Comment : Did the iPhone OS 3.0 Deliver On Features?

In December, I wrote a short wish list of features that I wanted from the next upgrade to the iPhone software. Did Apple deliver? Well to an extent but there is no killer punch.

If anything, Apple has yet to address some fundamental deficiencies in their product which only bodes well for the competition. So looking at my list:

Core Features

- Multi tasking of third part applications: Fail

Sorry Apple but I like to listen to streaming music whilst I compose an email and flip between RSS readers and web pages. I can do this on all my smartphones apart from the iPhone. The excuse that it will take up too much battery life is plain ridiculous as for the last six or so years I have been using multitasking smartphone platforms with few consequential power issues.

Some will point to the push notification system. Big deal. This is going back to the Palm Treo 650 days to cludge a mono tasking OS to pretend its doing something more. I don’t want to exit Twitter, Facebook, LastFM and lose my place, this is the 2009 not 2004.

- Swapping between applications: Fail

The Palm Pre has card decks and Nokia Symbian have the long press home key, and Apple has nothing.

- Cut & Paste: Success

Yea, a significant plus which will be easier to use than Symbian. A real plus point at last for Apple to bite back.

- A unified file system: Fail

Opening up API’s does not seem to extend to the iPhone’s file system. A potential stumbling block for business use wanting to use QuickOffice.

- Side-loading Ringtones: No news

The lack of any news here is not surprising, but most people live with the paucity of ringtones and inability to easily add new ones. If you want a decent ringtone, buy a Nokia.

- Voice Dial/Response: Fail

A big issue for business users, voice dial for in car use is an absolute must. Not having this is plain ridiculous for a handset that is supposed to be easy to use.

- Encryption: Fail or Success?

Whilst a password login manager may help security, the lack of any device wide encryption should make the iPhone unacceptable to government, councils and senior business managers. Apple may have lost a trick here except the tantalising words “Encrypted Profiles” shown on a slide.

- Turn by Turn Navigation: Success

At last that great screen has a use as a car SatNav. Yea. Damn, so can my 4 year old Nokia 7710.

Hardware

- 5Mpx Autofocus Camera with video and flash: No news

It’s now known that O2 is dumping the iPhone 3G at a low price, so there must be a new iPhone due soon. As Apple were advertising for a senior camera engineer last year I can only hope that the megapixel rating will be higher in the iPhone 4.

- Memory card slot: No news

Well that was never going to happen, but Apple’s apparent admission that their onboard memory will eventually fail if used to record video clips marks a pressing need for external memory access.

- Screen angling: No news

Kellogg should get their act together and design a cardboard stand for iPhone users. They used to do some great cardboard cut outs in times past. Saves Apple a job anyway.

Messaging

- Email search: Success

A very big plus point in 3.0 is the search function over all applications and within folders if using Exchange 2007. An extremely important plus point that business users will love.

- Reply/Forward marker on server: No news

Perhaps a minor fix that has not been spoken of, we will just have to wait.

- Easily move between Inboxes: No news

There’s no simple method to swap to another email account – you have to back out.

- Rotate screen in email & SMS: Success

Another big yea for horizontal email entry. This will make typing much easier.

- Email spell checker: Fail

More of a nice to have, but considering the foibles of writing using a virtual keyboard, it would be useful to have a spell checker, especially if auto correct is off.

- Set out of office flag: Fail

Another corporate feature available on BlackBerry’s but not on the iPhone. Very useful if you have gone away and need to redirect emails.

- Time and day control of email fetch and push: Fail

Though the iPhone’s battery life is much improved, it would be useful to limit the push/pull activity between certain times of day and days of the week, as you can with Dataviz.

- Access to Exchange Global Address List: Success?

Search may also work within Exchange’s GAL, hopefully that’s the case.

- Follow up and importance flags: Fail

Being able to set follow up flags when browsing email on the road makes dealing with actions later much easier.

- Change Email tones: Fail

Another basic feature missing.

- MMS: Success

At last the iPhone 3G allows for MMS messaging. The lack of video MMS support is unforgivable for a multimedia handset.

- Forward SMS: Success

Apple can now compete with phones from the 20th century.

- No SMS reports: Success?

No mention as such but there will be detailed call logs so perhaps Apple included SMS receipts as well?

Bluetooth – The missing profiles

- Stereo Bluetooth: Success

Now I can use my stereo headset, at last.

- Push Profile: Fail or Successs?

Still can’t share images or files over standard Bluetooth profiles. Though the fact users can play games between iPhones in Bluetooth range suggests that this could be added later especially using the external accessory framework.

This will lead to many new peripherals specifically designed to work with the iPhone. Imagine new printers with a specific Apple Bluetooth image transfer and print capability.

- Synchronisation Profile: Fail or Success?

Again it is unclear whether Bluetooth Synchronisation will be possible. If Bluetooth tethering is then there should be no physical problem to enable wireless Sync to iTunes.

- Keyboard Profile: Fail or Success?

Doable but no keyboard HID profile announced for typing reports using a proper keyboard. Potentially though this could be application specific.

- Dialup Profile: Success

Tethering now possible but only if the network approves its use. So if O2 allows it and AT&T do not what happens when an O2 customer is using the AT&T network.

Other good things to come out included the wider access to API’s (but not all) and the third party hardware support but terribly unclear at this point what the capabilities will be.

Enterprise’s will be pleased with some of the other undiscussed features like Over The Air (OTA) Profiles vital for remotely configuring the iPhone when a user messes up.

A number of other enterprise features are also introduced bringing the iPhone up to its competitors’ capabilities. A nice feature is create meeting invitations, again this has been around for quite a few years, but usability should be superior on the iPhone, especially when combined with the auto fill feature.

So an excellent update, but one that only brings the iPhone close to the capabilities of modern handsets, but will no doubt dominate the competition in the usability stakes. However on this showing I’ll still be moving to the Palm Pre.