Meeting higher standards often comes as a price of success, especially when your basic value proposition is that you set that higher bar. That's where Apple stands as it prepares to unveil the sixth major version of iOS, the power behind the iPhone and iPad. Apple has succeeded in making the iPhone the standard-bearer for smartphones, displacing the BlackBerry as the corporate go-to and providing the model that Google tries to copy in Android. Apple has also redefined the notion of a tablet, after a decade of failed attempts by Microsoft. Thanks to the iPad, a tablet is increasingly a junior laptop, not merely a media consumption device like a Kindle e-reader.
Therein lies the issue. People like me who rely only on an iPad when on the road have accepted the inevitable shortcomings and flaws in such new technology. With iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 all but certain to debut later this year -- and perhaps even next week at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) -- and the third-gen iPad introduced in March, the excuse of being new has worn thin for several of these issues.
[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman explains the 12 ways large and small that iOS 5 falls short. | Discover the best productivity apps for your iPad. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobilize newsletter. ]
What you can expect in iOS 6
At the AllThingsD conference last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook promised "incredible" advances -- he called out Siri in particular -- to be revealed at WWDC. The rumor mill has (correctly, I believe) concluded that iOS 6 will offer a new, Google-free Maps app with unknown enhancements, and there are indications Apple will add more third-party services such as Facebook to its Share service for apps, as well as change the color scheme for iOS apps from the blue and black toolbars to silver ones -- oh boy!
Based on what's in the forthcoming OS X Mountain Lion, we'll very likely see both snooze and do-not-disturb capabilities in notifications, sophisticated repeating events in Calendar, a VIP feature in Mail (a filtered view of emails from just those people you designate as VIPs), a Chrome-like "omnibar" (unified URL and search bar) in Safari, an offline capability in Safari's Reading List, and iCloud Tabs (autosyncing of open and recent browser tabs across all your Apple devices) in Safari.
Cook, like his predecessor Steve Jobs, has picked up the "post-PC" term to describe the new form of computing that Apple has ignited and that the forthcoming Microsoft Windows 8 adopts. Fair enough, but it's time for the post-PC computing to deliver some basics of the old PC form. Here are the major flaws in iOS that Apple needs to deal with now for power users as its "post-PC" lineup becomes commonplace and, dare I say, mature.
1. Mail filtering needs to be enabled and synced
We all get too much junk mail, but iOS does nothing to help address that flood. It needs to do so, just as Apple's Mail on OS X does. Given the horsepower in recent iPhones and iPads, there's no excuse not to use the same mail-filtering rules that OS X supports. Those rules should sync via iCloud among your Mac and iOS devices, just as email, contacts, appointments, bookmarks, reminders, photos, music, videos, e-books, documents, and notes do.
I suspect Apple will let this feature omission remain in iOS 6. Why? Because OS X Mountain Lion doesn't sync the same mail rules among Macs in its enhanced iCloud capabilities. If Macs don't sync such filtering rules, it's hard to believe that iOS devices would. Of course, maybe Apple will start this capability on iOS -- after all, iOS synced documents a whole year before Apple brought that ability to OS X (in Mountain Lion). But given all the attention in OS X Mountain Lion to iCloud syncing, as well as the enhancements to repeating calendar events, it seems odd that Apple would not have added mail filters to the sync portfolio in OS X Mountain Lion and followed up in iOS 6 for mobile devices.