From Flash support to MMS...
Even iPhone lovers dream of how the iconic mobile phone could be even better. Here is Seb Janacek's feature wishlist.
It's an enduring irony that given how feature-rich the iPhone is, it's often defined by what it lacks rather than what it possesses. It's the second best Apple product I've ever owned (the 24-inch iMac is the first) and definitely the most ground-breaking personal technology I've used.
While I love the iPhone, gadgets could always be better. So I've put together a purely personal wishlist of stuff I'd love for the iPhone - though I'm not expecting most of these from Apple anytime soon.
Some feature holes could easily be plugged by software from Apple or one of the many third parties writing apps for the iPhone but I'm looking for out-of-the-box functionality.
Here's what I'd like to see on what is already a great product - from the least to most desired features.
10. Flash support
Apple got slapped on the wrist for its marketing assertion that the iPhone can access 'all the web' when certain content types are not accessible. Flash and Java are key examples.
As it currently stands, Apple can control the applications that can be developed for the iPhone with the SDK and the App Store. Add Flash support and suddenly developers could produce apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch that bypass the App Store's quality control and vetting process - and Apple would lose out on revenue.
There are vast tracts of the web that are designed in Flash. Yes, some of it is hideous and doesn't comply with web standards but a lot of it is brilliantly done and loads of fun.
9. Landscape typing mode
The iPhone's virtual keyboard polarises users. You either hate it or love it. I belong to the latter camp and would never be prepared to give up the screen real estate for physical keys or compromise the form factor for a slide-out Qwerty keyboard.
Some applications allow you to use the wider landscape-mode keyboard but not all. A standard turn-iPhone-to-landscape keyboard feature across key applications would be a productivity boon, particularly for longer emails and for word processing as enabled by my Wish Number 8 (see below).
8. Mobile iWork
iWork, the Apple office suite, is basic by Microsoft Office standards but elegant and more than adequate for most users. A cut-down version for the iPhone and iPod Touch would be incredibly useful. Even just the word processing app Pages would transform how I work on the go.
Steve Jobs recently said the company wasn't planning a move into the netbook market arena anytime soon - partly, he claimed, because the iPhone occupied that space. With an iPhone-optimised office suite I'd almost be tempted to believe him. And of course it would all sync beautifully through the cloud.
7. Improved syncing between iPhone and Macs
There's a great free app called MobileFiles that allows you to sync files between the iPhone and MobileMe's cloud storage service. It's hard to imagine this not being native to the iPhone in the near future. However, it would be great to be able to sync more items, including to do's, notes created using the Notes application and iWork files.
Being able to use the iPhone as a 3G Bluetooth mobile would be incredibly useful for times when long emails have to be written or sent with files attached. This is related to the Bluetooth feature (see Wish Number 3) but it's as much an issue for mobile carriers as it is for Apple.
Mobile operators are afraid of being viewed merely as fat pipe providers, which is ironic as that's exactly what they've become. Stop trying to be content providers, says I - but that's a different article.
5. RSS reader
Google Reader is a fine service for accessing and managing RSS feeds on the iPhone and has a real application feel to it.
However, what I'd love is a native app that not only offers a compelling user experience for RSS on the iPhone but is backed up by a MobileMe synching service that keeps my RSS feeds up-to-date across all my Macs' Mail accounts and devices.
Currently MobileMe syncing works for mail, calendars, dashboard widgets and other elements but not for RSS feeds in Apple Mail.
4. Better navigation between multiple email accounts
I have three email accounts configured on the iPhone. The Mail indicator on the home page indicates how many emails I have on the device but to access all my new messages I need to open each inbox independently. The route from an email in my Google account to a new email in my MobileMe account breaks down like this:
Current email>Inbox>Gmail>All Inboxes>MobileMe>Inbox>Next email message
Six steps. There has to be a better way. Or maybe there is. If anyone does know how to navigate more efficiently to emails in multiple accounts please leave a Reader Comment below. Otherwise a View New Mail screen/inbox that displays all new messages regardless of account would be a welcome addition, much like a screen showing aggregated RSS feeds (as mentioned in Wish Number 5).
3. A useful Bluetooth function
I paid for the Bluetooth module inside the iPhone and I'd like to use it rather than have it reserved solely for a wireless headset.
For starters, 3G network tethering for the MacBook Pro would be fantastic (see Wish Number 6) but how about simple Obex file exchange so I can send and receive photos and files to and from other computers and devices?
My devices and the devices of friends and colleagues who use the Bluetooth standard protocol for the purposes for which it was created.
This is one of the most commonly requested iPhone features. I get sent at least a few photos every week of the tiny Janaceks. To view them on the iPhone, I need to follow a link to an O2 web page, actually remember my phone number and a PIN then squint at a tiny image in the centre of the iPhone's otherwise enormous screen.
There is a better way - it's called MMS. If everyone had mobile email clients as good as the one on the iPhone, this would be less of a problem as we'd just email photos like Apple suggests we do - but they don't. Even if everyone did have iPhones then people would still use MMS because it's easy and it's fun. Two concepts Apple is very familiar with, so what's the problem?
1. Better power management
The 2.1 firmware update helped eased the pain but battery life remains the single biggest problem I have with the iPhone. It has to be charged daily. This is not a major problem normally as I'm used to docking an iPod with the home iMac on a nightly basis but away from home and it means I need to carry an extra lead and power connector.
In an ideal world, the iPhone would have a swappable battery to allow a spare to be taken on the road (yes, they're tiny but that's not the point). A removable battery is not likely any time soon but I'm hoping each firmware upgrade brings with it a tweak to the power management settings to enable longer battery life.