Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Initial Wish List

As a former Newton owner, I feel reasonably confident in saying that if there are former Newton-related employees still at Apple, they did not have much influence on the iPhone. Considering how well the iPhone, taken as a whole, has been thought out, there are a number of little details that really make one wonder how Apple let it get out the door. The Newton folks would have known better. I think everything I describe here is easily solvable, so let's hope that a future software update addresses these things.

  1. Keyboard. But not for the reason you might think. I'll go ahead and echo sentiments that it ought to work in landscape mode at any time, not just in Safari. But my main issue is that the keyboard display always shows capital letters. Every other implementation of an on-screen keyboard I've ever seen shows lower case letters until you hit Shift or Caps Lock. Granted, the full-size keyboard I'm typing on right now only shows capital letters and I somehow get by, but still. I'm a preferences guy, so give me a preference setting. If people like seeing caps all the time, let them. I really didn't notice this until I went to enter a password on a web page. My passwords are very good, and have a mixture of lower case and upper case letters. Yes, I got great visual feedback that I hit the correct letter, but did I use the correct case? And since the passwords are obscured, I can't be sure. The highlight of the shift key is far too subtle. Another preference opportunity: let me choose to make password fields show up as plain text. This isn't a 20" monitor that any of my co-workers can walk up and see me typing on from 6 feet away. This is a screen the size of the palm of my hand, and it will probably be 12" or less away from my face at the time I'm using it. I don't think that seeing ******** really offers me much protection value on this device.

  2. Home layout. Want pictures? Hit Photos. Want the calculator? Hit Calculator. Want to watch a movie? Hit....uh....? Oh, yes, hit iPod. Hrm. Want to add a new contact? Hit.... no.... no.... nope.... ah, there hit Phone. There is a large blank space on the home page that could easily accommodate another row of icons. So they aren't hurting for real estate. Give me a Contacts button, just use the icon from Address Book. Give me a Movies button, use maybe the QuickTime or iMovie icon.

    I can see how it makes sense to have contacts available within the phone functionality. But it also makes sense to have contacts available within the email functionality, but you don't go to Email to edit contacts. So why go to Phone? Contacts should be by itself, and it should provide handy links to contact people. So when I look up John Smith, I can easily edit his information, but I can also choose from right there to either call, email, chat with him, or go to his web site.

    I don't like the use of a hardware device - iPod - to describe a software feature (I suppose technically "phone" would also fall into that category, although it is used as a verb regularly; I can't say the same for "iPod"). And it's a multi-function hardware device on top of that. Modern iPods play music, play movies, show photos, play games, etc. If they were hurting for screen real estate on the home page, then I can see an argument that it makes sense to lump these functions under a single icon. But since that isn't the case, I really don't see it. Rename the iPod icon to be Music. Then add a Movies button. And once they are available, add a Games button. Photos is a separate button that is also iPod functionality, why not the others?

    Let me configure the layout. Sure, right now, there isn't much point. But presumably someday, I will have additional icons to mess with. So let me move them around. They already thought of this in the iPod area - largely because they packed too many functions under a single header. Hit iPod, then hit More, then hit Edit. Hey, it's a pallet of available icons, and you can reorder them as much as you want! So they solved the problem, they just didn't make the solution available on the home screen.

  3. Locations. In the old days of Classic Mac OS, there was a Location Manager. It was useful for keeping track of various different settings. I'm at home, so the dial up number is 123-4567. I'm on the road, so the dial up number is 867-5309. Once you got the locations defined, flipping between them was easy, and it worked really well. I want something equivalent for the iPhone, and I want it to mess with the network connections. Between Edge, WiFi, Bluetooth, and just regular phone calls, I want different settings depending on where I am.
    Home. I have a wireless network at home. And I do realize that the iPhone will hop onto it automatically. What I don't know is if it will keep track of the Edge network while doing so. I also don't know if it is possible to disable Edge independent of the ability to make and receive phone calls. I don't use my bluetooth headset at home. So the settings for my "Home" location would be:
    • Edge - off
    • WiFi - on
    • BT - off
    • Phone calls - on. But, between 11:00 PM and 8:00 AM, send incoming calls straight to voicemail without making a peep, unless the caller is on a certain list (emergency phone calls from family members, etc.)
    Car. I don't care about data connections while I'm driving. I do use a bluetooth headset so I can go hands free.
    • Edge - off
    • WiFi - off
    • BT - on
    • Phone calls - on.
    Work. IT department won't let me use the WiFi network with this device. I don't use the headset. I don't like receiving personal calls while I'm at work. However, since Big Brother IT has blocked access to my home email, I am interested in checking that periodically.
    • Edge - off, but spend 5 minutes every hour turning on, collecting email, then shutting off again.
    • WiFi - off
    • BT - off
    • Phone calls - either straight to voicemail, or auto-forward to work number.

    Give me a Locations button on the home screen. With a couple of taps, I can go a long way towards stretching the battery life between charges. There should probably be a quick pick for "All on," for areas that don't apply to the above, and it might make sense to duplicate the Airplane Mode ("all off") button here as well.

    Also, looking forward to Future iPhone that will contain GPS, this would feed right in. I could sit on my couch, hit a button that programs the GPS software with "I am home right now" coordinates, do the same thing for work, and then the phone could automatically change settings without any additional effort from me.

These changes would, for me, make a great product into a fantabulous product. Get rid of the blatantly obvious "what were they thinking?" stuff, like the lack of voice dialing. Incorporate some relatively minor things that take advantage of the available computing power. I think I've added 3 icons: Contacts, Movies, Locations. There is still room for one more before they need to add the configurability to the home screen. C'mon, version 1.1....woo!

1 comment:

Steve Ballmer said...

iRiots! That thing is evil dude!
http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com