Just when folks were settling down to figure out how best to deal with the complicated structure of the remote control on the new iPhone shuffle, along comes news that the iPhone 3.0 software will be previewed at a special Apple media event next week.
To put this all in perspective, this would be the first time Apple has run such a presentation — outside of the Macworld Expo keynote of course — since Steve Jobs went on his extended sick leave. So no doubt the folks who will be present will include the appropriate Apple product marketing people, with perhaps a development person or two to provide the appropriate geek veneer to the event.
More important, though, is how innovative Apple’s developers have been over the past year, since the iPhone 2.0 software was revealed. Have they answered the complaints with the previous firmware, and are there loads of spiffy new features with which to help sell the next generation of iPhones — and the existing ones of course?
In any event, it’s probably way too late to submit our wish lists to Apple. Although things can probably change during the final stages of a development program, I expect that you will see what you’re going to get. So the best I’m going to do here is just tell you what I’d like to them to introduce, and we’ll know soon enough whether Apple intends to fulfill my needs and desires — and yours.
First and foremost, there’s cut, copy and paste, hallmarks of the Mac OS user experience since Day One. Although Apple has said it’s on their “to do” list, why it hasn’t risen to the top is anyone’s guess. Indeed, third parties have already implemented methods of utilizing these basic editing features in their own iPhone apps. Of course, those services are limited to a single product, whereas Apple would have to implement a clipboard system that lets you move text between apps. I realize that presents a greater obstacle, and I’ll grant they were looking for a clever way to make it happen. One hopes that iPhone 3.0 will provide this long-neglected capability.
There’s also voice dialing. You can do it on the cheapest Bluetooth-enabled phone, the one they give you free or for a token fee when you sign up for the requisite two-year contract with your wireless provider. Sure, those systems can be rather pathetic in the scheme of things, but they do work most of the time. You also have voice-enabled apps on the iPhone, but again Apple has missed the boat here. But I am optimistic that iPhone 3.0 will provide a workable solution, and, one hopes, a superior voice quality when compared to the robotic syntax of the VoiceOver feature implemented on the new iPod shuffle.
The other feature missing in action is “Push Notification,” a method to sidestep the need to run more than a single application at a time yet still provide some sort of communication to you when you switch from an app and it needs to provide some sort of message. AOL has worked around this missing capability with AIM 2.0, simply by letting you configure how long their network thinks you’re online, even if you are using another app at the time. But they do tell me that, when Push Notification (which is months late) finally appears, they’ll use it too.
Understand that my list of missing features, so far at least, has been confined simply to basics. I haven’t journeyed into other areas, such as perhaps a better way to handle the presence of large numbers of applications in your iPhone’s desktop. Paging through up to nine screens can be a chore, and one suggestion is to create a folder hierarchy of some sort, so you can drill down to find the ones that perhaps fit into a specific category. Remember, though, that I don’t pretend to be an interface designer. I’m just presenting a concept that, if Apple has considered the possibilities, they’d implement in a far more clever fashion. They can’t just duplicate all aspects of Mac OS X on a touch interface.
Another concern is stability. I still find myself having to restart my iPhone 3G every few days, but remember that I never actually turn it off. I just let it idle away when it’s not in use. Sometimes Mail or Safari will freeze, and I’ll have to force a restart. Otherwise, I’m just unceremoniously returned to Home.
I observe hands-free cell phone use in my car courtesy of a Bluetooth system. But the iPhone will on occasion simply lose its “pairing” for no reason. Again a restart will set things right. By the way, the vehicle setup includes its own usable voice recognition capability, so not having such a feature on the iPhone isn’t a priority, at least for me.
I know some of you would also like to be able to send photos via the iPhone’s text messaging feature. Not me, but I can see where that’s a significant matter.
In any case, prepare to be amazed — and no doubt a little disappointed — when Apple spills the beans at their special event come March 17.