Sunday, 16 December 2007

iPhone - addressing the basics

Much as I love Apple, I have noticed with frustration their tendency over the years to prioritize the introduction of eye catching new features over getting the basics right. For example, this Summer, when Apple released their first major update to the iPhone, they introduced the iTunes WiFi Store that analysts (as opposed to real users) had been clamouring for. But they chose not to address these pretty fundamental missing features:
  • Sending an SMS message to more than one recipient at a time
  • MMS messaging
  • Copy and paste
  • Search (contacts, e-mail, notes, etc)
  • To Do lists
  • Speech Recognition and Text to Speech
  • Sending contacts & files via Bluetooth
  • File browser
  • Syncing notes
There's so much that's great about the iPhone, that most users (myself included) are prepared to overlook these glaring omissions, but the above features are so fundamental to a smart phone product, that it's surprising they have not yet been added.

It's almost inevitable that MacWorld will usher in a new version of OS X for iPhone (probably called Version 2.0). The most obvious change will be to the Home screen, which currently looks quite awkward, with the iTunes aligned-right at the bottom, and two blank spaces to the left. Given that Apple has already announced their plan to introduce and API for 3rd party developers, we should anticipate changes to this screen to accommodate 3rd party application icons. It's most likely that Apple will take the approach of grouping icons into application types. They'll probably want to separate the 3rd party applications from their own built-in apps. It would also make sense to separate the widget-type applications (such as Stocks and Weather) from the more complex apps. The menus would probably appear at the top/bottom of the screen, as follows:

  • Phone (Phone, Text, Calendar, Notes, To Do, Camera, Photos, Settings)
  • Internet (Mail, Safari, Maps)
  • iPod (iPod, YouTube, iTunes WiFi Store)
  • Dashboard (Stocks, Weather, Clock, Calculator, New 3rd Party Widgets)
  • More
Within "More", there would Games, Applications & Other. 

It's quite likely that there will be two APIs - one that allows anyone to create HTML/JavaScript widgets, likes those in Dashboard for Mac OS X. These Widgets could be posted in a user-generated area of the iTunes store as free downloads.

The other would give more direct control of hardware, and would be limited to a very select group of developers, such as Electronic Arts. These apps would probably be available exclusively from the iTunes store.

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