Nearly two weeks with the iPhone: My list of improvements.

This isn’t a review of the iPhone. I love the device and feel like I always have a laptop computer on my hip now wherever I go. If you’re looking for a “conclusion” from me, I gave that in an interview on Fix Your Thinking when I stated this:

“I’ve had an iPhone for six days and am simply amazed by the device. Let the others too “cool” to be impressed downplay it or quibble about what it can’t do, perhaps in the interest of acting “fair” or unbiased. I’ve got a list of improvements I’d like to see myself, but what it can do, and how it does it, is amazing. I tell people it’s the best laptop I’ve ever had. It’s the PowerBook 170 all over again! Last night I was sitting with my feet on my desk listening to tunes and reading sites via Google Reader all on the iPhone, when my regular computer was right there! To me, that’s a pretty good testament to what a great little device this is. And it can only get better.”

In the above I mentioned a list of improvements, which I’ll specify here, but keep in mind this isn’t some pie in the sky wish-list that acts as if I can have everything and give up nothing in return. So, for example, you’ll see no request for 3G or GPS here. They’d result in a bigger phone with less battery life. Besides, if 3G replaced EDGE, I’d have less coverage for my internet access. I tended to focus on the items that impact my daily use of the device.

This list is hardly definitive, but at least it’s mine, and not regurgitated from analysts and pundits so out of touch that they still decry the lack of an FM transmitter in the iPod even after its sold 100 million units. I don’t claim this is all I’d want changed, but they seem to annoy me the most.

Here’s what I’d like to see improved in the iPhone:

Allow snooze on appointment alarms.
When an appointment alarm goes off, there’s no option to snooze it. I like to snooze my alarms because if I’m reminded of something 15 minutes early it may be too late. I tend to get reminders 1 or 2 hours before, and then just snooze to make sure I don’t space it off. Can’t do that with the iPhone.

To get around this, I View the appointment when the alarm goes off, then Edit it and change the alarm to an even sooner time. It works, but it’s a very crude substitute for Snooze.

Only 25 ringtones, no chance to change them.
It’s a matter of opinion, but for me there’s only five or so of the ringtones that are any good, the other 20 are kind of lame. And there’s no option to get others. I think Apple’s going to work something through iTunes to get ring tones, and I suspect licensing deals are involved. Still, for now I’m stuck with just a few ring tones I’ll actually use.

Let me set specific sounds for events.
You can set whether an event has a sound or not, but you do not get to pick the sound nor its volume. The sound is predetermined, and the volume used is the master one for which you set the ringer.

The pre-chosen sounds are too simple, too short, and too low for me. Remember those 20 or so lame ringtones? I’d gladly use them here. Let me set one for each event as I see fit. If nothing else I could pick louder and longer sounds for the three items I’m currently most likely to miss with the wimpy sounds they have now: Mail, SMS Text, and Voice-mail.

Let me send MMS pix messages.
It’s got great SMS text messaging, why no MMS messages? Sure I can email pictures, but not to people with regular cells that do not receive email but can still get a PIX message. That’s most people, by the way.

Beef up the vibration.
The vibration on this thing is pretty weak. I’ve had it in my pocket and missed notifications. It needs to vibrate longer for emails and text. My old phone would rattle the walls. I don’t need that much, but a little shake just doesn’t get it done.

Better speed dialing (and/or voice dialing).
On my old phone, speed-dialing was a simple two-step process (obviously, I could only do nine numbers this way, but another 90 were possible if I wanted to push two digits):
1) Open phone.
2) push and hold a single digit.

On the iPhone, a “speed dial” (i.e., call from Favorites) takes anywhere from three to six steps:
1) Wake phone.
2) Unlock phone.
3) If Favorites is showing, tap number. OTHERWISE press Home
4) Press Phone
5) If Favorites is showing, tap number. OTHERWISE press Favorites
6) Touch number.

Keep in mind it’s only three if the Phone was the last application used, and for me that’s rarely the case, so I usually have five or six taps.

I’m not sure how Apple can address this. This is one case where a hardware button comes in handy. Apple doesn’t have any “free” hardware buttons for this, and I wouldn’t want to see nine buttons down the side of the device. I suppose they could make an option to let you pick what screen the iPhone will wake to. Speed dial freaks could select Favorites and therefore always have three taps. If Apple implemented such an option, however, I’d probably choose to just have it remember where it was, like it does now. Bottom line is I’ve resigned myself to the idea that speed-dialing is what it is.

Another solution, of course, would be to implement voice dialing, which is pretty common on phones nowadays. The iPhone has a mic, so I’m not sure why voice dialing is not available anyway. My last phone had it and I had no desire to use it, but in lieu of faster speed dialing I might be tempted to use it on the iPhone if only for that purpose.

Support Mail (viewing and keyboard) in landscape mode.
I’d really like this for viewing. Lots of HTML emails are mini-web pages anyway, and I find myself turning it sideways to get a better read. As for the keyboard, I’m of the opinion that I’ll use one or the other because I don’t want to have to train myself on both. I like the portrait one and have actually avoided the browser’s landscape version, but I see no reason for Apple not to offer the choice.

Give me Mail search.
Of course, the email is on the server so what are you gonna do? Well, I’d like to think Apple’s partnership with Yahoo on email could tie onto Yahoo’s Find command. Please?

Support Copy and Paste.
Not sure what finger gesture(s) this would use, but sooner or later (better make it sooner) this will be mandatory.

Sync Notes.
The Notes application kind of just sits there, forgotten and alone. It makes for good typing practice, and you can email them, but it’s really weak. I cut Apple slack here, though, because I firmly believe we’re not really seeing the full iPhone Notes. I believe we’ll see it sometime around when Leopard is released. Leopard’s Mail app will include nice Notes and To Do integration, and I can’t help but think the iPhone will get in on this action, including the To Dos (the iPhone currently has none).

Those are the biggies for me. I’ve also mentioned improvements for the camera, but the above are the primary ones from my first 12 days with the device.

It strikes me that while I certainly believe all or most of these should be implemented, it’s a pretty short list for a 1.0 device. Especially one as complex and hyped as this one was.

6 thoughts on “Nearly two weeks with the iPhone: My list of improvements.

  1. Thanks!

    That simply affirms my point that a licensing deal was likely required to allow this.

    This would be a natural feature for the iPhone, and I’d be surprised if Apple’s not trying to negotiate it.

  2. Sorry guys, the iTunes Music Store licensing agreement specifically disallows the use of any iTunes Purchased item to be used as a ring tone.

    “iTunes Store – Terms of Service

    Usage Rules

    (viii) You may not use Products as a musical “ringer” in connection with phone calls.”

  3. Peter,

    Good point, and I agree. What I was referring to was licensing issues so that parts of iTunes-purchased songs could be made into ring tones, or something similar.

    In my view this would be agreed to by Apple and the labels, and not something we’d be charged for. It would be an additional benefit. The license would provide Apple the “go ahead” to assemble some sort of a system or functionality to provide this option.

    I could certainly be wrong, but I believe what keeps us from making a 10-second snip of our favorite iTunes song a ring tone is that it does NOT currently fall under “fair use,” or at the very least is simply not covered in current Apple agreements with the labels. As such, it’s legal waters I think Apple would rather not jump in.

  4. “I think Apple’s going to work something through iTunes to get ring tones, and I suspect licensing deals are involved.”

    They better not.

    C’mon! There is no way to claim this is not fair use. The concept that I have to spend extra money so that I can use a ten second snippet of a song that I already purchased as my ringtone is ludicrous.

  5. I would imagine that Apple is paying pretty close attention to the web chatter as well though. The list here seems pretty common.

    My #1 – bluetooth data exchange and syncing IE iSync, allowing bluetooth push for things like Salling clicker/Mac control, sending images bluetooth to computers

    And you know what i wish Apple would do? Make one feature JUST ONE Mac Only.

  6. Please remember to file your feature requests and bug fixes with Apple. I have found it to work.


    Richard S

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