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  • Missing in Action in iPhone 2.0

    June 25th, 2008

    As the world wonders whether or not you’ll be able to buy the iPhone 3G in the morning or the early evening come July 11, the real question is whether the new software has all or most of the critical features missing from the original version.

    Yes, there’s some great stuff in iPhone 2.0, based on what Apple has revealed so far. Forgetting the faster Internet and GPS features of the new hardware, you’ll have push email, contact list searching, improved security, full Microsoft Exchange support, the ability to read more formats and other stuff. Then there’s the incredible promise of the App Store and all the marvelous third-party stuff that’s expected.

    But Apple hasn’t come close to filling the wish lists of a lot of iPhone users.

    Consider: California motorists will soon be prohibited from talking on cell phones without a hands-free hookup. More and more states are considering such laws — a few have them already — in a bid to keep you from being distracted while driving and getting into an accident. Unfortunately, they haven’t considered the fact that spouses and friends will still argue with you, that you might be chomping down a burger and fries or finishing that morning coffee while negotiating a traffic jam. Some people are even known to shave or apply makeup, but all that fits into the general category of distracted driving, which may get you a traffic ticket regardless.

    Unfortunately, the iPhone’s hands-free features are seriously lacking. Just buy a bluetooth headset — any model — and you’ll see what I mean. Now try to use voice dialing. Sorry, that feature isn’t supported in the iPhone even with the 2.0 software — unless Apple springs a surprise upon us by the time the thing is released next month.

    Yet even the most elementary wireless handsets that you get free with the requisite two-year plan have built-in voice recognition. It may be frighteningly rudimentary, but it’s functional. So why didn’t Apple, who touts the superior voice-related features in Leopard, expand those capabilities to the iPhone?

    Why indeed!

    Sure, some bluetooth interfaces for motor vehicles, including some of those popular navigation systems, will provide that capability, so you don’t need it on the phone, but that’s still a serious lapse that ought to have been addressed with iPhone 1.0.

    Another missing feature is cut, copy and paste. Sure, this may present some obstacles with a touch interface, but I’m sure the brilliant programmers at Apple can figure a way around this dilemma.

    What about being able to edit your Office and iWork documents? No, I’m not talking about writing a long manuscript. But just being able to apply a few simple edits ought will suit for a lot of you. Imagine, for example, you’re on your way to an important meeting, and you suddenly recall a mistake in a proposal. With editing capability, you can simply pull off the road, or into a nearby Starbucks, make the changes and email the revised document to your clients.

    Piece of cake right? But you can’t do that with your iPhone.

    When it comes to the hardware, just when will Apple deliver support for bluetooth stereo? How about being able to sync your iPhone with your Mac or PC via your Wi-Fi router? No, I’m not expecting support yet for the 802.11n draft standard, since that would require a higher power radio that would reduce battery life. The existing connection is surely fast enough.

    Now, I don’t know about the hardware, but I expect a lot of this can be implemented in software, and that would possibly include being able to make movies with your iPhone’s camera.

    I would also hope that Apple would take a little time to deal with some of the iPhone’s stability problems in the rush to add great new features. While call quality is pretty decent, considering the limitations of any digital wireless phone network, my iPhone tends to crash far too often. The obvious symptom is that you’re returned to the Home screen, which is the equivalent of an application quitting. I can duplicate a few situations where this might happen, such as making too many configuration changes in my email accounts in a single sitting.

    Also, I think Safari’s rendering speed could be better. Yes, I know we are limited by a slower processor, and limited RAM, but, even with a speedy Wi-Fi hookup, you shouldn’t have to wait 20 or 30 seconds for a simple Web page to display. Maybe Apple could do something to optimize the mobile version of OS X.

    I’ve also encountered yet another problem, and I don’t know whether it’s related to the hardware, the software or my car. You see, at times I’ll make a call when the phone has interfaced with my car’s bluetooth setup, and the audio sputters. Hanging up and calling back doesn’t help. I have to actually restart the iPhone to set things right. AT&T says it may just represent the need for the iPhone to renegotiate its connection to the nearest cell tower. But they’re not sure either.

    Regardless of its potential shortcomings, though, I’m psyched about iPhone 2.0 and especially iPhone 3G. This is one story The Night Owl will cover on an ongoing basis.

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