Monday, October 30, 2006

Dear Apple, please don't screw up my iPhone!

So the iPhone is coming, it's a fact. These are exciting times indeed.

According to some analysts (the past few years' answer to rumor sites), there will be two iPhones, and one will be a smartphone.

Maybe. If so, here's my humble list of requests for a smartphone. This is something that hardly anyone gets right. Let's see if Apple does:

1. Give me a QWERTY
It's time to put the silly "look Ma, no keys" proof-of-concept-gone-horribly-wrong era behind us, and face it: Handwriting recognition just doesn't work. Or maybe it does, but even then, handwriting is much slower than typing, as mankind learned some 125 years ago.

2. Let me work with files
I don't want smartphone apps such as text editors to work with their own esoteric "databases" that need to be "synced" with my Mac. Nope, I want to work with standard files (such as RTF or TXT) that I can open, save, as grown-ups do. I want to move them back and forth between my Mac and my iPhone. I want to be able to locate, open and edit them on either. Sure, if iSync wants to help me copy my files back and forth, why not. But I want to be able to manage them myself as well.

3. No artificial quotas, please
I hope iPhone will ship with plenty of flash RAM. But whether it's 128MBytes or 2GBytes, I want to be put in charge of how I use it. If I want to store a million SMS messages and no sound files, I don't want some silly quota that caps the number of text messages at, say, two hundred.

4. Let me save my text messages
Speaking of SMS messages, here's a hint: they are text files. Computers can read and write text files. Why not connect the dots? I want to archive a lot of my text messages for posterity. They can convey important personal messages. They can contain important business information. They should be easily exported to my Mac. And I mean easily. Point, click, select all, copy, switch app, paste, repeat ain't easy.

5. Don't make me use the touch screen
This may be considered an extension to the first point. I just loathe it when I can't move around in a text field (including selecting text), respond to a dialog box, or bring up a menu without breaking out my darn stylus. I want to be fully functional single-handed as well, and it's actually possible. All it takes is a small joystick (or a set of direction keys), and a Menu key (or Alt, or Control, or Command... you get the idea). A touch screen is okay, but only as an addition.

6. I want a browser with multiple windows
Opera can do this on the Sony-Ericsson P910i. And it's a must. Period.

7. Multitask, and honestly, too
Some smartphones don't multitask at all. Others do, but lie about it, claiming that opening an app will close the previous one. Garbage. The app remains open, but you're not supposed to know about it. You're left wondering what's with the apparent memory leak and degrading performance. I want to know what tasks are running.

8. Nothing should take more than three keypresses
Menus are all the rage, and Apple adores the iPod's limited number of buttons. But still, going into a freakin' menu so that I can change playback volume is a bit of an annoyance. On a cellphone, I need to be able to start typing an SMS after two keystrokes. I need to be able to locate a contact and place a call in two seconds (e.g. by entering a search mode, and selecting the contact by typing an initial letter or two of some of its contact info). I know Steve Jobs has probably fired people over the number of any extra keys, but there should be just enough of them to let me access any function in a few seconds.

Here's my list for now... I'm sure I'll revisit it later when I'm back from holiday.


Anonymous said...

Get a laptop.

I just want a phone that works and is pleasant to use.

Anonymous said...

"So the iPhone is coming, it's a fact. "

No, it's still a rumor.

Doug said...

I have to take exception to some of your requirements, as some of these sound like throw backs from the old CLI vs GUI debate. Someone has used a bad implementation of something and assumes that it is a problem with the concept and not the implementation.

1. QWERTY...It was functional 8 years ago and with today's processing power and storage it will just be that much better so dear god please give us handwriting recognition. As for speed, sure it is faster to type on a standard keyboard than write on a small device but when you move to a mini QWERTY keyboard, the speed equation turns around.

2. Working with files....why? Who cares? I have people question me on iPhoto because they don't organize their photos in directories and they just can't let go. All you really care about is that you have easy access to the files on your computer and on your device. By using a database you can find files more quickly by multiple associations. Get over it.

2a? Quotas - If these are put in place it will probably be due to carrier requirements as was with the sliver and the Rokr. But I'm with you on this.

3. Uh, ok. Like iChat logs maybe? Cool.

4. I'd qualify this with don't make me use it for common tasks. I disagree with the idea of a lame nubby or arrow keys, just make the interface fast and intuitive.

5. Sure, I guess.

6. Not sure your point here. Keep the interface fast. If that can be done when keeping other applications running, great! If not, those apps had better launch so fast that I don't realize they are shutting down an launching.

7. Again, keep common tasks simple and quick but, for less common tasks (that I will not memorize) I would rather have a couple more clicks that guide me easily through the task than get lost in a cryptic interface.

Now just to be clear, I will give up just about any of these as necessary to keep the primary function of this device fast and easy. I hope Apple learned it's lesson to only add tech where it directly enhances the primary function of a device. Lets not get into the kitchen sink mentality where the device has to be all things. Make it a great phone that allows me to find contacts faster than any other phone. Make it easy to organize my portable media and make it easy to sync with my computer.

Anonymous said...

if it comes from Apple, it will be nothing like you describe/demand :-)

Anonymous said...

Other than your inability to count, I'm with you all the way on each point. Let me add a ninth: Make it durable -- unlike the iPod.

Puiz said...


1. I'm sure the iPhone will have handwriting recognition. Even Mac OS X has it. I have no problem with including it as an extra option besides a QWERTY.

I know from experience that I'm much faster with even a very small QWERTY keypad than with the best implementation of handwriting recognition I've seen.

2. At the end of the day, you can still drag images from iPhoto as files. I've seen people unable to trust iTunes with organizing their music library. They're wrong, and one reason for that is that iTunes still keeps the folder structure.

I want (a) standard files that open on a computer, and (b) a folder hierarchy that I'm in charge of.

6. I want to be able to have backgound tasks. Like downloads.

7. I know Apple hates adding special keys to keyboards. I don't think there's any other laptop maker who fails to add extra keys like "e-mail" or "web" to its laptop's keyboards.

But anyway, on a portable device, I want to access certain tasks immediately. I want at least the ability to assign keystrokes to the launching of some tasks. Launch a text editor, open a web browser, search for a contact, start an SMS: two keystrokes at most.

Menus are smart and very organized, but not always the fastest way around.