After some patience, I finally got my iPhone situation sorted out: I’ve now happily left Verizon Wireless behind and am using my new iPhone on AT&T with generally satisfactory results. I tried AT&T’s wireless network for about a week in 1998 but dumped it quickly because its signal quality at the time was just plain unacceptable in New York City. So I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how often my calls sound clear and strong; the network has obviously been significantly improved. The voice network, that is. You can pretty much forget about the company’s EDGE network for any sustained or urgent Internet access.
But that’s not what I’m here to complain about today. Rather, I want to point out a couple of conspicuous deficiencies in the iPhone. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m generally delighted with it; without a doubt, it’s a breakthrough device and, more importantly, it’s fun to use. But there are two significant and, to my mind, glaring omissions in the design of this product.
Missing in Action
First up is the lack of .Mac integration. As I wrote before its release, I was rooting heavily for the iPhone to work intimately with Apple’s rag tag collection of Web services. A revamped .Mac could provide on-the-fly synchronization from anywhere — it would be like a dream come true. Except it hasn’t come true yet, so I guess it’s just a dream, still. But it irks me — no it amazes me — that I can’t enter data into my iPhone and have that data synchronize with my Mac until I’m within the computer’s immediate proximity — indeed, not until I’m physically close enough to attach the iPhone to the Mac via a short cable. That seems incredibly old fashioned to me.
Second, I’m somewhat astounded still that this device does not include a clipboard of any kind. I can’t copy, cut or paste, period. In fact, I can’t even highlight strings of text, an operation so basic to the past few decades of computing that Apple’s brazen decision to leave it out seems outrageous to me. In a practical sense, having no clipboard means that if I come across a particularly interesting or useful passage on a Web page via the iPhone’s Safari browser, I can’t copy it and bring it over to the (basically useless) Notes application for safe-keeping. I also can’t copy a friend’s instant messenger handle from my contacts database in order to use it in one of the Web-based I.M. clients now jockeying for iPhone user attention. I also can’t copy text from an email to use inside a new email message… The list goes on, and it’s annoying.
Looking forward to Change
It’s probably an ill-advised exercise to draw positive inferences from egregiously negative evidence, but for me the saving grace of these two omissions is this: there will likely be some nontrivial changes to the architecture of the iPhone operating system sometime in the next year. It just doesn’t seem sustainable to me that a so-called ‘smart phone’ can stave off the inevitable addition of a clipboard, to begin with.
Nor does it seem likely that, if Apple is serious about reinvigorating its long-languishing .Mac product, it will do so without some significant integration with the iPhone — that’s a no-brainer. And, as long as I’m predicting these enhancements to the system, I may as well also say that they only seem like a step or two shy of actually opening up the platform to third party developers. Though I hate to set myself up so effectively for continual disappointment, I’m rooting for all three to happen.