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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.

By contrast, Honeycomb's approach to notifications is much more direct, and less disruptive. If you receive an incoming text or e-mail, you'll see the item pop up at the bottom-right corner of the screen (with or without an audio alert). The alert then disappears on its own, without interrupting what you're doing, leaving behind only an icon in the notifications pane to indicate that something awaits. If you tap at the bottom right, the notifications display expands upward. The design offers an easy way to stay abreast of what's going on.

Settings: Improved Flexibility, and a Dashboard

Apple's iOS holds appeal in part because of its simple elegance. iOS doesn't offer nearly as many tweak options as Honeycomb does, and that's mostly a good thing. It would be nice, however, to have a greater degree of customization on iOS. I'm not asking for excessive options that would overwhelm the user or mirror Honeycomb. But I would like more customization options, implemented in ways that most benefit the iPad and positively affect how people use it.

For example, I'd like to see easier-to-use on-device functions with regard to app management and folder organization. As it stands, app management--whether through iTunes or via drag-and-drop on the device itself--can become unwieldly when you have a large collection of apps. I'd also like the ability to customize my most frequently used options and move them forward, to minimize how many layers down I have to go to reach them. If anyone can figure out how to make a settings dashboard work elegantly, it's Apple--and I want to see what the company can do.

Direct Transfers: Streamlining File Management

It's odd that a "post-PC" device, as Steve Jobs calls the iPad, requires a PC for updating the operating system. Regrettably, you also need a PC to transfer files to the iPad (at least, if you want files associated with specific apps or the photo gallery). Ditto for backing up your app data, and for syncing your music and video library with iTunes.

iTunes has long since outgrown its original purpose as a music manager. A decade has passed since its introduction, and now it juggles far more tasks than originally intended. As an app, it's in need of a serious overhaul. iTunes must now handle file-management and backup chores, and it's the single worst file-management program I've seen for any platform. All iPad users have accounts with iTunes--why can't we use the cloud just as we do on Amazon or Google?


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