iPhone 4.0: the Good, the Bad, and the Continued Lack of Flash

The greatly anticipated iPhone OS 4.0 birthed its way into the public eye today, with each new feature enhancement to the SDK carefully enumerated for developers by Cupertino’s greatest, Apple CEO Steve Jobs. As was typical of Spring seasons past, the mad scientists at Apple conjured up another generation of functionality, complete with several fist-pump worthy innovations, to keep their smartphone competitive in one of the world’s fastest growing industries. Also typical of the past, the upgrade lacked several key improvements, leaving some to ponder if the ears on Steve’s head are truly just for show (I also heard he is the Stig).

As may be redundant at this point, I love my iPhone. I’ll love it even more with OS 4.0. However, in the name of all things sacred, implement some damn Flash support already. This is my chief beef with four-oh, and I have to get it out of the way. As a consumer, I don’t care that much about which billion dollar tech firm won’t support the other billion dollar tech firm’s software. I don’t have the energy for that. Apple, figure this shit out or you won’t stay the leader in smartphone innovation for long. I want to stream dubiously legal video content to my iPhone anywhere that a 3G signal exists. Make it happen.

Alright, since that’s taken care of, let’s talk about the good stuff. iPhone 4.0 boils down to one thing, really, and it’s multitasking. Sure, there are lots of fringe perks (skip a little if multitasking is not your thing), but the singular major overhaul is centered around running multiple apps at once. Using their special book of spells, Apple claims to have worked out a sneaky solution to the major historical impediment to multitasking: battery suicide. By determining which services are common to most apps and building them into the OS code (as opposed to the services running separate copies for each concurrent app), Steve says this one is in the bag. Giving the OS control over resource management means that the developer of iFart doesn’t have to manage that calculus himself (or herself, I suppose, girls fart too). The multitasking app switching mechanism is also pretty slick, with a double-tap to the home button bringing up a swanky dock that arrays each active application. A wag of the finger to the left swipes through the list of concurrent programs with ease.

Another major boon to the app hoarders amongst us is the addition of a folder schema. My hundred plus apps represent a paltry sum compared to the OCD plagued knee-jerk downloading reflex that results in the endless accumulation of crappy tower defense games and unit conversion calculators. Regardless, folders are a much-needed improvement sure to aid even the least psychotic iPhone user. By dragging one app on top of another, the gerbils within the device know to create a folder based on the categorical nature of each app. I’m not sure yet if you make a folder for Facebook and Twitter if it is called something like Social Media or FaceTwit, but I am eager to find out.

Next on the docket is the addition of the iBooks app. This is an over the fence lob from the iPad that allows users to purchase and read books from Apple’s new iBookstore. For those who want to read the classics on a surface considerably smaller than an index card, this one’s for you. I find news and blogs quite palatable on the iPhone, but something makes me view books differently. Having downloaded third-party e-reader apps and found them lacking, I’m not so sure that Apple can come up with something better.

Mail gets a significant tweak in OS 4.0, now permitting one unified inbox that collects all your tawdry and varied email in a single location. I’m thrilled that I’ll be able to purchase penis enlargement pills in the same place as check my work mail, but that’s not Apple’s fault. They’ve also built in support for multiple Exchange accounts.

Catering to their burgeoning gaming community, Apple boosts its cred by adding a social gaming network (think Xbox Live) to the iPhone. With the woefully unmarketable name Game Center notwithstanding, this arena serves as a place to perform online matchmaking, invite friends to games, or compete for the top seat on leader boards. Being a big fan of UniWar (which already has all of these things built into the app), I can see how consolidating all games under one network certainly has its benefits.

Rounding out the upgrade is a slew of additional niche features like:

  • support for VPN and SSL
  • An in-app advertising system allowing developers to reduce the price of apps and increase the level of background annoyance
  • Wallpaper underneath your apps
  • Playlist creation
  • 5x digital zoom and tap to focus video
  • Photo geotagging
  • Support for Bluetooth keyboards
  • The extension of search functionality to text messages (hear that Tiger?)
  • To aid the next generation of sexters, however, email can now be encrypted with a PIN code

So all in all, I think this update is a success for Apple and its iPhone customers. Unfortunately, not all of the features, (and here is the big nasty) including multitasking, will be available on the iPhone 3G. For those of us still trapped in 2008, there’s no fresh word on new hardware either. I’ll hold out until the 4.0 update releases to the non-developer users this summer, and then I think I’ll have to splurge on a 3Gs if there’s still nothing new on the horizon. Maybe by then AT&T’s data network will support the “s” in 3Gs, tethering, or something that makes me feel like I should continue to fill their coffers every month. In the mean time, back to those tower defense games.

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~ by Wil Finley on April 8, 2010.

5 Responses to “iPhone 4.0: the Good, the Bad, and the Continued Lack of Flash”

  1. I can’t imagine this summer passing without a new iPhone hardware release. You’ll be able to get in line for that iPhone 3GsX.2b no problemo (And it’ll probably have a front-facing camera for video conferencing too).

    They are driving me crazy w/ the flash hate though. Ugh… HTML5 is great and all, but both technologies can co-exist JUST FINE. Feels like Steve is just settling a grudge against Adobe.

    • From the tidbits I’ve picked up from the Adobe/Apple skirmishing, Adobe will not design a mobile version lean enough to work on the iPhone, as the current mobile Flash is both choppy and the leading source of browser crashes on smartphones (albeit mostly at the fault of independent designers and not Adobe). Jailbroken iPhones can run mobile flash, but it is no where as smooth as the iPhone clientel has come to expect from converted YouTube videos and other HTML5 media. I thought that multitasking might begin to bridge that gap, allowing Safari and mobile Flash to run simultaneously by sharing mutual processes, but alas, it is not the case.

      Then again, my bias will tend to slant against Adobe in this debate, being an iZealot and all. : P

    • Interesting CNET article on this topic. Apparently Adobe is sweating the lack of iPhone compatibility, although they blame Apple’s refusal to adopt the technology as the primary factor.

      http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20002116-17.html

      • Adobe has been slacking in the Mac OS X development for several years now. Their relationship with Apple has been dicey, at best, for almost just as long. I’m not surprised to see the posturing from both companies. I *am* surprised to see Adobe finally admit that there’s a problem here.

        As a chronic mac addict and creative professional, I would like to see them both get their shit together, quit having a dick measuring contest, and WORK. IT. OUT.

      • http://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/2010/04/cs5_countdown_is_on.html

        Apple makes their case for CS5, whether it can package iPhone/iPad apps or not.
        I gotta say, I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store.

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