Top 10 Reader iPhone Annoyances (And How to Fix Them)
By Jared Newman
Who knew there were so many iPhone annoyances? Last week we listed ten common failings of the iPhone and discussed how to correct them. Maybe it was naïve to restrict the list to ten entries. Reader feedback suggests that iPhone users have no shortage of annoyances they’d like to see solved.
After reviewing the comments posted to the original story, “10 iPhone Annoyances (And How to Fix Them),” we offer you a sequel. Once again, we’ve compiled workarounds to the iPhone annoyances listed. Oh, and because one snarky (we love snark!) reader suggested that you should “get rid of the suckerphone,” we’ve also included several problems that you can solve only by jumping ship and buying a nonsuckerphone alternative.
10. You Can’t Schedule Day-of-Week Meetings (griped by rjnerd)
The iPhone’s built-in calendar lets you set up recurring appointments–but with one notable flaw: There’s no way to schedule meetings for, say, the first Monday of every month.
The bigger problem: Overwhelmingly, in response to our previous article, iPhone users complained about the calendar. Among the sources of grievance aired were the inability to view the calendar by week, the inability to copy and paste appointments, and the inability to send event invites to other users.
The workaround: Set up a recurring weekly event, and then delete the unwanted extra entries for that month. It’s not pretty, but at least you won’t have to reenter all of your data for each scheduled event.
9. The Screen Keeps Rotating During Bedtime Reading
Most of the time, we love having an accelerometer on the phone. Being able to tilt into landscape mode is great for viewing photos and sending text messages, but it does get in the way when you’ve curled up for some e-reading.
The bigger problem: The inability to lock iPhone rotation is problematic in general. Users complain that the phone extemporaneously switches to cover flow when it’s resting in the car; and sometimes you just don’t want the screen to rotate, regardless of your posture.
The workaround: Only jailbreakers can activate ‘Rotation Inhibitor’ in Sbsettings to lock the screen settings in place. The rest of us must employ a method previously discussed at Macworld. The iPhone screen will automatically rotate 90 degrees clockwise when you’re lounging on your couch, causing text to rotate from horizontal to vertical and making reading unduly difficult. A Macworld reader suggests that you rotate your iPhone another 90 degrees counterclockwise. “Since the iPhone doesn’t offer 180° rotation, this left the text rotated 90° in alignment with my head.”
8. You Can’t Create Usage Profiles (griped by deftdrummer)
In this hectic world, who can be bothered to silence the iPhone at work, turn on Wi-Fi at home, and make battery-saving adjustments when the phone is running out of juice? It would be nice–and worth paying for, even–to have a utility that managed all of those things for you.
The bigger problem: The iPhone’s lack of usage profiles is another consequence of its inability to multitask (and run apps in the background). For the same reason that the recently released Google Latitude Web app can’t constantly update your location, an app like Locale (from Two Forty Four a.m.) simply can’t function properly on an iPhone unless you jailbreak the phone.
The workaround: On the iPhone, there is none. Android users can pick up Locale, an award-winning (and PC World-praised) app that knows where you are and adjusts your phone settings accordingly. Symbian users can try AutoProfiles, which adjusts phone settings based on time of day.
7. You Can’t Send Text Messages to Groups
Avid texters know that blasting a message to multiple friends is the best way to find out where they are and what they’re doing. Unfortunately, to group-text on the iPhone, you must hit the plus sign (+) and tap on the contact name for each person you want to add.
The bigger problem: The iPhone isn’t particularly good at dealing with things in bulk. As we noted in last week’s article, it also takes a rather inept (or at least dull-witted) approach when you want to delete or manage large amounts of e-mail; and circling back to the calendar issue, it offers no easy way to create several appointments at a time.
The workaround: Suck it up and manually add everyone to one text message once–but don’t delete that message. Instead, every time you want to send a message to that group, revert to the original message thread, add a new message, and send. Tip: For easy future access, keep the master message near the bottom of your sent messages.
6. Web Apps Don’t Have Push Notification
If you followed our earlier advice and switched to the Web version of Gmail instead of the iPhone’s built-in Mail app, you don’t receive notifications from the Home screen when new messages reach your inbox. That’s because your iPhone accesses the app through Safari, which on its own has no means of telling users what’s happening in the browser.
The bigger problem: Web apps are second-class iPhone citizens. The ability of Web apps such as Gmail to accept touch gestures suggests that further integration with the iPhone OS is possible, if only Apple will allow it.
The workaround: If you have a computer up and running, you can use a free PC version or Mac version of a program called Growl and a $3 iPhone app called Prowl. The former lets you set up notifications for all kinds of things, including incoming e-mail, and the latter pushes those alerts to your iPhone.
5. Spotlight Search Doesn’t Include Text Messages (griped by andrewsam)
Apple was kind enough to include a search tool in the iPhone’s 3.0 OS, but for some reason the company omitted the ability to look through text messages. This can be a nuisance for heavy texters who need to look up addresses or other details from past conversations.
The bigger problem: Though searching through text messages seems like a no-brainer function, there is no way to do it on the iPhone. Like copy and paste, this feature should exist, but it remains another checkpoint on our list of nuisances.
The workaround: Jailbreak or defect. On the iPhone, a jailbreak app called iSMS will search through your text messages; unfortunately, it got blocked from the App Store–probably because it would replace the iPhone’s built-in texting app. For Android, you can use Search SMS, an app with a self-explanatory name.
4. Safari Is a Greedy King (griped by kill953)
Surprisingly, the App Store allows you to download other Web browsers, even though Safari comes built-in–as long as they’re built with Apple’s open-source WebKit browser engine. Nevertheless, browsers such as iCab Mobile still take a backseat to Safari, since other apps that rely on a Web browser can’t use anything but Safari (the iPhone’s default browser).
The bigger problem: Apple’s tight control over its operating system is in full view here. Some users want the iPhone to act like a computer, with greater room for customization, including the ability to set a default Web browser.
The workaround: So far, there is no workaround. Got one? Let us know in the comments.
3. Push Notification Delivery Is Too Rigid (griped by s2ggutke)
Apple resisted calls for multitasking on the iPhone, opting instead for push notification–a system that alerts you to happenings in an app when it’s not open. It’s helpful but imperfect, because sometimes you don’t want a big blue message popping up while you’re in the middle of another task. We’d like to be able to change how these are delivered, with options for notifications that drop down from above, for instance.
The bigger problem: This isn’t so much a fault in Apple as a dilemma that the company faces as people demand more from their smartphones. Enabling iPhone users to move push notifications around the screen would appease power users, but it might confuse the masses that Apple is trying to reel in.
The workround: The push notification system is arcane. Since the iPhone is the sole smartphone that even needs such a system, users who consider it a deal-breaker should look to the Palm Pre, which handles multitasking swimmingly.
2. The Home Screen Is a Mess (griped by jessepps and videoflyer)
It’s great that Apple wants its interface to be simple and intuitive; but if you’re an app fanatic, finding what you need on your iPhone’s multiple home screens can be a daunting task. The cries for a folder system on the iPhone aren’t new, but we never tire of hearing them.
The bigger problem: To keep things simple, Apple must devise a better way to organize iPhone apps. For people who want quick, up-front access to their apps, folders might not be the answer; but what about some sort of filtering mechanism that let you quickly jump to games, music, or productivity tools?
The workaround: You can make do by grouping similar apps on their own page, regardless of how full that page is. Jailbreakers can try a program called Categories, which lets you throw programs into folders. And Apple apostates can turn to Blackberry or Android, both of which fully embrace the folder mentality.
1. iTunes Is Overprotective of Your Password
If someone were to steal your iPhone, the crook could conceivably enjoy an iTunes shopping spree on your dime. For that reason, you must enter your iTunes password before purchasing a download, even if you’ve stepped away from the phone for only a few minutes.
The bigger problem: Security options on the iPhone are inconsistent. Collective freak-outs over SMS attacks notwithstanding, it’s somehow okay to store a gold mine of personal information in e-mail and text messages with no authentication required (and you need a $99-per-year MobileMe subscription to detonate all that data), but iTunes is on lockdown.
The workaround: This is one of those nags for which a solution isn’t worth the time you could spend angrily typing out your password. But that’s why we saved this annoyance for our final point: As Macworld reader robogobo writes, “Complaining on Macworld changes nothing.” We’d love to hear your gripes, but why not send them along to Apple as well?