Another Look at Missing iPhone Features

September 30th, 2008

One thing is sure: Nothing Apple can or would do to enhance the iPhone’s capabilities will satisfy everyone. Whenever a new feature appears, people will complain that it’s not being implemented properly. If Apple doesn’t add a feature, many of you will complain that they’re being boneheaded about it. And that may only be one of the more complimentary responses.

Certainly, deciding how to enhance a product is a huge juggling match. Some companies will simply add a capability without considering how it integrates with the rest of the product’s functions, whether it’s easy to use, and whether it actually does something that really makes an improvement.

One of my biggest complaints about the Windows platform is that Microsoft doesn’t consider such matters seriously. Just add the feature and figure out the rest later, and I suspect a large portion of the consumer electronics industry approaches the issue with the same lack of foresight.

But as you use the iPhone, you will quickly appreciate what it does well, and ache for those missing functions. Certainly a workable cut, copy and paste solution seems to be foremost among the concerns of many of you. I realize Apple knows this, but they apparently believe that other features rise higher in the pecking order. True or not, I don’t pretend to know.

You see, it’s not just adding a feature, but considering the inevitable tradeoffs. The iPhone is especially limited by usable memory, processor performance and storage space. But the impact to battery life is a significant factor too. Although published tests indicate that the iPhone does appear to be meeting its specs with a reasonable margin for error, would you accept the loss of even a few minutes in the interval between charge and discharge?

Beyond the lack of core text placement functions, there are other significant misses, to my way of thinking. Right now, you can update your WordPress blog on an iPhone, using a free app. You can view Microsoft Office documents on your iPhone, but there’s no edit function in sight. Talk about frustration.

The other day, for example, Gil Bavel, our ad rep, send me a proposed update to our rate card while I was on the road. I spent a few moments in front of a convenience store downing a cup of coffee, while reading his document. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make any changes. If I did, I would have to insert them into an email message and request that he edit the source document. Talk about wasting time.

Here’s another blatant example of having to cope with a missing feature: In the evening, while relaxing with Mrs. Steinberg in the bedroom watching TV, I keep my iPhone 3G on the end table. During commercials, I’ll often check for important email or visit a few Web sites to look for updated content. From time to time, I want to print out a message or a document, but I’m at a standstill here. The only thing I can do is get up, walk over to the office, open the document and print.

Now I am using the iPhone on the regular home AirPort network, so there’s no security issue here, so why is there no print function? I understand that there is some resource overhead involved, such as creating a temporary print file that is fed to the printer. You see, with a standard inkjet, the iPhone would have to become the print server that manages document processing. During that period, I suppose battery life might be impacted somewhat. But unless you’re printing lots of documents, that’s surely a tradeoff that wouldn’t substantially speed up your trip to the charger.

Alas, it seems a print feature is way off the radar. I don’t recall reading much or anything about it, yet it’s something that I regard is extremely critical to making my iPhone as complete a portable computing device as possible.

Of course, the list of missing features are legion, and I’d like to just cover a few more.

Consider the Junk filter. Mail has a pretty good one, perhaps the best free spam blocking capability you can find. Even Consumer Reports, which doesn’t really give Macs a fair shake, has praised it. So why don’t you have it on the iPhone? While I’m at it, what about mail rules? I have, for example, several simple actions that will move email with certain headers — indicating orders or site donations — to a specific mailbox. Doesn’t anyone care?

While I’m at it, how about an integrated Inbox? I prefer to keep my accounts separate, of course, but not everyone agrees with that choice. Maybe you prefer to put everything in one place.

None of these Mail enhancements should seriously impair the use of iPhone resources or storage space. They are already tested and proven on the desktop version, so where are they?

The final request ought to be simple to implement. Apple has good voice capability under Mac OS X Leopard. Any basic Bluetooth-enabled wireless handset can handle voice dialing, but not the iPhone. What am I missing? I bet you readers can come up with extremely large lists of features that are even more compelling, so let the comments begin.

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10 Responses to “Another Look at Missing iPhone Features”

  1. Sam says:

    Voice Dial
    Cut & Paste
    Record Phone Conversations

    Still, it’s a great phone!!


  2. I don’t know about recording phone conversations as a native feature or even a third-party app. There are legal issues there, and I don’t think Apple would want to get involved in that. 🙂


  3. Matthew says:

    The printer drivers on OS X take up a lot of disk space. I bet that’s one reason why you can’t print from the iPhone.

  4. The printer drivers on OS X take up a lot of disk space. I bet that’s one reason why you can’t print from the iPhone.

    Yes, that is a possible issue. You could, however, set it up so you only install the ones you want ala carte, so there’s no bloat from stuff you don’t need.


  5. I was just wondering the other day if there was any way to print from the iPhone, but as much as I would like to do that I really want to be able to copy and paste.

  6. I was just wondering the other day if there was any way to print from the iPhone, but as much as I would like to do that I really want to be able to copy and paste.

    Derek, I don’t understand why Apple hasn’t raised the priority for that feature. They are sometimes utterly inscrutable.


  7. Andy Carolan says:

    I really dont understand the reason why a print function has not been included for the iPhone. My aging iPaq will print quite happily to a bluetooth, shared or network printer, so why not the iPhone? it cant be a capacity issue if the iPaq can do it

  8. Richard says:

    Voice Dialing!!!
    Sync iPhone directly to your Mac (w/o .me).
    Real GPS
    Separate volume control for phone ring tone and other features (how many calls have you missed because you turned the volume down on the iPod part and forgot to turn it back up?).
    Ability to move contacts to (and edit) SIM card.
    Copy/Paste/Paste & Go – Search
    Landscape mode for everything.
    Simple reporting for websites that Safari crashes on…there are a bunch…how about another browser?
    Flip4Mac (WMV)

    There are more, but this would be a good start.

    Doesn’t Steve either use the thing or listen to people who do?

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