(Sheesh, I've been busy lately. I had more spare time when I was employed!)
Ever since I got my iPhone 3G in late July, I've been keeping track of the things I like--and don't like--about it.
Since Apple is rumored to be releasing the next major iPhone firmware update today, I thought I'd run through the list now, and then see how the new firmware changes things. Many of these comments apply to the iPod touch as well.
The things I like are, generally, the same things everyone likes. The iPhone is feature-rich, well integrated, well supported by independent software developers, and fun to use.
The things I don't like are, generally, software features that ought to be present but just aren't.
Each time I discover another one of these missing features, I jot it down in my iPhone WTF list. WTF, of course, stands for "Where's the feature?"
Muting and sounds For example: Where's the feature to mute the phone? You may point to the little toggle switch on the left side, but no, that just mutes the ringer and certain audio alerts, not the whole phone. On my old Palm Treo, the mute switch darn well muted everything, as if the switch disconnected the speaker wires themselves.
On the iPhone, there's no way to predict which sound sources will respect the mute switch. Calendar alerts do; alarms don't. These are good choices--I like knowing that the alarm function will still wake me up even if I mute the phone before going to sleep--but hardly intuitive.
Alarm volume is controlled by the ringer volume, but even the minimum ringer volume is still audible.
Application-generated sounds have a separate volume control. If you're not in the iPod application, which has a volume slider, I think the only way to adjust this control is to use the volume rocker switch while an application is making sounds. Sometimes, that's after the phone has already started to annoy the people around you.
Bottom line: I can't find a way to make the unit completely silent without going into multiple Settings panels and applications, and even that isn't completely effective because some applications (as exemplified by the otherwise valuable Phone Aid) will turn the volume back up when they run.
Alerts and Calendar app While I'm on the subject of alerts: in the Calendar application, where's the function to set an alert for the exact time of an event? Sometimes I just want to beep myself at 10 a.m. to make a phone call, for example. I don't want to have to set the time for 10:05 a.m. and the alert for "5 minutes before." I love the fact that Calendar supports up to two alerts for the same event, but I wish I could set them to, say, 15 minutes and 0 minutes respectively. This problem could be solved by providing a "Custom" time choice for both of the alerts.
The Calendar app also has the worst user-interface design in the whole iPhone, I think. To select the date and time for an alarm, you spin three wheels apparently stolen from the game show The Price Is Right. The minutes wheel is so easy to spin that in going from :00 to :30, I commonly spin right past :30 and back to :00. Apple has developed many ways to select dates and times for other systems and applications; this is by far the worst.
The Calendar app does something else that's kind of silly. In the daily view, most events get two lines of text: the title and location. Displaying these two lines takes up about one hour of the day. For a shorter event--one scheduled for 30 minutes, say--the two lines get squeezed into one line in an attempt to maintain the orderly appearance of the schedule.
But come on, Apple! The lines on a sheet of paper are fixed. The lines on a computer display aren't. Stretch the lines apart so that every event gets the space it needs! Jeez, this isn't rocket science.
Similarly, a long event has plenty of room to display additional information, such as the notes associated with the event--but instead, the event ends up with two lines of text and a bunch of wasted blank space. Display the notes, and shrink the event if that helps to keep the whole day on the screen. I hate having to scroll the Day display just to show two events.
The Calendar app doesn't handle multiple-user event scheduling very well. Invitations received by the iPhone's Mail app aren't understood by the phone. I can go look at the message on my Mac and add the event to my calendar there, and eventually the event shows up on my iPhone, but that's not so good when I'm traveling. And even then, the event can't be edited on the iPhone--not at all, not even to change the times.
The Calendar app does something very nice: the icon on the iPhone's home screen shows the current day and date. So, where's the feature? Why don't all of Apple's apps do this sort of thing where appropriate? The Clock app icon always shows 10:15. The Weather app always shows sunny and 73 degrees. The Stocks app shows a random squiggle. Sure, updating all these icons would give the iPhone some extra work to do--so Apple should provide a "Live icon updates?" setting and have some rules about how often the updates should happen. I think the slight increase in overhead would usually be worth it.
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