If you hadn’t noticed, TiPb’s theme of the week is currently “Fixing the iPhone”. Rene offered you an extremely thoughtful and well-researched look into what the iPhone can learn from the competition. I reviewed a native app that added a much needed ‘Today’ Screen. And I’m back again giving you 10 Things Apple Should Fix in the iPhone. We don’t always crack jokes about Crackberry and mock iClones here do we?
Okay, to provide a quick disclaimer for this list: Understand that I’m completely ignoring the issues that are ‘mainstream problems’ with the iPhone. I’m not going to go off on the lack of a physical keyboard. I’m not worrying about 3G & GPS. Copy & Paste is a well-known pitfall of the iPhone. Natively saving images, likewise. Removable Battery? Recessed headphone jack? Push E-Mail? MMS? (Wow, that’s a lot)
As big a concern those previously mentioned issues are—many of them will likely become a moot point once the 3G iPhone comes out (Now somebody go tell Sprint that). This list suggests minor tweaks and fixes in the iPhone that may have been swept under the rug or just plain old forgotten. But fear not, I will happily remind Apple of the iPhone's shortcomings and offer a solution on how to fix them. As great as the iPhone is, it isn’t without its faults.
[Comment on this Wait-a-Thon post to qualify to win a $100 iTunes Gift Card]
Read on for the rest of the article!
10. Turn HTML E-Mail Off
HTML e-mail, with all of its bells and whistles, is a lot of fluff for a whole lot of nothing. As pretty as it is, none of my HTML E-mails are time-sensitive nor as pertinent as my basic text emails. HTML E-mail is nice to see on desktop with broadband speeds but without the speed, we’re stuck with more than just a few seconds of loading time—which isn’t as quick and efficient as users prefer.
Plus, not everyone uses HTML E-mail. I’ve encountered a lot of users who prefer the quick load times of basic e-mail a la Blackberry over the more data intensive, 'prettier' mail. A firmware update that adds a quick switch for HTML viewing in the Settings screen can easily solve this issue. If they add this in 2.0, power users rejoice!
9. Universal Landscape Mode
For beginners to the iPhone, soft keyboard novices, and those who have a tad bit thicker fingers than the rest of us, allowing the use of landscape mode for every native application can alleviate some of their keyboard concerns. I have heard many users wish that the Safari landscape keyboard be included in other applications, namely Mail and Notes.
Many people would use the iPhone, soft keyboard and all, if it actually worked for them. The keyboard in landscape mode offers wider space and more room to operate under—it also utilizes a slick interface that has made the iPhone unique. Apple could potentially score more customers if they gave on-the-fence buyers the peace of mind of a larger keyboard.
8. Formatted Text
Bold, Italicize, Underline, Strikethrough. These are basic concepts of text that the iPhone can surely utilize. Because of the already distant nature of using a device to communicate, unintentionally keeping things vague with basic, regular text is a mistake. Let's face it, things often get lost in digital translation—WE NEED IT DONE NOW reads much more clearly than we need it done now.
Perhaps a small digital button on the iPhone’s keyboard can allow users to access such formatted text. It’s already tough to convey emotion through technology, with formatted text we can at least try.
7. Embedded Youtube Videos in Safari
When Steve Jobs first announced the iPhone, Apple promised the Web, in all its glory, in your pocket and on your phone. And he was pretty darn close. Safari on the iPhone is the measuring stick for all other mobile devices but I cringe when I see that darn blue-cubed, lego-like question mark. With the web moving to video, and the iPhone being one of the pioneers of true web browsing on a mobile device, it seems like a forgone conclusion that integrated Youtube Videos in Safari will be fixed.
In 2.0, there are reports that this feature has already been implemented. But no, don’t get excited, it won’t be because the iPhone has flash support but rather a plugin will enable users to open the embedded Youtube clip in the iPhone’s native Youtube player. Let's hope so.
6. Calendar Weekly View
This may be just me, but I prefer a Weekly View in calendars because it gives me more detail than both the Month View and the Day View. I find the Month View layout not detailed enough for me on a day-to-day basis, I can only see that on June 18th I have a dot bubbled in but am unsure of what engagement I have. But when I switch the calendar to the Day View, I'm trapped by an hour-by-hour look at life. A Weekly View would be my ideal compromise.
Idea: Utilizing #9 on the list (landscape mode) with the native calendar app on the iPhone—maybe Apple could develop the ability to display a weekly view horizontally. Let me explain, once you open up the Calendar app it’ll show you a List/Day/Month View but when you turn it to landscape mode, it’ll provide you with a week view. The length of the screen could effectively show your weekly day-to-day engagements and also be a nifty trick to quickly switch views.
5. Photo ID Calling
I absolutely love the concept of Photo ID calling (as introduced to by Dieter) and believe it can be seamlessly implemented into the iPhone. Imagine having your favorite contacts photo ID on your home screen and all you need to do to call them is tap their face. It would only be a matter of flick, flick, tap.
The current process of making calls to your Favorites is difficult because the buttons to access the option are on the bottom of the screen while your Favorites are on the top of the screen. This becomes a nuisance if you use your phone one-handed to make calls because there is unnecessary thumb straining to reach the desired person and sometimes an accidental tap might lead to the wrong contact being called.
(I guess these are the perils of having such a large screen. Sigh.)
4. Differentiate Outgoing/Incoming Calls
The lack of this feature, if I can even call it a feature, boggles my mind. How simple is it to differentiate outgoing and incoming calls? Has Jonathan Ive not designed the perfect aluminum-based arrow yet? Or is it because Steve Jobs hasn’t settled on the exact hue he wanted to use?
It’s not a 'life or death' 'feature’ per se, but is something so basic that being without it, seems like a huge oversight on Apple’s part. Fix it, be it by variance in color or an Apple-esque arrow, just let me know which calls fall under which category.
3. Ringer Profiles
Different situations call for different ringer profiles. If I am in an appointment or meeting, I might want my phone all the way silent. In a doctor’s office or classroom, maybe vibrate could do. In my own space, maybe I just want it to ring. In a public arena, perhaps I would prefer vibe+ring. And if I want to sleep, maybe I only want to be awaken by phone calls and not e-mails or SMS.
This lack of customization is something I’ve grown used to with the iPhone, but it doesn’t make it better or even right. I remember my old Motorola RAZR had a bevy of choices to choose from and the Blackberry Curve also had some great customization in their ringer profiles, but with the iPhone I’m stuck with only Vibrate or Ring. As easy and intuitive as Apple makes things sometimes, in this case, Apple simplified things to a fault.
Let’s say you stepped out of your house or your office for a few minutes and you come back and go about your business. If you received a phone call, or e-mail, or SMS in those few minutes, there would be no notification to tell you ‘HEY! You missed a call!’. After a missed call it beeps once, upon receiving an E-mail or SMS it’ll make your predetermined sound, but a few minutes later? Nothing. Few hours later? Silence.
There is no way to know you missed anything because there is no notification feature on the iPhone! One of my pet peeves about the RAZR was how annoying that missed call sound was, but it made sure I never missed anything in 5 minute intervals. And though the Blackberry had no notification sounds, its indicator light was piercing. As much as unlocking the iPhone makes me smile, it isn’t efficient to have to double-check your phone to see if you missed anything.
I would suggest Apple include an ‘invisible’ indicator light. It doesn’t have to be protruding like those in the Blackberry but rather be an inconspicuous part of the phone. I imagine Apple designing an indicator light that is only noticeable when there is something to notify the user about.
1. Improve the Phone Experience
Apple needs to upgrade their phone capabilities and offer a great phone experience rather than just a passable one. The iPhone works great when there is good-to-great reception and performs decently when signal is average-to-good, but to be honest, what phone doesn't? Improving the radio could possibly be fixed via the 3G model because of the larger bandwidth and purported plastic backing, but still, as one of the leaders of the industry, the iPhone needs to become a great phone—not just a great device.
Adding features like voice dialing would be a bonus, it'll certainly improve the one-hand capability of the iPhone. A better speaker would definitely help. The volume in incoming calls is much too quiet for my liking. In my own space, I can hear the conversation perfectly fine but then again I can also hear cars driving outside my house. In louder, more public places the iPhone isn’t as loud as it could be even at maximum volume.
It is important for Apple to be conscious of the iPhone's shortcomings because in the end, the iPhone will always be judged as a phone first. Sure it uses a slick interface and brings the web to our fingertips, heck, it even plays music and video really well but if Apple doesn't give a GREAT phone experience? For many, that's the biggest dealbreaker.
Fair or not, the iPhone is judged differently because many of its features has raised the bar and put the industry on notice. When a feature isn't close to brilliant on the iPhone, people ridicule the device for being nothing more than a pretty paperweight. If Apple falls short of perfection with the iPhone, people will continue to think that the iPhone is a overhyped device. Admitting to mistakes isn't Apple's strong suit but to ignore the pitfalls of the iPhone is to be careless in execution—and Apple is not careless.
So on June 9th, let’s hope that Steve Jobs wont announce just the 3G iPhone but also address the minor tweaks and fixes necessary. We can call it the 3G iPhone as desired by TiPb, if you wish. But to be honest, when Apple gets around to fixing some of the items on this list, we'll be happy. The iPhone is already a great device with these shortcomings, so when they fix them? Well, I wouldn’t want to own a Crackberry or iClone then..
Did I miss anything? What would you fix in the iPhone? Any tweaks necessary? Or will 3G be enough for you to upgrade? Tell us in the comments and qualify to win a $100 iTunes Gift Card in this Wait-a-Thon Post!
[Ed Note: Dieter butting in here. Folks have noticed we haven't been announcing the winners of the Wait-a-Thon. This is true and a flagrant failure on my part. We're updating the Wait-a-Thon and announcing a batch of winners tomorrow morning (and bringing back full forum action to boot!), so stay tuned...]