app, and quit the app, it goes into the multitasking dock. To turn them off, you have to manually remove every app you used from the multitasking dock.

  14. George says:

    While its true that jail broken iPhones have had these features for a long time, sometimes its not so easy to jailbreak your model or firmware.
    What people need to realize is this update will allow (at least the 3gs and beyond) to do all of said things without even having to risk bricking your device and voiding your warranty.

    also the folders work wayyyyyyy better than the ones you can get by jailbreaking xD
    they b g son

  15. eheffa says:

    I think that the inability for iPhone users to use custom SMS alerts is just bloody minded stubborness on the part of Apple. As much as I really like my iPhone, this deficiency really bugs me. C’mon Apple; even the cheapo throwaway cell phones allow this sort of functionality. Does Apple actually listen to their users?
    -evan

  16. Blackout says:

    how the HELL can Apple say they listen to customers and not hear the thousands of SCREAMS for damn custom SMS alert SOUNDS. All i wanted from OS4 was custom SMS sounds . I am completely floored that Apple have just ignored this. 90% of ppl jailbreak their phone just to be able to do this, there would be a lot less incentive for ppl to mess with Apples OS if they just gave us this essential option. I just dont get it. Bloody minded stubbornness for sure. Just when you think how clever Apple are to make their OS so obvious and friendly, you see such a fatal flaw and you think “well maybe its just been a fluke up to now , because not even a mentally challenged person with no idea would miss this one”…grrr

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