One of my personal favorite iOS capabilities is the updated Safari browser, which supports more HTML5 functions, including the
contenteditable tag that lets the TinyMCE module work on Web site input forms. For me, that's a huge deal, because InfoWorld's Drupal-based content management system uses TinyMCE to apply formatting to text in WYSIWYG mode rather than wade through lots of HTML code. I can actually write and edit InfoWorld copy on my iPod Touch -- though the small screen discourages this course of action -- and when iOS 4 comes to the iPad, I'll finally be able to leave my laptop at home.
The little things, good and bad
iOS4 seems to connect to known Wi-Fi networks a lot faster -- a welcome development. Plus, you can now set Airplane Mode in iPod Touches and turn Wi-Fi on and off quickly. Also impressive is the new support for Bluetooth keyboards on the iPhone and iPod Touch, in addition to the earlier compatibility with Bluetooth headsets.
Hidden in the Accessibility settings is a new Large Text control, which lets you choose the default text size for text-oriented apps like Mail and Contacts; this is great for those of us who struggle to read the tiny text in many apps. Not all apps will respect these defaults, but they apply to Apple's built-in programs.
iOS 4 also offers finer-grained controls over notifications and location usage, letting you set on a per-app basis your permissions for each. With a catch: The apps have to enable these controls. Fortunately for me, the one app I have that annoyed me with too-frequent notifications, the Le Monde newspaper app, is one of those apps updated for iOS 4 to allow user control over its alerts. Merci à tous!
However, iOS 4 has some annoyances. For example, it adds a wallpaper capability to your home screen. Long a staple of cell phones, this gewgaw trend has finally nabbed Apple. I wish you could have no wallpaper or use a solid color as in Mac OS X, but no such luck. A tip: Choose a darker wallpaper, as the application icons' text is hard to read on the lighter backgrounds, including the bubbles pattern that iOS sets as the default. Even better: Create a black or very dark monochrome image on your computer and sync it to the iOS device as a photo, then use that as your wallpaper.
Although I like the concept of folders, I find them awkward to use. To create a folder, tap and hold any app icon to get the shaking icons that indicates home screen edit mode. Drag one icon on to another. A bar opens up with the two app icons, as well as with a space to edit the default folder name. Press the Home button to save the folder -- so far, so good. You can start a folder with two and only two apps. To add more apps to the folder, get back to edit mode, then drag each app you want into the folders you want; an app can be in just one folder.
That's acceptable, but where I have an issue with folders is that they are dark-gray, rounded squares containing tiny -- and I mean tiny -- app icons; it's hard to know what's in each. Fortunately, you can tap open a folder to get an expanded view of its contents, à la the Mac OS X Dock, though doing so causes iOS 4 to gray out your other application icons (they're still accessible, though). In addition, the tiny labels are hard to read, and their size can't be changed. For me, it's easier to use the various home screen windows as folder surrogates so that I can at least see what is there.