Feature Checking

Something I have been thinking a lot about recently is the feature checking Apple does when releasing a new iPhone, or even a significant update to iOS. I was planning to link to an old Justin Williams post (that I only just got around to attempting to read in my Instapaper queue), entitled ‘From iPhone to Android’.

In this post Justin was discussing the subjective benefits of using Android compared to an iPhone, which essentially boiled down to a number of features that Android has, which iOS didn’t. What I noticed when reading this again over a year after it was posted, was how many of these features have since been ‘checked off’ by Apple. The most significant part of this being that almost all of these changes were software based. I believe that this tells us two things. One, that the iPhone hardware has always been superior to the competition, and while it may technically lose out on a ‘spec sheet challenge’, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone complain about the lack of a (terrible) 3D camera, or a kickstand on an iPhone. But, more importantly, is not only how ruthlessly Apple has checked off these other reasons as to why anyone would purchase anything other than an iPhone, but how the competition has failed to come up with any other advances in the meantime, aforementioned gimmicks aside. Well, I guess that’s three things, but who’s counting?*

I know that this is something that Marco Arment has discussed in his excellent ‘Build & Analyse’ podcast (which you all listen to, right?), how Apple has gone as far as to include the blinking flash sensor to indicate a notification, for those people who can’t live without the blinking red light on their BlackBerry. But there is one I think they have missed.

One More Thing?…

The only feature I can think of as missing, and by that, I mean I notice it every time I go to turn it on, is the WiFi switcher. It is buried too deep in the menu system for my liking, and every time I go to turn it on, I wish there was a faster way. It is one of (the only) thing I miss from my time using an Android device, the ability to flick to a new home screen, and turn on the WiFi with a simple button. I think it may be a bit harsh to call it an oversight, but it is certainly something I would appreciate. Perhaps it’s because o2’s 3G reception is incredibly spotty, especially in my house, but if WiFi is available, I’d rather be using it. Now whether this is me being too picky, I’ll let you judge, but I would argue that this is only because Apple has set the bar so high. Whichever it is, I believe there must be a better way, and that way leads to Notification Center. Pulling down Notification Center, then flipping the WiFi switch seems so intuitive to me, that I’m almost surprised that it isn’t already an option. There can even be a setting in the Notification Center options is enable or disable it, a lá Weather and Stocks.

I can only assume that more and more features will be checked off as iOS is updated, I certinly hope that the WiFi switcher is next on the list.


Update: To clarify, this is not due to concerns with battery life. But more about my obsessive compulsive need to have direct control over my phone’s WiFi access.

3 Replies to “Feature Checking”

  1. Surely the idea is that you just leave WiFi turned on? I know a lot of people turn off WiFi to attempt to save on battery life, but does it really make that much difference?

    Top of my list would be something that shows you what is draining your iOS device battery. Might help reduce all the guesswork. “It’s WiFi”. “It’s Location Services.” “It’s leaving an application in a ‘running’ state.” “It’s Spotlight.”

    But then that feature on my Android phone didn’t help much. “It’s Mobile standby and Phone idle. Aw crap.”

    1. I would suspect it certainly affects battery life in some way, if it is constantly searching for available networks, and connecting and disconnecting from previously connected to networks as you are walking down the street, for example.

      Whether it affects it to a significant degree I’m not sure, but leaving it on all the time just seems wasteful to me. For the ease it could be to turn it on and off.

      I did also appreciate that feature on my Android phone, but like you, it was rarely useful. “The Screen” and “WiFi” were always my top two. Not much I could do about that.

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