The large majority of reviews of iOS 4 are quite favorable, which is understandable. Apple clearly worked hard to attempt to fix most of the perceived shortcomings in their mobile platform, particularly such irritants as multitasking.
Now it’s perfectly true that the vast majority of iPhone and iPod touch users didn’t suffer all that much from the absence of multitasking when it came to third party apps. On the other hand, anyone who tried to keep a Skype conversation going or run an Internet radio app, such as Pandora, suffered from the loss of a connection if you tried to do something else at the same time.
To be sure, multitasking is carefully restricted. Some folks are complaining about the lack of support for scheduled background network updates for some apps. Also, the apps you use need to be updated to support one or more of the seven multitasking APIs that Apple hatched. There’s a spanking new version of Pandora that fits the bill, but I’m still waiting for the Skype update as of this writing.
This is, by the way, a key reason why Apple doesn’t want to allow developers to use third party tools. It’s hard enough for thousands of programmers to rebuild their apps in record time in order to support the new features. What happens if the tools they use are designed for lowest common denominator apps that work on many platforms, but are late to the party when it comes to supporting unique features such as Apple’s clever multitasking system? That’s the question the skeptics cannot answer. They are too busy complaining in their blogs or to the FTC.
When it comes to performance, the jury is still out. It appears that apps launch noticeably quicker, but most other functions run at essentially the same speed as earlier versions of the iOS. At least nothing seems to be noticeably slower, which is often the case when loads of new features are packed onto an OS.
There are also a few lapses along the way. Although Apple has supplemented its Push Notification feature with Local Notification, you are still saddled with a single modal warning when an app sends a notice. What that means is that you have to stop in your tracks and answer that message before going on. If several apps or multiple messages need to be sent, you are apt to lose some, because there’s no way to stack and recall notices at a later time. Alas, Google’s Android OS and even HP/Palm’s WebOS manage these functions far more effectively.
So it’s clear Apple needs to do a little more work with notification prompts, and maybe the fact that the person who developed that system for the WebOS has since rejoined Apple, portends a possible 4.1 version that will address this and other shortcomings.
As I’ve said before, I’m not so enamored with the changes to Mail. Yes, a unified Inbox is nice, but it also means that people with lots of active accounts suddenly have to do extra scrolling to examine the subfolders. Worse, Apple still forces you to rely on your Mac, PC, or Webmail app to handle such chores as spam filtering and email rules. If your computers aren’t running, or you haven’t checked your mail online recently, the messages impacted by those functions are all tossed in your iPhone’s Inbox, for better or worse.
Some time back, one of my guests on The Tech Night Owl LIVE suggested these critical email functions might consume too much in the way of system resources. But with all the other stuff going on as the result of multitasking, I’m skeptical. Surely there’s a way for such functions to be handled without unduly tasking the system, particularly as iPhones become more and more powerful.
My experience with iOS 4 also indicates a rough edge or two, usually fixed by restarting the phone. In one case, when I tried to use the Reply function in answering a message, nothing happened. Closing and opening the folder or the account made no difference, but a restart did. Sometimes apps also quit for no discernible reason, but it’s also true that the offending software is probably not fully iOS 4 compliant, and I’m getting one or two significant updates every single day.
On the whole, though, I can’t say iOS 4 is less stable than its predecessor, where apps would also quit unexpectedly on occasion.
So there will be that inevitable bug fix update, and maybe a feature fix or two. I’m not suggesting if that will come in a 4.0.1 or 4.1. It all depends on the severity of the update.
When it comes to the iPad, Apple promised iOS 4 this fall, but I suspect it may be a 4.2 version that will roll out unique features for that incredibly hot-selling tablet PC. And, yes, it’s a PC, even though feature limited in comparison to the conventional Mac or PC. With the sales rate pretty much in the Mac ballpark after less than three months, I fully expect the iPad or a competitor to take over much of the consumer PC marketplace over the next few years.
That, my friends, is what Steve Jobs meant when he referred to the PC as the heavy-lifting truck, and the mobile platform as the car. Pay attention, because unlike the pathetic performance of his arch rival Bill Gates, Jobs is almost always right when he makes a prediction.