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iPhone OS 2.2: changes to Safari's UI [UPDATED]

by Moose - 21 November 2008

So, iPhone OS has been updated to 2.2, and along with it came some changes in the Safari UI.
Am I the only one to find the new dual-field address bar rather inelegant?

Of course, it makes some sense in that it more closely resemble the UI of the desktop Safari, and it seems lots of people where not getting the meaning of the old "magnifying glass" icon, but gosh, this new UI looks busy and crammed.

On iPhone's clever trick regarding app launch time

by Moose - 8 November 2008

Daring Fireball: More Notes on Notes:

What many Apple apps do is take a screenshot of the current display when you quit, and overwrite the default.png file inside the application bundle with that screenshot. Then when next you launch that app, you immediately see the entire contents of the screen from when you previously quit — but it’s still just a screenshot, a static image. It looks like the app has launched instantly, but in fact you’ve still got to wait a few seconds for the app to restore itself to the point where it’s actually ready to use.

This is an insanely clever trick. You have to give credit to Apple's developers to sweat out on tiny details... but it's all these tiny details that make a great user experience.

Google Android: some kind of psychedelic drug?

by Moose - 16 October 2008

You may remember a post on this very blog a while ago, where Walt Mossberg earned the dubious honour of a "Spot the idiot" entry. Basically he was blasting the phone for the whole review, then concluding it was a good phone. Go figure.
Well, looks like maybe Google is shipping some powerful recreative drugs with their review G1 units, since Gizmodo feels the same:
Google Android: T-Mobile G1 Google Android Phone Review:

Keyboard: It's got numerous problems.

Buttons: you're naturally going to want to use the red power button to quit apps or end tasks, but all that does is lock your phone

Trackball: switching between the trackball and the touchscreen can get awkward

Screen: There are cases when screen presses don't register properly

Battery: A full charge lasts about a day [...] and you'll need to get used to a mid-day charge at work.

Camera: It's passable

Other Issues: It's hard to fathom why HTC left out a 3.5mm headphone jack in 2008 [...] You have to pop out that microSD card and use a card reader every time you want to load a ringtone or a song or a photo or a video

Calling: the screen annoyingly times out after about 10 seconds. If you want to power on the screen again, you have to hit the menu key or the "call" key, which takes you to the dialpad. [...] And pressing the power/end button, which you'd think would power up the screen, actually just hangs up the call. Annoying.

Stability Android handles [stuck apps] spectacularly well by using the PC paradigm where you can choose to Force Quit a frozen app or wait for it to unstick itself. [great! CTRL-ALT-DEL for the masses]

Interface: As we have observed, the UI suffers from general usability issues such as inconsistent actions or surprisingly unclickable regions

Contacts: Phone contacts sync nicely with Google's Gmail contacts—great if you use Gmail, and an extra place to backup your contacts if you don't.

Browser: the lack of multitouch gestures in Android's version makes zooming a pain. It doesn't have Flash support [...] and it doesn't auto-zoom to maximize the column you want to read in your display

So, with this truckload of problems, missing stuff and the like, you would expect a harsh verdict, right? Like, the iPhone was BLASTED for way less than this (think recessed standard audio jack)... Here's the review conclusion:

Verdict

Despite all the UI quirks and bad design decisions, it's still better than other smartphone OSes out there. It's not perfect, but for people who like tinkering, its cons are outweighed by its pros such as Gmail and the Marketplace.

Hmm, let's see if Engadget got the same powerful magic dust:
engagdet: T-Mobile G1 review

While there's plenty to praise in this phone, there's a lot more that's missing -- and some of those missing elements are what we consider to be core components of a device in the G1's class.Shortcomings aside, though, you're still buying into one of the most exiting developments in the mobile world in recent memory.

So, it's crap but it's one of the most exciting things around?

Please Google, can I have some of your medecine, I want to be happy too...

P.S.: Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against Google or Android, if they get it right, fine, if they manage to release a better phone than my iPhone, I'll switch happily: I don't buy Apple products because it's Apple, I buy them because they are better than the competition according to my own criteria (i.e. for me "cheaper" weighs less than "better quality", which for example leads to my old G3 clamshell iBook still working under Tiger, while my wife's company-provided 2 years-old Thinkpad crapped out on her last week.)

Spot the Idiot: Walt Mossberg on the G1 GooglePhone

by Moose - 24 September 2008

Google’s G1: First Impressions | Walt Mossberg | Mossblog | AllThingsD:

Google’s G1: First Impressions

So, The Moss got his hands on a preview unit of the Google/HTC "G1" phone, based on Google's Android, planned for release sometime in October.
And what does he have to say about it? Let's find out...

It will be sold in the U.S. starting next month by T-Mobile, for $179 with a two-year contract

OK, so it's $20 cheaper than the base 8GB iPhone.

The keys are a bit flat, and you have to reach your right thumb around a bulging portion of the phone’s body to type, but it’s a real keyboard.

Hmm so you need to bend your right hand around this big protuberance to reach tiny chicklet keys...

[the phone] can only synchronize the phone’s calendar and address book with Google online services. Unlike the iPhone, it doesn’t work with Microsoft Exchange, and it can’t physically be synced with a PC-based calendar or contacts program, like Microsoft Outlook.

Riiight, so you can't even use it with your own data, unless they reside in Google's Cloud (aka The Gloud).

The G1 won’t win any beauty contests [...]. It’s stubby and chunky, nearly 30% thicker and almost 20% heavier than the iPhone. [...] has a somewhat smaller screen.Still, it feels pretty good in the hand when closed, although I found it more awkward when opened.

So, that's a phone that feels good when closed, and in your pocket... and it's butt-ugly and quite big with a small screen.

[in the browser] you can view the whole page in miniature, as on the iPhone. In the latter mode, however, you can’t simply use Apple’s technique of tapping or “pinching” to zoom in on a portion of a page. You must move around a virtual lens to pick out a part of the page on which to focus.

Hmm, so you can sort of zoom on a web page, with a "virtual lens"... neat and quite 90s-ish, maybe there is a magnifying glass effect, like this XP (?) screensaver.

There’s a very basic music player [...]. But the G1 lacks a built-in video player — you have to download one from the third-party software store. Also, you cannot use standard stereo headphones with the G1. You need special ones, or an adapter.

Oh right, it's not even a recessed jack, it's a bloody proprietary USB connector... And I remember the outcry when the first iPhone came out, and you could'nt use some headphones because the jack was recessed...

it lacks the iPhone’s ability to change the orientation of a web page or photo by just turning the phone. You also can’t move through groups of photos by just “flicking,” as on the iPhone.

So you get a phone with an accelerometer (Mr Page from Google came on stage to say he liked the phone because he was able to code an app that tells you how long the G1 stays in the air when you throw it?!) but it doesn't change the display of the screen when you rotate the phone? And it has a touchscreen but you can't flick through media?

The G1 also has much less memory than the iPhone. The base $199 iPhone comes with 8 gigabytes sealed in, but the G1 comes with just a 1 gigabyte memory card.

All riiiight, so it's "cheaper than the iPhone", but it has 8 times less memory.

the G1 will initially only be available on T-Mobile, whose high-speed 3G network will be up and running in many fewer cities than those of its larger rivals, AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ)

OK, so the iPhone was blasted when it was released locked to a single carrier, then blasted again because AT&T's 3G network is less widely available than Verizon's... But T-Mobile's 3G network "will be up and running in many fewer cities"... right now, they have, like, about 30 cities covered... and are planning for somewhere around 300 in a few month.

Sooooooo, with all this lavish "praise", you might think that The Moss would give a lukewarm opinion on the G1, right?
No, here's what he concludes:

In sum, the G1 is a powerful, versatile device which will offer users a real alternative in the new handheld computing category the iPhone has occupied alone.

Now, this left me baffled: the phone is ugly, big, expensive, low-specced, uses a proprietary audio jack, has almost no built-in features, has only 1GB of storage, is tied to a tiny 3G network... and still it's a "real alternative" to the iPhone???
And they talk about Jobs' Reality Distortion Field?

Actually, the G1 and Android are NOT competing with the iPhone, they are on the same segment as Symbian and Windows Mobile: generic cellphone/smartphone OS.

I'm pretty sure the G1 will flop, not because it runs Android, which might be a nice phone OS, but because the phone is lame.

Afterthought

by kurisu - 22 August 2008

What's with the funny title, since I haven't been posting here in two years, you ask ?

Well, I'm referring to Japanese language support on the iPhone.

Back in the days of iPhone OS 1.1.4 (in Japan, available on the iPod Touch), the only way to input Japanese text was through the qwerty keypad interface, which was fine, but the predictive input was painfully slow. The keyboard was ok though : you tapped a letter, it appeared in the input field. It was not the best experience ever, but at least it worked.

Then came the time of iPhone OS 2.0.x : New kana keyboard (same as every single other cell phone sold here), and new predictive system. I thought "alright ! someone managed to convince Steve-o to use a tried and true solution instead of re-inventing the wheel !".

But then, I actually, you know, tried to USE IT, and that's when things went ugly : not only is the keyboard lagging like hell (meaning : tap a key, and wait 5 seconds or more to actually have the hiragana displayed in the input field) but the predictive system is getting in the way and makes things even more unresponsive.

the kana keypad looks like this :

[caption id="attachment_266" align="aligncenter" width="320" caption="Kana keypad on iPhone OS 2.0.2"][/caption]

For those who have never used that kind of input, it works pretty much the same as the old text input of yore, before T9 : you want to input "?" ( " i " in Japanese), then you press the "?" key twice. (Japanese kanas are classified as follows : a, i, u, e, o ?????, then same for "?" : ka, ki, ku, ke, ko ?????, etc.)

 

This system is actually very speedy once you're used to it, and actually, on the iPhone, it's much faster than the qwerty input because the keys are bigger and there is no correction applied to the Japanese input through the qwerty keypad.

Anyways, as of this writing it doesn't matter because it's a pain in the ass due to the constant lag. I've witnessed a 1 minute lag (that is a full 60 seconds) quite a few times, be it under 2.0.0, 2.0.1 or 2.0.2. Actually, things seem even worse under 2.0.2.

You'd think that Japan would be important and strategic enough to Apple not to mess that up... but no.

Then there is the actual Japanese iPhone interface : it's a translated version of the English interface, not a "Japanese Japanese" interface : some stuff just look plain weird to a native speaker.

And then (insert "dude, where's my car" flashback here) there is the "small" issue of the non-pushed email address from Softbank, the Japanese carrier for the iPhone. Push *email* (yes, email, not mms or sms) has been standard on Japanese cellphone for at least as long as I've been here (that would be 8 years). And because Apple wants to sell more MobileMe subscriptions, Softbank was forced to create a special domain (@i.softbank.jp) to make it non-push, to please Apple.

Push is simply a fancy way to describe the "IDLE" function of an IMAP mail server. MobileMe is simply an IMAP mail server with IDLE support. When you configure your account through the MobileMe button in Mail.app on the iPhone, it's just a preconfigured template of an IMAP account, which hides the details of the server.

This template advertises support for IDLE to the server, whereas the normal "other / IMAP" Mail.app button does not : there you go, all of a sudden, your IMAP server with IDLE support can't hold a connection to Mail.app, i.e. no "push".
(how do I know ? well, I jailbroke my iPod touch with 2.0.0 and peeked at all the config files)

Another way to witness that is to configure your MobileMe through the "other" button of Mail.app : you can send/receive emails, but oh surprise, push doesn't work anymore...

This is just a very lame way to promote a paying service for something that has been free and standard in Japan for almost a decade.

So here, that's why I think the Japanese market has been an afterthought on the iPhone OS 2.0.x
Go ahead Apple, PLEASE prove me wrong and

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