Gizmodo published a piece today titled “Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes Out“, which is essentially a list of issues concerning iPhone Firmware 4.0. Basically, their piece boils down to four major complaints: Wallpapers -> the black background was better and kept bad taste at bay; Apple gave in to customers […]
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iPhone OS 4.0 is not a “cloying, hyperglossy, barf-y mess”

Gizmodo published a piece today titled “Apple, Please Fix These Problems Before the New iPhone Comes Out“, which is essentially a list of issues concerning iPhone Firmware 4.0. Basically, their piece boils down to four major complaints:

  • Wallpapers -> the black background was better and kept bad taste at bay; Apple gave in to customers
  • Folders -> the images are misleading; the metaphor is out-dated
  • Multitasking -> feels tacked on; task management is clumsy
  • Notifications -> weren’t improved at all

I love most Gizmodo posts for being insightful, and bringing other links and insider knowledge to bear — but that wasn’t the case here. Some of the arguments presented in the post aren’t really arguments, but, rather, matters of opinion that differed significantly from my own. I rather like what I’ve seen of 4.0b1 thus far!

Here’s something I don’t understand: a tech blog getting annoyed (nay, disgusted) by more choice. Sure, it isn’t a mind-blowing choice, but it’s a chance for non-jailbreak iPhone users to enjoy a measure of customization, to allow people a chance to personalize their iPhones. I’d say the user experience is pretty air-tight on an iPhone, and there are far worse things than to open up than allowing paying customers to express their own bad taste on their home screens. Besides, who is to say that lock screen wallpapers can’t be equally terrible?

Now how long until we can change the bloody SMS ringtone, Apple? 😀

The two main Giz complaints here are with the folder icons, and the name of the actual feature. Folder icons show up to nine apps, but can actually contain up to 12 of them. Folders also open up in a 4×3 grid, instead of the 3×3 layout that the icon would have you expect. This just never struck me as a big deal. It might be a little misleading at first, but really no more so than seeing a thumbnail of an image and expecting that to be the whole picture.

Gizmodo argued in their section about wallpapers that, “the iPhone’s simple black backdrop…actually saved people from themselves.” They also mentioned that the iPhone screen is simply too small to support wallpapers in the same way as the iPad — and I’d say they used that argument onthe wrong feature. I would argue that the iPhone is simply too small to show all 12 available icons in a folder, and showing the first nine is just fine.  After all, the icon isn’t a comprehensive look at the  contents of a folder, it’s just a glance. I would rather have a little bit of extra room to organize my apps with, instead of being limited by aesthetics.

Finally, there’s Gizmodo’s issue with the actual feature name: folders. I simply don’t see a problem here. I don’t think anyone will be frustrated by the name, or be confused by the concept. Folders exist everywhere — on the computer and off — and they exist to group things in one, easy-to-discern location. The suggestion to name them “Stacks” instead is alright, but I’d argue that “Folders” is still a much more recognizable term, as opposed to something that’s only available (to my knowledge) on the Mac OS X dock.

I agree that multi-tasking actually feels a bit tacked on — but that really only applies to double-tap of the home button, which is only the front end of the feature. I actually often forget that the double-tap dock (which shows up as a horizontal list of recently used apps) exists at all, much like I forget to use Voice Control a lot of the time. However, I think that Apple’s ideas on multi-tasking sound spot on — saved states for most apps with an easy API integration, and then smart multi-tasking for all of the others that need it. It still doesn’t provide extra functionality for unique apps like Pastebot (always-on Pastebot = ultra power), but it’s a start.

I’ve also seen the multi-tasking utilities of the jailbreak world (Pro Switcher being my favourite), and Apple’s solution actually doesn’t stray that far from the third-party flock — except it shows all the recently used apps. I don’t miss Pro Switcher’s giant screenshots, although I do miss the ability to view only the apps I was running in the background.

While it’s true that more could be done to make multi-tasking more seamless, it’s looking to be one of the best iterations of a desktop level feature that I’ve seen in a mobile OS.

This area went basically unaddressed by Apple, although I’d argue that state saving and multi-tasking help just a little bit. Programs like Messages and Calendar tend to load a little faster on 4.0, so managing the various pop-ups from these apps is just a little easier. Gizmodo’s pretty much spot-on here, though: more could have been done, even if it was something as little as smarter integration of multiple pop-ups.

One possible missed opportunity I see here is the lack of badges on the multi-tasking dock. This could be a great way to combine both multi-tasking and a concept similar to Android’s notification tray: simply throw badges onto the applicable apps running in the multi-task dock, and bump apps with recent notifications further up the list. However, without actually having a more complete iPhone OS experience in front of me (read: non-beta), I’m really just blowing hot air.

In Closing…
I felt there was definitely something off about Gizmodo’s piece today. I think it was far too harsh on iPhone 4.0, and the arguments that it brought forth were extremely subjective — and, dare I say it, a bit like forced criticism. Gizmodo’s reputation as a whole has been affected by the way that they handled the events after their next-gen iPhone scoop, and I find it a bit jarring to read a Giz piece that looks down at Apple and basically tells them to clean up their act.

I’m still using beta one, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the speed and stability of 4.0. Sure there are very crazy little bugs (camera is slow to load, Evernote doesn’t work, Mail threads messages that have nothing to do with one another), but many apps load up faster. The Settings app stays on the same page that you left it (so it’s easy to toggle 3G on and off as necessary, à la SBSettings). We’ve even apparently appropriated the iPad’s spell-checking ability — something I didn’t even realize existed until loading up the beta.

On the contrary, I find OS 4.0 more interesting than ever before because of all the common-sense options Apple has opened up. It’s downright strange that they’re allowing users to assign wallpapers or name their own folders, but it’s the kind of strange that we should be really freaking happy about. If people really want a simpler, more straightforward iPhone experience, the iPhone 2G should be very cheap on eBay, and it can’t upgrade to 4.0.

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