Does Apple Need to Rush to Fix iOS Problems?

December 13th, 2011

When the iPhone 4s first shipped, it wasn’t long before an inconvenient problem was discovered. Some owners reported that battery life wasn’t near what Apple promised, making it necessary to recharge far more often than they expected. Consider what might happen if you were on the road, accustomed to your iPhone lasting an entire day, but having it shut down prematurely because the battery was spent.

Well, Apple released a quick update to the iOS, version 5.0.1, ostensibly to fix that problem. But they ultimately admitted that there were still some issues that might impair battery life. So the wait continues, this time for a rumored version 5.1, which will also add improvements to Siri. Or at least that’s what the published reports say.

Now it may well be that Apple believed they caught all the battery life issues with their first effort, only to be shown that they were wrong. Maybe. Or they knew all along that they only managed to fix some of the problems, hoping few customers would notice. At least they could have been more forthcoming in the release notes for 5.0.1. I also suppose the original update wasn’t necessarily a rush job, since there didn’t appear to be any downsides for most iPhone users impacted by the original problem. Well, at least except for some who claim battery life became worse.

But the real issues with an iPhone may well be certain missing features that conspire to irritate. First and foremost, there’s email, perhaps one of the more significant features of any smartphone. Certainly that was the BlackBerry’s stock in trade long before the iPhone came to be. What’s more, Apple advertises superior email capabilities, not simply because of the neat interface and good performance, but because there’s support for Microsoft Exchange, thus making the device more suitable for the business world, where Exchange is king.

That being said, it seems curious that Apple continues to overlook some critical email features that should have been added long ago.

First and foremost is a real junk filter. I suppose that Apple expects you to be using the spam filtering system on your Mac or PC’s email client, or the one installed on the mail server. But what if your Mac or PC isn’t running, say in the evening, and your email service doesn’t have the best spam filtering. Suddenly your Inbox is saddled with garbage that you don’t want or need. While it’s not difficult to move that stuff to the Junk folder, why require such manual labor in a 21st century mobile computer? Is a functioning spam filter that difficult to implement in an environment where resources are limited? Well, maybe, but there are other features that ought to be considered.

Just recently, I wrote a column in which I referred to such default signatures as “Sent from my iPhone” as little more than free advertising for the manufacturer — at least if that’s not your thing. I was doubly annoyed the other day when, for reasons I’ve yet to fathom, some iOS settings were turned to default. Thus my chosen signature was history, replaced with Apple’s.

However, the real problem is that, whatever signature you choose, you can only have one. So you may have both your personal and business email accounts on your iPhone or iPad. That’s a common scenario, and you want different signatures. Sure, there are inconvenient shortcuts, such as using autocorrect to “explode” a particular keyboard shortcut for your signature. But why can’t you just have two or more, pinned to a specific account? I’ll take that if letting you choose a signature on the fly isn’t quite as easy to implement, though I fail to see it being so difficult.

Another key email feature is filtering or rules. You want email with specific subject lines (perhaps created by a Contact link on your business site) or from specific people automatically funneled to a different folder. This is easily done on a Mac or PC with most popular email clients. It would seem, at the very least, that iOS Mail would just support the rule structure in Mail and Outlook for the Mac and PC.

Yes, I realize that some online email systems let you set the rules in a Web-based interface, although the capabilities might vary depending on the setup.

Now I can tell you that I have eight email rules of various levels of complexity set in Mail. Obviously, the same filters are in use on both my desktop and portable Macs. But when they are in idle mode, those messages are, like unfiltered spam, deposited in the Inbox. Worse, you can only move a message manually to another folder in the same account, where a traditional email client’s filtering will often allow you to move messages from several accounts into a single folder in a single account. Maybe you don’t see the usefulness, but you will if you do business with several accounts for different sites, each of which is intended to handle messages that all fit into a single category.

When the iOS first came out, the lack of key features was a given. Apple doesn’t like to add capabilities until they work reasonably well, which is why you had to wait a while for a usable cut, copy, and paste feature. I suppose you might say that the original Push Notification feature was also highly flawed, but it worked all right within the constraints of a modal dialog.

But with version 5, I would have hoped Apple would have added some features that weren’t so glitzy, but still offered significant functions. I suppose I can always hope for better with iOS 6.

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13 Responses to “Does Apple Need to Rush to Fix iOS Problems?”

  1. Drew Costen says:

    Email rules and filtering (including junk mail filtering) should all be done at the server level as far as I’m concerned, that way you don’t have to set up a bunch of rules multiple times (depending on how many devices your email comes in on). If your email provider doesn’t provide you with a web-based interface to set these rules up, and if it isn’t able to filter junk mail itself, then it’s probably time to switch to a new email provider.

  2. AdamC says:

    My old friend, the email app of the iPhone can now open PDF attachment, give it a shot and be surprise.

  3. Drew Costen says:

    @Gene Steinberg, Interesting. I’ve been using for so long, I guess I just assumed all the major mail providers out there would be doing so by now.

  4. @Drew Costen, Server side rules? Yes, they are there, but they aren’t always as flexible as you want. Moving messages to folders in another account, for example. How about between accounts that are on different servers, using different systems?


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