The iOS 4.2 is still far from perfect and a few things can still be improved. On 22 November 2010, Apple released the version 4.2 (or 4.2.1 to be precise) of its mobile OS, the iOS. This update allow Apple to unify a wide range of its mobile devices under the same iOS version (iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad), which share nearly similar functionality. The iPad gets the full capability of iOS 4.2 such as multitasking, Game Center, and the improved mail client. The new IOS also introduced some new technologies, such as the AirPlay that allows you send an video or audio files to any compatible device or AirPrint that allows printing documents, web pages or photos directly from mobile devices to a compatible printer (although it only supports a few HP printers). Apple also offered one little thing: allowing you to discover the location of an iOS mobile device for free. So far, it is only available to those who have MobileMe account.
Unfortunately, the iOS is definitely not perfect yet and you may say, it still lacks certain features that could make it even better. This is a list of things that need to be improved soon.
Better notification system
Introduced on iOS 3.0, the notification system allows apps to alert users without having to run the actual application. Not bad really, but this system is currently very limited. We tend to ignore those notifications instinctively without taking some time to open them. What follows is the nagging feeling of having missed something. Worse, when notifications arrive quickly, they make the previous ones invisible. If you watch a video and a notification arrives, you can’t put it aside, so you can return later. Options are quite limited in opening or closing the notification and obviously Apple needs to revise its notification system in a bit more elegant way.
More flexibility in multitasking
The biggest innovation in the 4.2 iOS was undoubtedly the multitasking, which allows you to open more than one app at a time. To improve battery life, Apple has devised a rather clever way of putting open and unused apps on “suspended” status. They do not consume processor resources and have no impacts on device’s performance and battery life. Apple also puts in place some libraries that allow true multitasking capability for some apps. You can use GPS navigation feature in the background, listen to a song while making VoIP calls. Only recently Apple expands the scope of multitasking by giving an opportunity for some applications to download contents regularly when in the “suspended” status which would avoid having for example waiting for RSS feed or news to be updated when the application is reactivated. This is also useful for Twitter or Facebook users to get updated status in real time. However, Apple needs to add an option to automatically close suspended applications that haven’t been used for a certain time period.
Improvements on Mail Client
Since early iOS versions, the Mail client is always evolving. Today, it can sort your e-mails by several criteria, display one inbox for all accounts and synchronize easily. Unfortunately, it still lacks a few features found in desktop mail clients, for example, the ability to mark e-mails, delete many e-mails, and send e-mails to a contact group. Of course, your own wish list can be longer. For example, Apple should integrate features such a spam filter, Smart Folders, or better text processing options (like bold, italics, etc.).
Better data sharing
One of the biggest drawbacks of iOS is the inability to smoothly handle two similar apps at the same time. Since the release of iOS 4.2, things have changed significantly and the device can now determine about whether a file type is supported, for example, it will open Excel documents with Numbers or videos with VLC. However, it’s still a pain to open two similar applications because they use the same storage location. Each application should have its own internal storage to ensure smoother flow. Although Apple has tried everything to avoid it, iOS may need a centralized storage to allow applications exchange data more freely.
Similarly, sending data to other mobile iOS device is always complicated. Often, you need to go through iTunes to drag files onto the application. Meanwhile, DropBox or MobileMe synchronization is performed online and other applications use virtual Web servers that act like a hard drive on your desktop computer to allow seamless data transfers. This problem also occurs on applications that send files by e-mail. Again, Apple should find a simplified and unified method for sending data to other iOS devices.
Tasks management in iCal
Because iOS is a mobile operating system, iCal is commonly used by users of iOS devices. But you may wonder why Apple fails to include a list of upcoming tasks in the iOS calendar while a similar feature is still present in the Macs.
Certain data can be synchronized wirelessly between iPhone, iPod Touch and the iPad with a desktop computer still needed between these devices. Indeed, MobileMe or other free services like Google Sync can synchronize contacts, emails, documents or bookmarks seamlessly through the air, but reliable Internet connection is not available in some places. These days, data synchronization through USB cable already feels outdated. If synchronization of music library and video on the 3G network appears too expensive or can be unreliable, why Apple does not allow synchronization through the Wi-Fi network? It would be convenient to transfer photos to your Mac from the iOS devices without having to use a USB cable.
Android users will tell you, there is nothing more convenient than having a steady stream of information displayed clearly on the home screen, for example, weather, stock prices, incoming emails, and appointments. However, Apple still has no plan on using screen lock on their devices.
Streaming files to iOS devices
With iOS 4.2, you can use AirPlay to send a stream of video or audio from your iOS devices to compatible devices, like the new Apple TV or an AirPort Express. But iOS devices are not really intended to store plenty of videos or photos and would need a large external storage, so it would be nice to view or play files on stored on a network drive or a Mac directly in your iPad or iPhone. The Apple TV is able to play files stored on desktop computers, even so this feature is still not available on iOS devices. There are some applications that can access to music library from mobile devices like Airfoil Speakers Touch, but this feature requires the installation of proper software on the desktop computer.
Make AirPrint more accessible for iOS
It was heralded as a huge revolution in the wireless printing field, but the fame of AirPrint quickly wanes. Currently, AirPrint is only supported by 11 HP printers. At this moment, Apple has removed printing feature via shared printers from Macs or Window PC.
Restore the screen orientation lock on the iPad
Something a little unusual happened with the iOS 4.2, Cupertino has changed the orientation lock button function on the iPad. It is now only used to mute the overall sound, just like the iPhone, the locking is now accessible by double-clicking the “Center” button. If you are already accustomed to this feature, the change is clearly annoying.
And many others
Obviously, iOS still lacks many features to achieve perfection, here are some of them
- Customization of ringtones and alerts
- Better management on multiple user accounts (especially on the iPad)
- Better file transfer files via Bluetooth
- Flash disk storage mode for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad when connected to a Mac
- Voice dialing (useful when using headphones)
- Voice control for to third-party applications
- Automatic podcasts download
- The ability to mute all notifications
- Better management of tabs in Safari (iPad)
- FaceTime via the 3G network
Obviously, the iOS will continue to evolve in 2011, maybe even much more than the Mac OS X. But, let’s hope these features will be available for us soon.