Sunday, July 1, 2007

Top 16 missing features from iPhone

Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone, but the following annoyances, bugs, and missing features really bother me. And for a $600 device, I expect Apple to address this in future firmwares.

1. No MMS. Inexcusable really for a modern phone. MMS isn't just about trading photos, because...

2. No ability to exchange vCard or iCal either over MMS, Email, or Bluetooth, because...

3. The iPhone doesn't appear to support vCard or iCalendar. Really, try inviting yourself to a meeting with Google Calendar and the ICS invites will show up as unusable attachments. Not the end of the world, except...

4. iPhone Mail won't properly show the HTML Invite of a Google Calendar invite! You get the subject line, and unusable attachments, and that's it. Embedding a multipart/alternative inside a multipart/mixed seems to be too much for it. So for now, you're stuck with first, checking email with, accepting an ICS invite and getting it into your phone via iSync. Hope no one invites you to important meetings on the road.

5. Again, Bluetooth profiles supported seem pretty paultry. No dialup network tethering, no print service, no OBEX exchange, and so on.

6. VPN L2TP only supports shared secret identification and doesn't allow Machine Certificate.

7. Can't use iPhone to haul files around. You know, being able to use it as a USB drive and sync some files or use Bluetooth File Exchange would be nice, which just about every other phone supports.

8. No gestures for text selection. So, you can position the cursor, but if you need to delete a sentence or word, you have to just press the delete button a few dozen times. You can't cut/copy/paste text either. Double-tap word selection and triple-tap sentence would be nice, and would not interfere with the zooming in any application except Safari text fields.

9. no iChat, no jabber, no AIM, no bonjour, well, nothing but email and SMS. And since neither Flash nor J2ME is available, pretty much no hope of third party development of these -- except for web-based hacks which are likely to chew up battery life with HTTP traffic vs idling a TCP socket.

10. Mail application does not support full range of configuration that does (e.g. choosing between IMAPS and STARTTLS, picking SMTP/IMAP ports, etc)

11. Landscape mode available in far too few apps. I like the landscape-mode keyboard, but it is not available in Mail, or SMS, or practically anywhere else except Safari.

12. No speed dial? Wouldn't it be nice if double-taping the home button from sleep wake would take you right into the Phone app so you could hit a speed dial number, or better yet, allow double-tap-home to be configured to go to the favorite app screen of your choice (e.g. recents?) Apple talks about how great it is that the buttons are so configurable being virtual instead of plastic, but why not let the enduser have more control over screen UI layout and macros?

13. No Flash...I know, it's coming most likely. Still, very irritating.

14. No Java (J2ME). The iPhone eats up 500M of RAM for the OS, and he says Java is a hog? With J2ME today, on many phones, you can send/receive SMS from Java code, you can open sockets, you can open bluetooth connections, you can access the file system, you can control the camera, record sound, play video, access PIM databases, make accelerated 3D rendering calls, access accelerated 2D sprite/tile logic, the list goes on. I am onboard with the AJAX programming model, great, but AJAX alone can't cover all application classes, unless they massively embellish the Safari JavaScript API to attain feature parity with the various J2ME JSRs.

15. If no Java, then come up with an Objective-C secure sandboxed alternative that allows more access to native iPhone widgets. AJAX developers can't achieve a seemless native-look-and-feel by using HTML rendering, because the iPhone native widgets are relying on Core Animation as well as access to native data. A Java or Obj-C layer could. A Javascript layer cool, if, and I mean, *IF* Apple put serious work into extending the Dashcode API to encompass a hell of alot more functionality than they do today. Without Flash and without Java, even something as simply as writing a game with sound effects becomes hard. I guess the only alternative is to load up a bunch of quicktime objects into the webpage. Sheesh.

16. Last, but not least, Mobile Safari and AJAX. Yeah, it's the 'full web', right? Not exactly.

a) Safari chews up mousedown, mousemove, mouseup, and other DOM events before the browser gets them to implement scrolling and zooming. So, for example, scrolling doesn't work on iPhone. Great, they have a native app that deals with scrolling and zooming already on the iPhone, but what about other web pages that need these events?

b) Any element or frame with overflow: scroll is treated as overflow: clip. That is, with the exception of top level window, you cannot have scrollable regions anywhere else within a page. Safari has no concept of 'focused' scrolling. You'd expect that if you tap an embedded FRAME/IFRAME/DIV and it had scrollbars, that you could scroll them by dragging your finger. Ooopps! They obviously need a mechanism to support scrolling when there are multiple scrollable regions. And the response cannot be 'well, only browse pages designed for iPhone in the first place!' because that's the WAP "mobile Web" argument, which Steve Jobs himself has ridiculed. I want the FULL web experience on my iPhone.

c) Safari should let the browser DOM event handlers get fit dibs at the event. If they call event.preventDefault(), it should CANCEL the default finger-drag-scrolls-whole-window. Would this allow some poorly designed web pages to disable zoom and scroll? Yep.

The iPhone is a magnificent phone. But I feel it is much like the PlayStation 3 - about the same price, underdeveloped firmware, and lacking third party support. A year later, the PS3 firmware has added DLNA, background downloads, enhanced RGB, BluRay, new AVC codecs, Folding@Home, and lots of other features.

Let's hope that the iPhone's lack of features is not a conscious decision to eschew those features, but merely the result of rushed deadlines to get a stable device out before they could finish every feature in their roadmap.



David G. Paul said...

maybe this will be sorted when they release the second generation if enough people complain

Eccentric Cycles said...

Not being able to actually place files on the device also means that any JavaScript applications must live "in the cloud". Annoying!

Olostan said...

And what about KitchenSink of GWT 1.4? How does it works on iPhone?

Taylor said...

Totally agree, except you CAN edit the text - tap and hold for a magnifying glass. It works really well.

alxs said...

But you bought the iPhone. So Apple and AT&T won and got you for the next two years. I totally understand why this phone is so closed. It's just to preserve the profit of AT&T (and I'm sure Apple too) so you don't use any services they cannot charge and you don't use to much data bandwidth. I'm sure you will get IM as soon as they can write you a bill for using it. I'm curious how the iPhone will be here in Europe.

Ray Cromwell said...

I was already an AT&T Customer and already on a 2-year contract, so that point is moot.

I will withhold judgement on any conspiracy theories as to why the iPhone is missing some features that are easily explained by software development missteps.

Taylor said...

Uggh. I think I can live without most of this stuff. But I just found out that the Calendar app has no notion of attendees! WTF. Ok those that say this is just a consumer app are right - how can you leave that out?

I am in love with my iPhone, but this is a REALLY big blemish. I hope they fix this problem, it seems really dumb not to support so obvious of a feature. It seems really strange to support attendees in iCal, and not on the iPhone. Grrrr.

musesum said...

Also, iTunes doesn't sync with outlook for 1/4th installed base - since 7.0.2 (a guess via MSDN article)

I wish I knew when either mousedown or flash support is expected. My app is idiomatic to touch. I might have to *gulp* offload the iPhone and develop on a competing handset.

Irony abounds.

Mark said...

As a UK Mac (and gadget) enthusiast, I've been following the iPhone story closely to see if I might get one when they arrive over here, and the answer so far is probably not unless there is, indeed, a significant improvement. Here's my Brit spin on the prospects of the iPhone's arrival over here...

Firstly, voice dialing. In the UK it is illegal to operate a phone by hand while driving (even just a single stab to answer a call). Voice dialing and answering (or auto-answer) is a must over here, not a nice-to-have feature.

Lack of MMS, especially on a camera phone, will be a major problem here. Messaging pics to mates' mobiles from nights out, etc, is a common use of camera phones. It's not so much fun if you can't show your absent mates what they're missing out on.

SMS has been big over here for about 15 or more years now and many mobile users send loads of text messages a day, often in preference to calling. Although not a must, I think having a lanscape keyboard for texting would be considered an important feature. A must, though, is being able to send one message to multiple recipients at once.

Over here, each phone is normally available at several prices. Full price if bought SIM free and heavily discounted if with a contract. Almost all phones are available free when bought with a contract in some manner (even the LG Prada is free here if you have a suitable contract). It seems that in the US, you're expected to pay a SIM free price PLUS a contract. I don't think many British people would go for paying the expected £300+ for a contract phone, even with the iPod features.

I can't see many people anywhere making much use of the email and calender features without cut & paste! I expect that shortfall to become a major issue for many.

While in-car GPS was a luxury item only a few years ago, it now seems to be rare to see a car here without it now. This is not a must have, but if Apple don't include GPS soon, they'll be missing out on a sure winner. In fact, I think the combination of state-of-the-art iPod and GPS would be the main combination to expect people here to pay out the expected cost that's forecast.

No games?!?! Games are played a lot here. Web games will not cut the mustard. You can't play them on a flight or on the underground. The iPhone will gain a lot by having a few games built in.

That brings me onto 3rd party apps. Again, you can't access Web apps on flights or the underground so although there are some cool things appearing, people will miss them in environments where there is no network. 3rd party apps are a must.

One of the great features of iPods is the ability to use them as an oversized memory card to transfer files about. Not having this feature on the iPhone will be a major drag.

I've tried to stick to things that I think "average" mobile users here would consider important. I agree with most other comments, though I think many are more important to the more techno-savvy.

The slick interface is great, but Motorola had the dumbest interface for a long time and they still became a major player. People get past the interface quickly and it all comes down to the features you use (you just get used to where they are and how to use them). Almost every phone now has camera, photos, SMS (and MMS), chat, games, Java apps (or other types), music, downloading ringtones (though it looks like this is coming for the iPhone), email, calendar, VoIP capability, voice dialing, voice recording and many have video. Once you get past that interface, is the iPhone really giving you value for money?

Part of me is itching to buy one when they arrive, but I know I wouldn't end up getting much more out of it than my current phone (P900 which was free) used in conjunction with my car GPS and Archos music player (also, normally hooked up in-car). Unless things improve a lot...

Phew! Thanks for getting this far if you're still reading!

Igorrnk said...

--And what about KitchenSink of GWT 1.4? How does it works on iPhone?


Sap said...

Well I also hated that there is no search feature anywhere... Neither Can search contacts nor Media. And ofcourse no copy paste and cant use it as a memory device has started bothering me after first few days of "fun"

Horses said...

what about the fact that when you play all the songs of a single artist the iphone goes and alphabetizes them? Its cpmpletely retarded.

bikerbear1 said...

Same old crap no one asked you to buy one so stop trying to spoil it for others ps it dont cook the dinner or wash my clothes or walk the dog is it not suposed to do everythig

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