Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Open Letter to Steve Jobs - 4 - the iPhone

The following criticisms are of the iPhone 3G. I do not know if all of them have been remediated on the iPhone 4; I believe some have, but anyway, I believe these are important criticisms and that they will make the iPhone better if they were dealt with.

1. Your Maps program on iPhone is only passably adequate for the purpose most people will surely want to use it for: as a GPS.

It should at least do the following things:

a. Speak directions to you while you are traveling.
b. Not immediately stop tracking your position as soon as you touch the map. Currently if the bottom left arrow is blue, ie the satellite is tracking you, and you touch the map display, it stops tracking and the arrow goes grey again.
c. It should be able to recalculate the route to your destination if you change course.
d. The user interface for seeking directions from one point to any other is confusing. I am never sure how to use it, or how to exit the 'search for directions' mode and go back to the GPS/satellite tracking-me mode. And when I _do_ go back to the tracking mode, my search result, including the purple line showing the route, disappears. There should just be one mode: the GPS mode, with a search button that, after you've searched, automatically shows you the route and starts tracking your position (defaulting, as it presently does, to your current location as the starting address). In other words, unless you press a button that says "stop tracking", Maps must always track your position and show it in the centre of the screen with a pulsing dot and always show the route to your chosen destination.
e. Maps seems to not automatically scroll when I am moving. It should keep my pulsing dot in the centre and automatically scroll the screen as I move/drive. Even if I touch the screen to zoom in our out; it should just keep going.
f. When I drop a pin, it doesn't automatically, immediately, allow me to edit the name of the pin. This is very frustrating.

2. You should also ship or have an option for a car kit or some kind of holster for the iPhone so it clips onto a car dashboard more easily. This rounded casing slides around and I've had to resort to Prestik. Maybe a rubber backing and base?

3. The iBooks program: it must be possible to tell it to only use landscape or only portrait mode. I prefer to read in portrait mode, but as soon as I lie down in bed it switches to landscape mode, a process which takes up to a minute on long books. Then if I roll over it goes back to portrait, and then to landscape again, which takes another two minutes. I'd prefer it if, like on the picture viewer on the iPad, one merely used the pinch and rotate hand gesture to rotate the screen manually when required.

The same criticism applies to the SMS/"Messages" program. I'll be busy typing an SMS and then the thing will swivel around and I'll accidentally hit 'send' instead of the on-screen keyboard.

4. Also the limit on the number of SMSes you can send is frustrating. I wanted to announce my son's birth and had to do it in batches, and when I had more than five people selected, the rest were off-screen in the list of phone numbers, with the result that I was not sure and could not see to whom I was sending, or had already sent to, etc. Here's an idea. Bring up the list of addressbook contacts with just checkboxes next to their mobile numbers. You then check/tick all the ones you want, and press send.

5. The physical buttons are a bad idea. They all wear out very quickly. Google "broken lock button iPhone, broken home button iPhone," and you'll see that there are 8 million results for broken lock button, and 2 million for broken home button. This is clearly a manufacturer's defect. Make the Home button a drawn/graphical element on the screen and give us that valuable real estate at the bottom of the device, which is currently hogged by the home button. And the lock button at the top - change it into a slider switch like on the old iPods. Or remove it.

Ah, but you say, how does one wake the phone up when it is in sleep mode or keypad lock mode without a physical home button to do the trick? Well, just make the volume keys invoke the "slide to unlock screen" dialog.

But then you ask, well, what about when you want an app to quit? Simple! Just add a "back" button like web browsers have, in the new real estate that you garner on the screen by removing the home key, and have that 'back' button quit the app. In the Preferences app, there's a 'back' button that takes you up the hierarchy of preferences. But when you're at the top level of the preferences, there's no more 'back' button, because intuitively that would quit the preferences app. Well, my response is yes, that is exactly what I would like it to do.

Ah, but then you ask, how do you lock the screen manually without a lock button? My answer: Just have an app to do it. Or a gesture; maybe a u-shaped gesture.

6. There should be an easy way to reboot or shutdown from an app icon. Holding down a lock button, especially when the button is broken, is a nuisance and adds to the wear and tear on the lock button. Resetting the network preferences, to force the phone to reboot, is very obscure.

7. I don't see why there is a separate switch/button to put the phone into silent mode. Surely it makes more sense to just press the sound volume key down to zero? That's what every other mobile phone manufacturer does, and what I would far prefer.

Why not just have an on-screen app that you touch and voila, it goes to silent mode? Or just let us drop the volume to zero (with a preferences option that says: when the volume is zero, enable vibrate mode?)

8. So if you take point 5, 6 and 7 above, you have an app that when tapped offers:

- lock screen
- turn phone off
- reboot phone
- silent mode on?

Then, if you press the volume keys on the side or you stroke the screen, it comes up with the same app saying:

- slide to unlock screen
- slide to reboot phone
- slide to shut down
- slide to turn silent mode off?

and each of these options is a slider button.

8. An even worse problem: either your wifi cards or their power cables or data cables are bad. If you google 'broken wifi iphone' you'll see about 16 million results. Please investigate why your phones are frying their wifi. Mine is dead. I hardly used it, so it's not wear and tear. I saw someone claim it has something to do with a frayed USB cable. I can imagine that this might cause the phone to get a power spike. But I find that far-fetched. I suspect they just overheat and burn out.

9. As I've mentioned before, we need to be able to modify and read files stored on the iPhone from multiple apps. Currently, files are stored "inside" particular apps and have to be first downloaded from the app via iTunes or a web browser, and then reuploaded via the same method to the other app that needs access to the particular file. Surely a common documents folder is not that confusing for users familiar with computers?

10. I'd like an expert mode so I can SSH to the phone or FTP it. A "sharing" control panel would be nice so I don't have to use the clunky Mac iTunes interface to add/remove files to/from it. A "hard drive mode" like the iPods have would be ideal; I'd like to be able to drag and drop files from my Mac to the iPhone's common documents folder. Ditto the iPad.

11. I don't understand why you've created FaceTime. Seriously; why not just preinstall Skype? At least then I can call anyone, not just Mac Users and iPhone 4 users! Or at least, I would hope, have it that FaceTime is a Skype-compatible client and logs in to Skype, and then automatically takes your addressbook from the phone and asks Skype for these peoples' Skype accounts/logins to be added to your client's addressbook... PS. Can you set the video quality level, or does Facetime only use high resolution/definition? What do you think that will cost people in a country where bandwidth is expensive?

12. Calling the iTunes store application, 'iTunes', is confusing; it makes me expect to be able to play music through it. This is inconsistent. Rename it to iTunes store, and rename the iPod app to iTunes Player or something. Just a suggestion - to get iOS consistent with OS X.

13. I'd like to be able to log in to Ping from the iTunes/iPod app and I'd like to be able to share my current track automatically on Facebook as my Facebook status. As well as Skype. And Twitter.

14. iPod player app is frustrating for three reasons:

a) it automatically goes into landscape 'coverflow' mode if I turn the iPhone sideways. This would be OK if the coverflow showed only the tracks from the current playlist and a play/pause/forward/rewind button control set and the play extent or play progress bar - ie if it did the same thing as portrait mode. But the coverflow interface is unusable; it lets you randomly select covers of albums and plays the song from the album, but won't let you forward, rewind inside a track, show play progress, etc. It also shows all tracks on the phone, not the current playlist.
See above for why I dislike the autorotate, in the section above re iBooks.  I'd rather manually rotate.
b) iPod App doesn't do crossfade. It fades out when a call comes in, so surely it can crossfade tracks?
c) On my iPhone 3G it won't play through airtunes/airport/wifi to my Airport Express. But this was touted as a feature of iOS 4.2. Yet even when my wifi card was working, it would not see my Airport Express. My Mac saw it just fine. This works on the iPhone 4 so I assume that it has been deliberately disabled on the 3G. Would you mind sharing your reasoning on this?

15. I'd prefer a separate movie player for movies, as I do not want to have to place videos of my baby son into iTunes on my Mac in order to upload these videos to my iPhone. It's a bit weird having a cute baby video in amongst some metal videos. I also find the concept of playing videos of my son through the iPod music player somewhat bizarre. I can see the logic; you're assuming we'll only be playing back music videos. But in reality, no. How about letting Quicktime Player on the Mac talk to the iPhone and upload videos to Quicktime player on the iPhone?  Or are you wanting to decommission Quicktime Player and replace it with OS X's

16. Why can my iPhone 3G not record video? There are third-party apps that do it, so why is a video recorder not installed by default?

17. Why is the RAM so low? The last time I had a computer with 128 MB of RAM was in 1997, and even then, it was an antique. If I try to use VNC it threatens to reboot because of low RAM conditions. Surely 1 GB is not that much these days?

18. Some Korean phones boast 5MP cameras, but the iPhone has 2MP? I always thought the iPhone was the absolute top-end phone in the world. Speaking of which, it takes AGES to load the camera app, by which time the photo opportunity has passed. Maybe give the phone more RAM and keep the camera app live from boot up time onwards?

19. Why when I choose a wallpaper does it only appear on the screen that asks me to unlock the screen? IE why does it not appear behind my app icons? Surely drawing a JPEG isn't that CPU-intensive for the 3G? This works on the iPhone 4 so I assume that it has been deliberately disabled on the 3G.

20. It can't display Tiff attachments in the Mail program.

php 7 nightmare

OK so Centos 6 insists on installing php 5.3 and even if you download other RPMs and install them, they do not replace the existing 5.3 whic...