So, without much fanfare, the 2.2.1 update for the iPhone and iPhone 3G quietly emerged from Apple’s update servers Tuesday afternoon. The advertised fixes were relatively minor: enhanced stability for the Safari browser, and a bug that involved images saved from Mail not displaying properly in the Camera Roll.
So far so good, and it doesn’t appear that there are many — if any — unannounced changes of note, as there have been with previous updates. But that could change as more and more iPhone power users examine every nook and cranny of the interface in search of more goodies and gotchas.
My experience was uneventful. Upon leaning of the update, I connected my iPhone 3G to my Mac Pro, and checked the option to download and update. The rest of the process was automatic, and I didn’t bother to babysit the process. When I returned to my desk after dinner, the phone was just recharging, fully functional with its firmware update.
A couple of hours of testing didn’t disclose much of a change, except for somewhat snappier performance. That impression is highly subjective, though it did seem I would wait a second or two less for the applications to launch when switching to and from Mail to Safari, for example.
In the past, I’ve encountered an occasional application quit when opening a site in Safari. That hasn’t recurred, at least not yet. Otherwise, this update is notable by the fact that not much has otherwise changed. I do expect, though, that some people will report problems performing the update, resulting in bricked phones and other calamities. The latter might occur if you’ve hacked the phone to run third-party applications, but it would be an extremely rare phenomenon otherwise, unless there’s a hardware issue involved.
What is most troubling to me, though, is what Apple hasn’t fixed or added.
Where, or where, is cut, copy and paste, a fundamental for a graphical operating system? Sure, Apple might feel other features ought to take precedence, but I think they’ve had quite enough time to devise an elegant solution. It’s not as if the ongoing illness of Steve Jobs prevents Apple’s iPhone development team from coming to work and getting things accomplished.
At the same time, it would seem that some additional text editing capabilities are required. It’s nice to be able to open a Word document, but what do you do if the file requires a change? Do you just return to a regular Mac or PC to perform that task? Or manually enter them in an email message and send them off to someone to perform the task for you? That hardly seems efficient. Indeed, it can be frustrating, particularly if you are suddenly inspired to make a useful edit in a manuscript or company report, only to forget your brilliant idea by the time you actually have the opportunity to make the alteration.
Speaking as a once-prolific book author, I can tell you just how frustrating this can be, not to mention the serious dampening of your creativity. Besides, you can edit your WordPress blogs using a special application on your iPhone, so why not other documents? Just what is Apple thinking?
Consider the lack of voice dialing. OS X has superior voice recognition capabilities, which are exploited in that Google app that lets you do voice searching. Consider, too, the fact that the cheapest Bluetooth phone supports the ability, after a fashion, to speak the number you want to dial. Why does Apple persist in ignoring the fundamentals of a good smartphone interface? Why indeed?
The highly-touted push notification is also missing in action. That tool would allow applications, such as instant messaging software, to let you know when a new message is waiting for you. At the last WWDC, its arrival was promised for last September. Then the feature reportedly disappeared from builds of the iPhone SDK, and there’s no indication when it might return.
Now I suppose that Apple might have discovered that push notification was more difficult to implement reliably than previously expected. That happens when writing software, but it would be nice for them to be a little more forthcoming about it, although I can sense the paranoia over revealing any unfavorable information that might reach the eyes and ears of competitors, of which there are many.
Now it may well be that there’s an iPhone 3.0 that will include all these features, plus others that we haven’t thought about yet. While I’m perfectly happy with my iPhone 3G, and pleased with the ongoing improvements in reception and reliability, there are times when I miss a few things. I’m sure most of you agree with me, and I can’t believe that Apple remains unaware of their significance.
So if you were architecting iPhone 3.0, what would you want? Glitz and sex appeal, or just a few more sorely-needed basics? At least you know where my feelings lie.