iPhone iOS 4 review
A couple of weeks ago I upgraded my iPhone 3GS from OS 3.something to the shiny new iOS 4. There are two significant changes as far as I'm concerned from the 3.x series, and two minor changes that are worth mentioning, plus a bunch of stupid irrelevant crap like being able to have background images (in fact I think you have to have a background image now). I wouldn't have bothered upgrading, except that an app that I use quite a lot required a newer version of the OS.
First the minor changes. Their mail client can now talk to my mail server without shitting in its pants. It's still a crappy user interface for email though - pretty much unusable IMO, so I don't use it, which is why it's only half a change. But hey, it's an improvement. It's an improvement from "actively hostile malware" to "unusable rubbish". And hidden away in a dark corner is an option to disable screen rotation. I had that already because I'd jailbroken, but it's nice to have it in the core OS instead of having to install yet another third-party hack.
Then we get to two big features which I actually had previously, but only because I'd jailbroken my phone. They're probably the two big ones that people jailbroke for in the past, although as we'll see there are still good reasons for jailbreaking.
On version 3, you pretty much needed to jailbreak and install CategoriesSB (or the free but slower Categories), because otherwise you have no real way of organising your applications - and when you have forty or so apps installed, you really do need some organisation lest you spend all your time hunting back and forth through eleventy million screens of icons. iOS 4 adds folders, which work pretty much identically to CategoriesSB, only they're far easier to manage and set up in the first place.
The other biggy for which tons of people jailbroke the older OS was Backgrounder, which allowed you to put an application into the background. This is very important for things like when you're running an ssh client but need to look something up in another application - maybe using the web browser, or looking up a password in something like Keeper. It's also useful for applications which take a fair amount of time to start up, or which don't maintain their state properly when you exit. Apple didn't implement this, using the excuses that it would eat battery and make your phone run slow. To a certain extent that's true - there were a few times when I had several apps running in the background and my phone ran slowly. Mind you the only way I could really tell it was slow was because all the eye-candy animations got a bit jerky, which doesn't matter. And yes, if I were to background something like the Magnatune app and leave it streaming music over 3G, then it would chew through the battery pretty quickly. But you know what? I chose to do that, knowing what would happen. The benefits outweighed the costs. Apple should have let their users make that choice themselves, maybe warning about the costs when the user turned on that optional feature.
So, now the iPhone has multitasking that is officially blessed by Apple. And unfortunately Apple have not done a very good job of it. Instead of me choosing to background particular applications only when I want to, it seems that just about every application uses this feature, even apps that have no use for it whatsoever. For instance, my address book goes into the background instead of exiting. Video games do too. And boy does this have its effects! Remember that Apple were so concerned about battery life and performance? Well, battery life with iOS 4 is considerably worse than before. It's common now for me to leave home in the morning with a full battery and get home with only 20-something %, where before that was very rare indeed. And with far more apps chuntering away in the background (because they all just do it all the time instead of me choosing to do it with just one or two apps for only a few minutes) there really is a performance hit. Apple fucked this up bigtime, and should have just either bought Backgrounder or cloned it.
So Apple get, out of two available full points and two available half points ... one and a half points.
There are still some important misfeatures and missing features which really should have been fixed way back in version 2, if not earlier.
- still no album shuffle in the "iPod" application;
- there's still no (official) way to install your own SMS ringtones;
- status bar still doesn't show things like whether you're in silent mode or have any missed calls (for this you need to install Status Notifier Fix after jailbreaking, although it still won't show whether you're in silent mode because Apple broke something between OS 3 and 4);
- too much wasted space on the screen. Compare the unhacked and hacked images on the right. Five Icon Dock and Five Column Springboard are essential;
- access to common settings is still too slow and fiddly, made faster by jailbreaking and installing SBSettings. And now that iOS 4's retarded multitasking is such a battery hog, it's even more important to be able to easily turn on and off other battery hogs like Wifi and Bluetooth only when needed;
- still no to-do list. WTF? Thankfully, there's Toodledo, but having this built-in is pretty much mandatory for something that's meant to work as a PDA as well as a phone.