Meditations in a 4.0-mergency

All of my biggest iPhone OS feature wishes were, let's face it, pretty boring:

  • Multiple Exchange accounts (or: wanting Google to ActiveSync my calendars without getting cockblocked by work meetings)
  • Unified e-mail inbox
  • And, no kidding, fast app switching.

I never wanted background audio (though it's nice, now that it's here) or to replace my spotty AT&T 3G service with even spottier Skype VoIP service (running over my spotty AT&T 3G). Seriously: all I wanted was an easier way than the Home screen to switch from one app (say, Evernote) to another (say, Pastebot).

In that sense, Apple's "multitasking" implementation in iOS 4 is everything I ever wanted, because "everything I ever wanted" includes battery life, a willingness to compromise on features, and a measure of trust that when Apple says full multitasking is a bad idea, it's not because Steve Jobs is secretly Hitler.

In retrospect, local notifications are the multitasking godsend I never saw coming. To be clear: none of my apps currently offer local notifications, but Cultured Code's status page says they're coming to Things in the next major release, which means my to-do list will finally be able to remind me to do shit. (Which is good, because it's not like I use a to-do list because I have a talent for remembering to do things.)

Until now, any reminders or notifications required Apple's Push Notifications service, which forced apps that wanted to be more than dumb windows on content to integrate with the cloud in order to send a simple reminder. iOS's notifications system is still easily the worst of the big four smartphone platforms[^1] but Local Notifications at least make it so that apps like Things can be useful without a costly, iPhone-scale server presence.

Plus, there's home screen wallpaper. Home screen wallpaper, guys! [^2]

Though, speaking of: so far Folders have done nothing but add additional complexity to organizing my (too many) apps, which was already my least favorite iPhone activity. I appreciate being able to hide the Stocks and YouTube apps in a folder where I don't have to look at them but other than that I'm still searching for the right home screen feng shui.

I'm glad that iBooks is now on the iPhone, and that you can now set the line justification to ragged-right. Syncing bookmarks and notes happens silently and (so far) seamlessly, Georgia is a great font choice for pre-Retina displays (including the iPad's), and the new built-in PDF viewer really is wonderful (though it's a different kind of experience than reading ePub books, which is why Apple's given PDFs their own "shelf" in the app).

The camera app is really much faster on my 3GS (I sob a little to think how amazing it would be on an iPhone 4), and the digital zoom is not that bad.

I'm also enjoying having Faces and Places in the Photos app (as on the iPad). But, of course, to use that feature requires you use Apple photo software on the Mac, either iPhoto '09 or Aperture 3. That's fine, but I'm a Lightroom man, and I have trouble enough organizing my thousands of photos without also having to export and re-organize them into iPhoto. I've been doing it, but not happily, and I'm strongly considering a switch back to syncing with a Lightroom-managed folder.

[^1]:Though I can accept the argument that just as it took two years to come up with an iPhone-like way to do copy and paste, notifications are another thing that's hard to make easy enough for regular folks. To wit: the idea of a "notifications inbox" seems obvious to me, a programmer, but is probably too clunky and cluttersome for my girlfriend.

[^2]:God help me, I like home screen wallpaper. My current one, on my iPhone, iPad and Mac desktop, is Louie Mantia's Blueprint Neue. (Louie's Juxtaposition Neue is great too.) What I look for in an iOS home screen wallpaper: it should be darkish, not too detailed or asymmetric, colorful but not crazy. Basically, I want it to have a mood but not so much content.