The Orange View (on hiatus) Because Apple is great but it isn't perfect

11Oct/11Off

The one big iPhone fix I still need

The new iPhone 4S looks pretty amazing and offers many compelling features. The embargo on reviews clearly just expired and I'm sorting through all the write-ups, including Joshua Topolsky's comprehensive discussion (quoted below). I'm sure I'd love the new camera, the cord-free syncing and the great build quality.

Like Topolsky, my main phone is a Samsung-made Google Nexus S. There are really three major Android features that kept me with my Nexus S over the previous iPhones: voice control/dictation, vastly better notifications and, most important of all, the end of the endless screens of plain old icons in favor of live information and useful widgets. It sounds like the new iPhone and iOS 5 resolve the first two of these failings but stick with the boring and useless sea of rounded square pictograms. Blah.

As I've said before, I love being able to pick up my Nexus S phone and immediately see all kinds of information I want to see, things like transcribed voice mails from my Google Voice account, the live Red Sox score, the temperature outside my house or the traffic conditions on my commute. I also love having one-click shortcuts on my home screen like a wifi on/off switch, a link to call or text my wife or a Google search box. I use these widgets and shortcuts endlessly every day and would miss them too much to switch right now.

Topolsky's posted his long and mostly positive review of the iPhone 4S and he's honed in on my problem, too:

The new software pieces are very welcome, but there things about iOS that have begun to feel dated to me. In particular, the OS still feels stuck in this mode of use where you’re constantly jumping in and out of applications blindly, either to get information, or catch them up to the present. That can be frustrating when you’re trying to keep up with something like Twitter. Though the app will alert you that you’ve got new messages to read, it doesn’t download your content until you’ve opened up the program and let it refresh. The same is true for mail, and even messages you receive in IM or IRC apps. And I know I’ve said it a million times, but the fact that Apple still doesn’t provide auto-updating icons on its homescreen seems crazy to me. Yes, we now have a weather widget in Notification Center, but why doesn’t the icon change too? I feel like there’s an entirely new market for developers just waiting to make “widget icons” (think realtime clock faces like those just added to the iPod nano), yet Apple seems reluctant to give users more information on their home screens.

That lack of glanceable information coupled with the delay of having to open an app to get information creates a feeling of disconnect for me that I find bothersome. Having been using a Nexus S prior to the iPhone 4S, I couldn’t help but notice the pause — however small — that Apple’s OS puts between you and realtime content. Every time you open an application, even if it’s saved your state, you still feel like you’re moments behind where you’re supposed to be.

-This is my next blog, October 11, 2011

Posted by Aaron Pressman

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