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What Google's honeycomb has that Apple's iOS lacks

Melissa J. Perenson | March 3, 2011
During the Apple iPad 2 launch, Apple supplied only a few morsels of what to expect from the version of iOS that will ship with the iPad 2. That's fitting, perhaps, given that what we heard makes iOS 4.3 sound like only a nominal revision of the operating system. What we didn't hear was anything about the company's plans to take iOS to the next level. As Android continues to ramp up, Apple needs to consider what elements in competing mobile OSs are missing from iOS--and how best to integrate those elements into its winning interface.

FRAMINGHAM, 3 MARCH 2011 - During the Apple iPad 2 launch, Apple (AAPL) supplied only a few morsels of what to expect from the version of iOS that will ship with the iPad 2. That's fitting, perhaps, given that what we heard makes iOS 4.3 sound like only a nominal revision of the operating system. What we didn't hear was anything about the company's plans to take iOS to the next level. As Android continues to ramp up, Apple needs to consider what elements in competing mobile OSs are missing from iOS--and how best to integrate those elements into its winning interface.

Google's (GOOG) Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) isn't the only rival that Apple needs to think about--HP's WebOS is another threat. HP (HPQ) has outlined an ambitious strategy for getting WebOS out into the wild on tablets, phones, PCs, and printers. And both Honeycomb and WebOS have some key features that Apple's iOS lacks.

Here are four areas in which Honeycomb has a head start.

Widgets: Making the Home Screen Come Alive

Most of the widgets I've seen so far for Honeycomb are well implemented, and they demonstrate the power of having information at your fingertips. In the Honeycomb universe, widgets are modules that you can place on one of the six home screens, and they provide easy, finger-flicking access to a Website (such as AccuWeather.com or YouTube) or resource (such as your e-mail, books, calendar, or Web bookmarks).

Apple's iOS remains a static, one-way experience. So far, nothing about iOS screams immediacy; rather, it's all about activating an app to get your updates. (Yes, you do receive notifications, but those are fraught with their own issues; see the next section.) I don't want Apple to mess with the fundamental serenity of its device, but I do want the company to get with the connected-everywhere program and allow widgets as an option. I can imagine an iOS first home screen that presents a couple of widgets and then shows frequently used apps, all arranged to suit the user's individual needs. Or maybe it should have an extra, widget-only pane beyond the search pane. Or, better still, perhaps it should reveal the widgets only on command, as Apple's next Mac OS, Lion, will do; there, a multifinger swipe gesture will reveal a pane of widgets.

Notifications: More Convenience, Less Disruption

Notifications on Apple's iOS remain poor. When they pop up, you have to exit what you're doing and move into the originating app--which may have to restablish its connection first (depending on how the app was written).

 

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