Kent's Weekly Rant: Episode 2
On Tuesday Apple released a system update for iPhone that claims to have fixed a number of undisclosed bugs. Like nearly every other iJunkie I eagerly plunged into the installation process, anxious to learn what performance tweaks might await. My initial hope was the unrelenting Mail issue I lamented about had been fixed in this release, and I think some have. But not all.
The one glaring glitch that still rears its ugly head time and again is what I jokingly refer to as Looky lockup. If the iPhone is put to sleep when Mail app is left running in the foreground, checking multiple mail accounts for new email, the device may awake to a blank screen and remain in that state for several seconds. It is annoying beyond words, and can be a true detriment at times when I need to make phone calls. I posted an image below to show you all what this looks like.
Now before anyone clamors that my problem is entirely isolated, I have a whole bag filled with “Oh heeeeeell no!”, so don’t bother swinging that cat by its tail. I know my case is not unique because at least one acquaintance sees similar behavior from his iPhone, and several readers have submitted their experiences and feedback as well. While I am in no way claiming it to be common, it is out there.
So this weekend I’ll be flashing my memory (on the iPhone that is) and resetting the device in hopes that whatever gremlin is eating away at OSX’s inner code is eradicated. We shall see.
My unease over Mail doesn’t stop there. On the whole it feels like a half baked piece of software. It lacks so many basic core features that it seems Apple threw this app in at the last minute, as if it were an afterthought. You can’t mark messages as read. You can’t save image attachments. Exchange ActiveSync and DirectPush aren’t supported. Messages can’t be flagged. No mass delete function exists. You can’t send attachments from the composition window, thanks to iPhone’s hidden file system. A field for blind courtesy copy (BCC) isn’t offered.
Even the interface is poorly thought out. Returning to the mail Accounts screen requires backing out of the current inbox or folder, one tap at a time. Apple should include a home button in the UI enabling instant return to Accounts, as a shortcut.
The best solution for introducing more advanced features into the interface might be a popup toolbar toggled by gesture or a simple icon located where the Edit button resides now. This would have the dual advantage of saving precious screen real estate when unused, and delivering a floating tool palette when needed.
Ironically even in this incomplete state, Mail continues to rise head and shoulders above all other Smartphone platforms in delivering true rich email. Viewing any message on the iPhone is no different than viewing it on a PC or Mac, and that is a huge leap forward for mobile messaging, which until now has been expressed as primitive raw text with hideously rendered fonts. Apple got that part of the equation right, with brilliant flair.
Despite my discontent I feel confident that once Apple tackles these shortcomings and refines Mail, making it into the app is was intended, or certainly needs to be anyway, it will stand as the absolute pinnacle of mobile email. My inbox is waiting.