WWDC10: My iPhone OS 4 checklist

Apple needs to address some serious holes the iPhone platform if it's going to remain competitive with the advancements in Android. Here's my recipe.
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on

It's pretty obvious that Apple will finally take the wraps off iPhone OS 4 and the fourth-generation iPhone handset at WWDC10 tomorrow in San Francisco so I wanted to share with you the scorecard that I'll be using to judge its performance.

Apple needs to address some serious holes the iPhone platform if it's going to remain competitive with the advancements that are being made in Android and with the onslaught of smartphones that run it.

1. Multithreaded third-party apps. We know that Pandora will run in the background in OS4 but what about Skype and TomTom? Will limited multithreaded apps appeal to most? probably, but power user may be disappointed.

2. Over-The-Air (OTA). This is a big one and perhaps one of my biggest complaints about iPhone OS. The iPhone has four radios (GSM, 3G, WiFi and Bluetooth) yet you have to plug it in with and expensive, proprietary cable if you want to sync anything from your Mac -- unless you want to pay $100 per year for MobileMe. This is insane and Apple needs to deliver on OTA everything (including OS updates) or be relegated to becoming the Betamax of mobile technology. No more "Connect to iTunes."

3. Voice Input. I want voice input everywhere there's a text entry field, just like in Android. I want the option to speak to search, text, tweet, email, whatever. And I don't want to use 12 different third party applications to do it. It's a safety issue too, speaking is safer than typing because you don't have to look at the screen to do it.

4. Free navigation. It's time for Apple to bury the hatchet with Google and license its Google Maps Navigation technology. I don't want to have to pay extra for navigation on the iPhone, it's free on Android. Apple's crippled Maps application is an embarrasment compared to Maps on Android.

5. Google apps. Apple should also bury the hatchet with Google so that we can get free app goodness like Google Voice, Translate, Goggles, Shopper and Skymap. Seriously now, if Apple allows Skype why don't they allow Google Voice?

6. Widgets. Give us the option to put more stuff on the iPhone desktop. Folders, while desperately needed, aren't enough. And a bubble on an icon with the number of unread alerts doesn't count. I want full blown widgets for news, stocks, weather, twitter, whatever. And then kill Dashboard on OS X and add real (persistent) widgets there too.

7. Menubar/Statuses/Alerts. Android's menubar is more Apple-like than Apple's. How did that happen? Apple needs to update the iPhone menubar so that it works more like Mac OS X. Put alerts up there and make it accessible to users - like Android.

8. Hotspot. Tethering isn't enough. And as I said in #2 above, cables are so 1999. Apple pioneered with the first Airport base station, then pretty much ceded the market to Linksys and DLink. How about resuscitating the "Airport" brand for a mobile hotspot app that leapfrogs the likes of PalmOS and Android?

9. Video Calls. By all accounts, the new iPhone will have a front-facing camera. Apple needs to release seamless, high-quality video calls and chats. Give us iChat on the iPhone, make it dead simple and high quality. I've seen the competition and there's a huge opportunity for Apple to do it right.

I'm not deluded into thinking that Apple will ever add Flash support or a removable battery or memory card slot to the iPhone, so they don't even make the list. Apple's seems perfectly willing to leave that to the competition, but everything else is doable in software.

This is the checklist that I'll be using to judge tomorrow's keynote address. What about you?

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