The iPhone and iPod touch are the best things to happen to the mobile device market in quite some time. These products challenge smartphone and handheld companies to make their devices more user friendly and at the same time more powerful.
But at the same time, Apple’s new products have irritating omissions that keep the iPhone and iPod touch from being as useful as they could be. And the reasons for some of them are seemingly inexplicable.
What’s so frustrating about these missing features is they are blemishes on what’s otherwise a pair of truly outstanding devices.
I’m not talking about the big stuff. I don’t agree with Apple’s decision to block third-party applications for these two models, or leave Bluetooth out of the iPod touch, but I can understand why. It’s the smaller features that aren’t included that I can’t fathom.
It continues to surprise me that the iPhone doesn’t offer 3G cellular-wireless networking. I don’t think think faster wireless service is really needed for surfing the Web, but it is for downloading music.
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When I first heard of the iPhone, I assumed that it would allow you to buy songs from iTunes and download them directly. It’s genuinely shocking to me that this isn’t possible. It’s certainly possible with other smartphones, like the Motorola Q9m I’m testing now.
I can see the wireless carriers who offer the iPhone not being happy about this; It’s their networks that would have to provide the bandwidth, after all. But this is something that can be solved by adding an over-the-air download charge of maybe 10 cents to the price of each song. This is low enough that people who really want to hear a new tune will pay it without a thought, but will cover the cost of the extra bandwidth needed for a large download.
The iPhone comes with a version of Google Maps. It also has Bluetooth short-range wireless networking. So you’d think the ability to connect an iPhone to a Bluetooth GPS receiver would be a no-brainer. Nope. It just isn’t possible, at least not now.
Without a GPS, a mapping program on a phone is nice, but it’s not much better than a paper map. Give the mapping application the ability to know where you are in real time, and it instantly becomes vastly more useful.
This one isn’t as big a deal as the first two, but a version of iChat would have been nice. Instant Messaging is great, and it’s even better if you can do it wherever you are.
The new flagship iPod is a handheld in everything but name. It will run the same operating system as the iPhone, and include most of the same software. But Apple isn’t going to let it be as good as it could have been.
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The only reason why people won’t be able to edit their calendars on an iPod touch is because Apple decided they shouldn’t.
This is the item on this list that bothers me the most. Everything else is features that should have been added, but you could argue that there wasn’t time when putting together first-generation products like the iPhone and iPod touch. But Apple took the Calendar application written for the iPhone and removed an important feature.
The lack of a email application is almost as irritating. Apple already had one written for the iPhone, so why leave it out of the iPod touch?
The only reason anyone can think of for this is Apple didn’t want the Pod touch to be too strong a competitor to the iPhone, so it deliberately hobbled it. If true, it’s a sign that Apple doesn’t understand the mobile device buyer.
If someone is in the market for a traditional handheld, and the iPod touch doesn’t meet his needs, then they’re not going to automatically turn to the iPhone. There are people who just don’t want a smartphone, and Apple making a hobbled handheld is just going to force them to buy a Palm or Pocket PC.
The good news is that most of these missing features are software related, and might be fixable with system updates to these devices. I can only hope Apple realizes the need.
This isn’t true of 3G. Sadly, it will have to wait for a second-generation iPhone before it can come to this platform.