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Some Petty iOS Annoyances

That the iPhone is a major success, with Apple barely able to keep up with the increasing demand, certainly demonstrates that the competition doesn’t offer a whole lot of credibility. Sure, there may be more Android OS smartphones sold in the U.S., but that number includes loads of models from several different companies, some at two-for-one fire sales. What’s more, that situation precedes the arrival of the iPhone on the Verizon Wireless network, with new talk that it may also be available from T-Mobile shortly. Well, that would also mean T-Mobile’s “4G” ads, which attack the iPhone, will have to be ended I suppose.

You also know that, even as we speak, Apple is in the end stages of developing the iPhone 4’s successor, but whether that will be a substantially redesigned iPhone 5, or something more subtle (regardless of the name), is anyone’s guess. I’m more interested for now in certain software (and perhaps hardware) issues that I’d like to see fixed some day.

Take the proximity sensor, which deactivates the display and touchscreen when the device is brought near your face during a call. Yes, I realize Apple had some issues with this function in the first release of iOS 4, which impacted the iPhone 4. But when I put the device in my pocket, more often than not, when I take it out again, something on the screen has been selected, and it’s about to perform some function, such as sending a message to an address that consist of gibberish.

Shouldn’t the proximity sensor figure out that the unit has been placed in some sort of enclosure that covers the display (other than your face), and thus touchscreen functionality must be switched off? But it never seems to work that way, not with this iPhone, not with the previous models.

As far as Mail for the iOS, it’s just too lightweight compared to the Mac OS X version.

I’d like, for example, to be able to select a separate signature for different accounts. That doesn’t seem to be a resource-hogging function. But you have just one choice that’s configured as a preference, and, yes, I did remove the “sent from my iPhone” label. Apple doesn’t need free advertising from me. But I also remove the custom bumper frames bearing a car dealer’s name when I take home a new auto. They don’t need the free advertising either.

It would also be nice if Mail could use the same rules I set with the desktop version. Usually those rules funnel certain messages, from a specific sender, or with a certain entry in the subject line, to a different folder. This shouldn’t be so big a deal either.

Apple ought to also demonstrate some concern for the bane of an email user’s existence, spam. Yes, I realize ISPs, and dedicated email services (even your basic $4 Web hosting package) offer some level of spam protection. Sometimes it’s pretty good; often it’s pathetic, as your Inbox remains flooded with that junk. But wouldn’t it be nice to offer the same level of junk mail filtering that Apple offers for Mac OS X users?

Now one of my colleagues suggested to me at one time that a spam filter would be a little too resource intensive for a smartphone, but I’d think that a pocket computer that can double as a gaming machine is more than capable of processing email spam.

While I’m at it, why restrict email checking to 15 minute intervals when you don’t have a “Push” feature available, such as with MobileMe? Yes, scanning for new email every five minutes means a slight expenditure of system resources and battery life, but I hardly think it’s terribly demanding.

On the positive side of the ledger, the new volume switches on the left side of the iPhone 4 are not as easily pressed by accident. With the older model, it was all too easy to accidentally change the level simply by removing it from your pocket or a case, shades of the Motorola RAZR.

The other irritant is the way Push Notification messages are handled. They come in a modal dialog, which stops you in your tracks unless dismissed. If there’s a second message, it replaces the first, with no real way to recall the one that’s been discharged. This is one problem that appears to be dealt with in a smarter way with the Android OS, where you can recall system prompts of one sort or another. Besides, the Push dialog seems damned ugly compared to the otherwise elegant iOS interface.

I’m sure there are lots of wish lists for iOS 5. Let me simply include this as part of my more serious concerns. Most are, in the scheme things, quite minor. They don’t seriously impact my enjoyment of the iPhone, but I’m also the sort of perfectionist who keeps demanding more.