Editorial: iOS 5 Looks Nice, But is Still Lacking

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Apple’s iOS seems to always be on a lag in terms of software features, and yet at the same time, it’s very much ahead of the competition. It took three major software revisions to offer copy and paste, and it wasn’t until the fourth version of iOS that we got fast-app-switching. All the while other platforms like BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android, and webOS has had many of these features since their inception. Apple defends its slowness in coming to market with these features as being hyper-focused on “getting it right”, which has served the company (and its customers) very well.

With iOS 5, Apple is once again playing catch up. Their notification shade is taking a page out of Android’s book; their system alerts “roll in” from the top, which reminds us of how webOS alerts appear on the bottom; their improvements to Game Center attempts to achieve parity with the game-focused features of Windows Phone 7; Twitter integration has been possible on certain HTC Android devices for years; Google offers many syncing services similar (but not as elegant as) iCloud; their enhancements to the camera application and photo manipulation have been possible with third party iOS apps for years; iMessage is a copy of RIM’s successful BBM service; and PC-Free seems silly and should have been there since day one, since no other mobile device requires your to plug-in to a computer before using it.

Which isn’t to say that iOS 5 doesn’t deliver, because it does. It makes a polished and mature mobile operating system even better by increasing functionality and making the experience generally better for all types of users. But Apple shouldn’t have stopped where they did. After using the new operating system for a couple of days, I’ve found that iOS 5 is still lacking in several key areas:

1. End the endless screens of icons. I’ll be the first to admit that I can’t think of any better alernative to having icons on the homescreen. Widgets, a la Android, are slow to update and harm battery life in a lot of cases, so app shortcuts make sense. But the presentation of these icons is extremely tired. Screens and screens of icons just isn’t elegant.

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2. Add better tabbed browsing to safari on iPhone. The new tabbed browsing for the iPad looks terrific, but it doesn’t help those of us using the iPhone or iPod Touch. Browsing through tabs on these devices is annoying…you have to jump into the tab list, swipe until you find the page you want, and tap on it. Worse, your tabs accumulate, and there is no way to quickly close all tabs if your device is getting slow. Also, performance of Safari is quickly lagging behind what can be found on newer devices like the HTC Sensation and Galaxy S 2.

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3. Let us see more info on the lock screen. It’s nice that you can now see and action on notifications from your lock screen, but if you could auto-hide the notification stack, you could fit more information, like sports scores, stock quotes, weather, etc.

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4. Different folder styles. Folders are great (although they need to open more quickly), and many people use them…lots of them. But they all look the same. It’d be nice to assign a different color to different types of folders.

5. App speed-dial. The iPhone used to have a great feature that allowed you to double tap on the home button to bring up your favorites in the dialer. That feature is no more. It’d be nice if the iPhone allowed you to “speed-dial” an app and bring it up quickly through certain key combinations. For example, double, triple, and tap-and-hold of the home button and camera buttons could provide some great versatility for users to get to frequently used apps quickly.

Where else do you think iOS 5 is lacking?

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.