iOS 5: Five Things Apple Left Out

Apple's new iOS 5, unveiled Monday at WWDC, delivers 200 new features to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users. But Apple still managed to forget a few key twists.
There's no doubt that iOS 5 is a welcome update to Apple's mobile platform. It may not introduce groundbreaking new features, but those that it does include are great to have on board. After using iOS 5 beta 1 for just a few hours on Tuesday, I can attest that the new notifications system alone would be worth the generational upgrade. Alas, Apple couldn't quite stuff the kitchen sink into this release, and here are the things that didn't make the cut.

1. Widgets

iOS 5 does not bring support for widgets. This isn't the end of the world, but it would have been nice. One of the Android platform's biggest strengths is its widgets. They let users populate the home panels with dynamic content that changes and/or updates automatically. The new notification system in iOS 5 comes close to widget territory with its live stocks and weather updates, but they can't be placed where users want them and are only live in the notification shade. Perhaps Apple is reserving widgets for iOS 6.

2. Voice Actions

There was scuttlebutt earlier this year concerning Apple's collaborations with Nuance Communications. (Nuance makes voice recognition and dictation apps.) One task iOS doesn't handle nearly as well as Android is voice actions. Sure, iOS users can download Nuance's Dragon Dictation and use it to convert spoken words into typed text and then paste it into an email or text message, but that's about as far as it goes. Google, meanwhile, has voice-enabled every text field within Android, which lets users dictate the text into any place it is possible to type without the need for a third-party app. Google even went so far as to circumvent Apple a bit with support for voice search in the official Google Search app for iOS. Further, Android users can perform actions such as "Call Bob's Cell" and have their phone automatically perform that actions. iOS 5 hasn't added any of these. Yet.

3. FaceTime Via 3G/4G

FaceTime is Apple's proprietary video chatting software. iOS device users can FaceTime with one another via Wi-Fi. Many of the competing video chat platforms (Skype, Qik, ooVoo, et al.) offer chats over Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G technologies. Apple needs to make FaceTime work on whatever data network is available. This would vastly improve the usefulness and reach of FaceTime. Apple has yet to announce if or when this might happen. It would also be fantastic if iOS device users could FaceTime with other video chatting clients. Unfortunately, none of the players seems interested in a universal video chatting application that works across platforms and devices.

4. Local File Support

It is still nearly impossible to access individual files through a central file management program within iOS. During its WWDC keynote, Apple said quite bluntly that it has spent 10 years attempting to kill off the need for file management tools. So far, with iOS, it has succeeded--though at the expense of frustrating users. Granted, iOS does allow users to sync select files from the device back and forth to a computer, but the process is clunky and not supported by enough business applications. iCloud does help alleviate this to some degree, but iCloud is no good to those stuck on an airplane or anywhere else where there's no connectivity.

5. Flash

Sitting on my couch last night, I caught a commercial for the Research In Motion PlayBook. It was the first I'd seen. The centerpiece of the commercial was the PlayBook's compatibility with Adobe's Flash technology and how that improves the browsing and video performance of the PlayBook over its competitors. Did Apple give up on its war with Adobe and think to include Flash in iOS 5? Hell no. Never gonna happen. If you haven't already, scratch this off your iOS wish list.

Employees have more ways to communicate than ever, but until the mishmash of tools gets integrated, productivity will suffer. Also in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek: A buyer's guide to enterprise social networking. Download it now. (Free registration required.)

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