Ten iPhone suggestions

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Although I have yet to even hold an iPhone ( you can look but you can’t touch ), and the product isn’t due out for six months, that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about how Apple can make the product even better when iPhone 2.0 is shipped—whenever that may be. Keep in mind that there are many things we don’t officially know about this product, so (hopefully!) some of these issues will be non-issues when the 1.0 version is released.

Here then, are the top 10 things I feel Apple must address with future iterations of the iPhone, ranked in relative order of importance, from least to most.

10. Provide a two-ear Bluetooth solution: While the Bluetooth earpiece that Steve showed onscreen looked great for phone use, it leaves the user doing the headset switcheroo whenever they want to listen to the iPod portion of their iPhone. Great, we’ve got a three-way integrated device, but we have to constantly swap two different headsets?

9. Allow iTunes Store purchases via Wi-Fi: The iPhone has 802.11 support, so it can connect to wireless networks. But as far as we know, you won’t be able to use the iPhone to connect to the iTunes Store and download music, movies, and podcasts. Sure, it might not work when you’re in EDGE mode on Cingular’s network (speeds aren’t fast enough), but if you’re on an 802.11 network using a high-speed connection, why not give the iPhone direct access to the iTunes Store?

8. Expand Bluetooth support: When Steve mentioned the iPhone’s built-in Bluetooth 2.0 support, the only device he discussed using with the iPhone was a wireless headset. And the wireless page for the iPhone only talks about the same thing: “Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR, which links to Apple’s new, remarkably compact Bluetooth headset.” However, Bluetooth is useful for linking to much more than just headsets. How about letting us use a Bluetooth keyboard, for when we’re sitting down somewhere with a lot of e-mail to handle? Or how about syncing with the Mac via Bluetooth? If we’re sitting in a public café somewhere, will we really have to haul out the docking station just to sync some new contacts back to your Mac? And what about using the iPhone as a wireless modem for your laptop, in those places where Wi-Fi isn’t available?

7. Enhance battery life: While five hours of talk time is pretty good, Steve made no mention of the iPhone’s standby battery life—that is, how often does the device need to be recharged in order to be usable? Palm Treos and Sony-Ericsson smart phones, for instance, can be in standby mode for more than 300 hours before the battery drains. As Steve didn’t mention standby battery life in his keynote, the number must not be that impressive. But for those who travel regularly and may not always have a charger available, standby battery time is an important factor. (An open question is what sort of battery life you’d get if you were just using the e-mail and smart phone features of the iPhone—that is, what’s the battery life if you’re just surfing the Web, reading e-mail, and opening the occasional widget?)

6. Allow transfer of Mac data files: In its current form, you won’t be able to use the iPhone to move documents from one Mac to another—well, unless you send a file as an attachment to your Yahoo push e-mail account. If I’m going to carry this device around with me everywhere, let me use it to transfer files, too. If I have to get a series of files (spreadsheets, Word documents, whatever) onto a friend’s computer, it’d be great to just use the iPhone as the go-between.

5. Enable some OS X applications: We heard many times how the iPhone runs a version of OS X. Why then isn’t iChat running on the phone? Sure, Apple has made SMS look like iChat, but they could add a lot more power by just letting the iPhone run the real program. My Palm Treo, for instance, has a third-party AIM/iChat client that works quite well. In addition to iChat, what about TextEdit? Or Dictionary? Or Stickies? There are any number of OS X programs that, with minor modifications, would work quite well on the iPhone.

4. More storage: For an iPod, 4GB or 8GB of storage would be adequate. For a video iPod, however, those numbers are low—the lowest-capacity full iPod available today holds 30GB. Add in the fact that this device is also a phone and e-mail device, and the 4GB/8GB capacity becomes very limiting. At 1GB per movie from the iTunes Store, a 4GB iPhone is probably only good for two movies, assuming you want to have room for music, contacts, e-mail messages, and other assorted data. Flash technology is evolving quickly, but for this device to be really useful, I’d like to see at least 16GB as a starting point.

3. More authorized service providers: I understand the need to go with Cingular as an exclusive up front—Apple was demanding a lot from their provider partner, and Cingular has clearly spent a bunch of money upgrading its network to handle the iPhone’s features—in particular, the random access voice-mail. But for the iPhone to really be successful, it needs to be available on more carriers (and with different data standards to support more of the world, i.e. 3G ).

2. Allow third-party developers to create widgets: Part of the reason for the popularity of Dashboard is the huge collection of third-party widgets—2,546 of them on Apple’s site as of this morning. And yet, when the iPhone ships, it seems it will include only three widgets—Weather, Google Maps, and Stocks. This wouldn’t be so bad if the iPhone were open for third-party widget development. But it seems that, at least as of today, it’s not. The only widget provider will be Apple, so in the short term, we’ll have to make do with what they give us. In the long term, the iPhone will be much more successful if Apple allows developers to create amazing iPhone widgets that we can all use.

1. Allow third-party developers to create applications: If the iPhone is truly going to be the ultimate integration device, it needs to have third-party applications available. Why? Because in its current form, the iPhone will be somewhat limited in its capabilities. And yes, this is closely related to the prior bullet, but it’s important enough to merit its own discussion.

On my Treo, for example, I have a program that lets me login remotely to my Mac. I have another one that actually displays my Mac’s screen on the Treo (using VNC ), allowing me to work remotely. Yes, it’s tiny—but the iPhone has a much larger screen, and the ability to rotate that screen. A VNC app on the iPhone will be quite usable—especially if it supported the iPhone’s ability to display a reduced-size page, á la the Web browser. See the full Mac screen, double-tap to zoom in, etc.

Apple itself may very well create the above two applications, as they’re tied in to core functionality. However, there’s an entire world of third-party software just waiting to be created for the iPhone. If Apple lets it happen, it will help strengthen the platform—by giving third parties access to the platform, Apple can create a truly smart phone that will appeal to a much wider audience.

Wrap up

So there you have it—my list of 10 must-fix items for the iPhone. But as I stated at the beginning, this is based on what we know today, and hopefully many of these issues are addressed in the next six months before the phone is released. But enough about my list—what changes do you hope to see, based on what you know about the iPhone?

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