10 Things Apple Should Fix in the iPhone (Wait-a-Thon!)

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.

2. Notifications

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. 

Final Thoughts

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...]

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Reader comments

10 Things Apple Should Fix in the iPhone (Wait-a-Thon!)


Your point # 4 is totally right, thats been bugging me since the beginning. Incoming and outgoing calls is a must. I would also ad an icon for work, home, cell etc...
I hate it when someone calls me and I only see there name and don't know from which number they are calling. I know I can press the blue arrow and see the details but its still a pain !!!

Great list, one thing I loved about an old phone, that you might not think of until you have it. Profiles tied to whitelists/blacklists. For example, a "sleep" profile where only certain people can call you, or a "Meeting" profile, when you only get vibration rings from your boss... It's really wonderful, and used to be in Sony Ericcson phones (maybe still is?)

As a blackberry user who is hell bent on switching to the 3g iPhone, this list is very helpful in making my decision. I took some of these points for granted figuring there was no way the iPhone couldn't do some of them. Now I know...

Apple should also change the head phone jack so any 3.5 mm head phone set will fit into it. It was disappointing to me to set up my new iPhone, plug my head phones into the ultimate multimedia device and then hear . . . nothing. Then, I spent more money on an adapter.

I would really like to see a "task" feature similar to the one found on the blackberry or MS Outlook. Other than that I you put together a nice list.

Insightful list. I agree with most if not all of your points.
I would add: Vibrate-only (silent) ring tone. Why? Mostly for alarms. I need a vibrate-only alarm and currently the only way to do that is to turn the ringer volume all the way down (putting the ringer switch in vibrate mode doesn't silence alarms only incoming calls and other notifications). My work around for now was to make my own custom 5 second AAC ring tone of silence and use that for vibe-only alarms, but iPhone should have that out of the box (plus occasionally iTunes screws up syncing my ring tones and my supposedly "silent" custom ring tone gets switched out for "Marimba" and then blasts my wife and toddler at 5:15 am when I'm trying to quietly sneak out to go to the gym.)

I am surprised you didn't mention MMS and video recording. The lack of these two features has baffled me for the last year. I know that there are 3rd party apps that make it possible, but why were they ever left out?

Moving to the iPhone from a Treo, I have sorely missed the ability to use profiles(granted the Treo required a third party app to do it). Having the bluetooth on automatically during drive time, or the ringer off during work hours sure is nice. Yes, it only takes a couple of seconds, but it's hard to go backwards...

It feels like apple spent alot of time on the big stuff and then just threw the everyday stuff togeather at the last minute. Once they get the things on your list fixed as well as some of the things you mentioned before like copy/paste and MMS I think the iPhone will be amazing / mind blowing. Or it will be what I expected it would be when I first got it.

Speaking with pure speculation, I think some of these will be solved via third party apps. The rest will need to be done by Apple, and all we can do is hope that it happens. I can't imagine Apple of all companies releasing the iPhone 2.0 with the only upgrade being 3G, so I am cautiously optimistic.
Good list though. The iPhone is a really good device without these things, but with them it would skyrocket to just plain awesome.

8 and 10 conflict a bit as that extra formatting can't be don't in plain BB style emails. Also, apple wouldnt need to add a light to the iPhone for indications they could simply draw a dot on the screen with different colors for different missed messages.

Might I add support of a Bluetooth keyboard. That would me to make my responses to emails a bit more thorough and make editing MS Office and/or iWork documents (Assuming SDK developers bring out such software for the iPhone) a real possibility. I could go back to traveling with one device rather than having to carry my Palm TX and my iPhone.

This website is meant to contain tools for iPhone interface designers. The website currently has a downloadable PSD file of the complete iPhone interface.

Ring profiles are something I didn't even realize I was missing, but yes! Yes! Absolutely! Love the 5s of silence ring is something I hadn't thought to try, good one Dyvim

All reasons why I'm a little bit glad (only a little though) that I'm waiting for iPhone 2.0. Its been painful to deal with the Treo for the past year while my brother plays on his iPhone, but when I switch its going to be great.

I 100% agree with number 1. As noted before this is the reason I don't have an iPhone now:
and I truly hope this is fixed in the second gen device. This thread:
on the Apple support site got a lot of comments and views and even made the mainstream media (as well as a zillion or two blogs) and that gives me hope that Apple will have taken reception issues very seriously. The aluminium back is lovely but if replacing it with plastic is part of a resolution of these problems, that's all good with me.

  1. Notifications

I would like to see an icon on the top of the screen where the battery and signal bars are to show emails, sms, missed calls, etc.. Even if this was just on the unlock screen it would be helpful.
Also it is amazing the number of comments made from people that did not read the entire article. In the 2nd paragraph you mentioned several ‘mainstream problems’ that you were leaving off the list, yet people made comments about those exact issues.

Sound profiles are a BIG MUST. WinMob 6 even has different vibrate tones. In silent mode, I have normal vibrate for text and sms, and a pulsating vibrate for calls (this lets me know how quick I need to get the phone out of the holster).
The other REALLY BIG thing would be #9, the universal landscape keyboard. I would think this would quickly eliminate any complaints of "no slide-out keyboard." Seems to me that the big advantage of a slide-out keyboard is size. If users had the option of which keyboard to use at any time, then keyboard complaints would probably go away.

Those are all very good reasons, and I hope they have added some of those in the 3G iPhone which I plan on getting soon after its release. I especially would like formatted text, it could also use a copy,paste,cut, etc. feature.
Oh, and the notification, I think, is key to making the iPhone better, prior I had no idea there was no notification for a missed call, etc. I would believe that that in time would get quite annoying.

i too had a RAZR before the iPhone and it was the most annoying phone in the universe, nice and stylish but omg he was capable of biping 4 hours for a low batteries....
btw: i just discovered your blog, i Love it! add me on twitter i would like to follow more iPhonesque news

Speaking of Treo Features, it was really nice to be able to hit a persons first initial and start spelling their last name and have it jump to their list. Having 6500+ names and number this is a feature I really miss.
Of course, a system wide Search/Spotlight...

"captainmicahp Says:
May 29th, 2008 at 12:06 pm
I am surprised you didn’t mention MMS and video recording. The lack of these two features has baffled me for the last year. I know that there are 3rd party apps that make it possible, but why were they ever left out?"
I 2nd the MMS and video recording. It will be interesting to see what happens with this in regards to the talk of .Mac abilities. I know I personally revolve around a community of bloggers/video bloggers and "citizen journalists" who love these specific abilties (like in Nokia's N95 series and are willing to pay to have them).
I know that my next phone will wither be the 2nd Gen iPhone or a Nokia N96 releasing in May.

Sorry but as someone who gets a lot of HTML email (press releases and things like that) one of things that I really enjoy about the iPhone is HTML email. WinMo and others just don't do it well at all (even with Exchange) and I much prefer seeing them as they were meant to be seen. While I agree not everyone uses it, and a "switch" of some kind would be the right way to go - I would be pretty upset if they did away with it completely ala BB. I don't see any sense in taking two steps backwards just to appease the BB group who has a hard time dealing with things like color and pictures in their emails.
Almost all of the others I agree on. Tweaking them a bit here and there - but overall a pretty solid list.

I have a Treo 700w now and love being able to classify a group of contacts and assigning a single ringtone to the entire group, as in Family, Co-workers, etc. A feature I hope Apple will adopt with 2.0. All the other stuff on this list is dead-on.

Eh. I've waited, and I just want to 3G. I'll get int in my hands before I start going on about what I would change. Beggars can't be choosers?

Give up on the head phone jack this was not an evil conspiracy nor a failed design. It is designed to do exactly what it did. Reenforce the headphone jack to minimize damage due to lateral pressure. The number one failure for iPods was the headphone jack separating from the circuit board because it was pulled or pushed on. By inserting the jack you reduce stress and damage. Soon most headphones will sport the new plug and other companies will start recessing their headphones.

I agree with your list somewhat, but can they PLEASE fix chat and text messaging for the love of all things new and shiny!?!?!??! Also, why should I live in fear that someone will be admiring my cellphone only for my private text message to pop up. Not cool.

Steve Jobs calls the iPhone the best iPod ever yet it doesn't support stereo bluetooth. A glaring omission. And keeping with the bluetooth theme, I agree with Bill that adding support for a bluetooth keyboard would be fantastic. Ok, I can't help myself, an easy switch to vibrate-only mode is essential for me!

Great article. I wish for all these improvements too but something tells me that we will see few of them. Not that they couldn't easily do all of them but just that we probably wont be seeing it.

How about the ability to delete multiple messages at the same time with a check box or the like? having to delete every mail message one by one (with two actions - swiped and delete) is a pain.

Excellent post. Not sure I agree with you on all points. I like my HTML email. DO wish we had flash. But, you know... cant have everything.

Notifications are a must.
You don't realize their value until you have a phone with notifications and subsequently get a phone without them.
I had that samsung slider that was popular about a 1.5 years ago and the notifications feature was awesome. sometimes you just dont hear the sound of an incoming text message or you dont hear the phone ring when its in a different room.
Sometimes with my current phone I wont read a text message for a couple hours after I receive it...if only there were notifications...

4 would be at the top of my list. But above that would be a modem app to let me use the phone's net connection with my MBP.

Nice list. To me cut and paste, plus the ability to search email should be basic features. And how about keeping the cache in the browser windows on all the time, so when you switch back to an open browser window, it doesn't have to reload the page again like it does many times right now.

Cut and paste is my number one missing item on the iphone. I hope that apple can come up with something super creative for that.

With almost every "Smart" phone I've seen, you start spelling a name or dialing a number, and it fills in the blanks for you. It will be a helpful addition to have "Contacts" on the main screen a-la-iPod Touch, but why can't you search by dialing?? As has been pointed out many times before, even very inexpensive phones can do this!! Alas, I don't think the iPhone will really be a "smart" phone until it can do this. Also, what about some way to sync files a-la the desktop version of ActiveSync???

Top on my list is universal search for onboard data (contacts, calendar, notes plus maybe sms and email). I still have 1,000+ notes from my Treo that I have not copied over to the iPhone, because there's no easy way to get to the information that I want.

i agree with the lanscape keyboard feature. i think that this would work amazingly on the text app on the iphone. it not only adds convience but also makes for a better looking picture for potential buyers. I think the biggest thing apple needs to do is, loosen up on the custimization settings. my last iphone i had jailbroken and used several 3rd party apps to make my phone mine. from custom slider icons, to a new theme for the icons and a wallpaper behind the icons. my jailbroken phone allowed me to change the theme for all my apps, and colors for my text boxes. i could change the system font and the clock and text font. MY iphone was the ENVY of all my friends. If apple allowed me to customize my STOCK iphone, then it would be a great sale.

universal landscape mode sounds really sweet, but adding the option for mms and flash for the camera will make it a plus plus for me. :)

I think that there should be a button above the "silent/ringer switch". It should be a shortcut key that can open an app that u set it too. Also, while in the camera app, u take the picture using that botton, its just like a real camera

I agree to your list. What about GPS and being able to send and view picture mail via SMS, also a camara with a flash. I cant live without either of these which is why I'm still with sprint. Being able to watch videos on Ebaumsworld or CNN would be an awesome feature with Safari too, so until then I'm content with operamini on my sprint phone. When the iphone 2.0 drops I will be more than happy to give whatever maybe the price for it BUT I would want some of the items in the TOP 10 LIST to be addressed also a few on mines as well. If not I'll look into the Blackberry BOLD.

I honestly think the one thing that bothers me the most about the iphone is the picture texts. I hate that you have to get online to see a stupid picture your friend sent you. It should just open in a different window or something.

i would love to see the photo caller id, and the ability to add bold italic and last but not least cut and paste. also mms wouldnt hurt. this way we wouldnt have to program everyones number@att.com

All I know is I can't wait for this new iphone to come out...However, a landscape keyboard for text messaging would be awesome!

May seem stupid to some, but I really want to be able to change the ring for incoming mail. We can change it to a few generic for text messages, but I want to be able to choose others than the default for my mail since I use the phone MOST for mail.

I don't really think that the things you said here were truth. I think that Apple probably did everything they could have done to make it the perfect thing but after all, there is a limit of things you can put in such a small thing with a low price.

I agree with just about all your points. I would just like to add one small tweakable problem to the list. If I set my alarm to wake me in the morning, and my iphone just happens to be on silent at that time, GET THIS... my alarm will go off in the morning yes.. but on silent. Not really gonna wake me is it. Apple wake up.

Apple do not publicise that the iPhone will not bluetooth to a laptop or another mobile phone to synch contacts, etc. and tried to blame BMW because it will not bluetooth to the car - funny every other phone I have used connects no problem....It actually connects but goes in and out continuously. Strange...

Great List !
Ringer profiles is a must. Still fail to understand why Apple missed out on it. Phones as old as Nokia 6600 offer this option. I have been postponing my decision to switch to iPhone primarily because of lack of this feature.

All of the above suggestions are all points that should be taken by Apple, but to me the most infuriating two things are:
1) It certainly is not LOUD enough to hear conversations.. Every other word out of my mouth is: What did you say??? The LOUD speaker is ridiculously inadequate. Have you ever noticed how loud and clear a Blackberry is?
2) The "you-can't-change-it-yourself battery! This will be EXTREMELY inconvenient to have to schlepp all the way to an Apple store (or worse having to mail it in) !!!!!

Here we go - new 3Gs version - still no profiles, MMS on hold with AT&T, no accessible battery, calendar week view, etc. i think maybe I made a mistake switching from Windows.

I have a similar app on my Treo. It automatically time and date stamps when it is read and has the ability to input the contact's name. I would love to see this on iPhone when I change over to one.+1