What the iPad and iPhone still need to do better

Apple continues to improve its iOS devices' capabilities, but 10 gaps remain that the iPad 2 and iPhone 4x should address

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Voice recognition and control
One of the strengths of Google's Android OS is its voice recognition capabilities for search and other uses. Voice as an interface makes a lot of sense for a mobile device, especially for smartphones, and Google does a better job of bringing that capability to its mobile platform. Yes, Apple's iOS has its VoiceOver capability to help visually impaired owners of an iPhone or iPad, but it requires extreme concentration to use and is not suited for on-the-go access, such as when trying to place a call or look up an address via a Bluetooth headset.

Native navigation app
Google also beats Apple when it comes to its built-in navigation capabilities. Yes, there are iOS apps for TomTom and other popular navigation tools, but they require clunky holders to work well. They're also pretty expensive when you get all the pieces you need. Not so on Android -- Apple has reportedly been hiring navigation experts, so this gap may be filled soon.

Media subscription support
If you want to read your magazine on the iPad or iPhone, you usually have to buy it one issue at a time -- even if you're a print subscriber. As far as I can tell, this is more about a business dispute between Apple and publishers, but whatever the cause, it needs to be resolved. After all, the Economist's iOS app lets print subscribers get their issues each week on their iPads and iPhones, so why not everyone else? The iPad epecially is a great reading device (outside of bright sunlight, anyhow), and what works well for books works even better for periodicals.

Better peripheral support
The iPad makes a great laptop replacement, especially now that some really good apps for office productivity and specialty business needs are available. But it doesn't fit well with business peripherals. Yes, you can use a Bluetooth keyboard, but the lack of shortcuts for, say, text formatting and app navigation mean you're going back and forth between the keyboard and the touchscreen, which makes it hard to use in full sit-down mode. Worse, there's no mouse support and no mirroring support, so you can't use an external monitor or mouse with the iPad as you would with a laptop.

Maybe Apple's afraid the iPad might cannibalize MacBook sales and would rather you get an iPad in addition to a MacBook. For now, that fear is misplaced. The iPad executes tasks that make no sense on a laptop, and a laptop can run apps that an iPad can't aspire to today. Users will still want both, even if Apple allows the overlap in capabilities to grow (as it should).

Then there's printing -- iOS 4.2's AirPrint feature has turned out to be a dud. Fewer than a dozen HP printers support it, and all of them are new, so using AirPrint means buying a printer you probably wouldn't otherwise need to purchase. Allegedly, other printer makers will support AirPrint at some point, but for this feature to be truly useful, there has to be a way to AirPrint-enable the wireless and network printers already in homes and offices. The hacks that let you route print jobs through your Mac or PC aren't good options -- you shouldn't require an active PC to print to a network printer. You can try some third-party printing apps, but printing should be an OS-level feature.

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