More of my sites
About this site
For six years, the Internet Nexus served as my technology blog, but I've since started blogging at the SuperSite Blog instead. If you're looking for the blog, please head there. --Paul
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
iPhone observation: Mail application decent, but doesn't deliver what I wantWhile the iPhone's email application, Mail, benefits greatly from the large screen of the device, the actual email support it delivers is sub-part, even by smart phone standards. (Look to Windows Mobile's Pocket Outlook Email for an obvious comparison.) Most of the email support is POP-based, though those lucky enough to have IMAP support can at least take advantage of that system's work-on-the-server approach. (.Mac mail support in the iPhone is a bit better, though that won't help most users.) Obviously, the best mobile email is text-based, and here the iPhone does a great job of displaying messages with its gorgeous screen and crisp fonts. Now if we could only do things like download and edit Word documents and not just view them. And why can't I save JPEG attachments to the device and use them for wallpaper? Too obvious?
One Mail problem points to an obvious design flaw in the iPhone: If you click on a hyperlink in Mail, the link opens in Safari. But if you want to get back to email, there's no Back button messing up the device design. So you have to click the Home button and then manually tap the on-screen Mail icon to go back to your mail, and the message you were reading. Another problem with Mail relates to one of the iPhone's many inconsistencies: If you're viewing a list of messages in your Inbox and rotate the screen to landscape mode, the display doesn't swivel with you. (This is true in some but not all other lists in the device: When you swivel while viewing songs in iPod, the view switches to Cover Flow; when you swivel while viewing videos in iPod, the view doesn't switch. Inconsistent.) The view doesn't swivel when you're viewing email messages or attached Word documents either. Both would benefit from this possibility, but because the iPhone does this in other places, it's bewildering when it doesn't work. Apple makes a big deal out of the screen rotation stuff: It should work consistently everywhere.
Ultimately, I was hoping that the iPhone would have a killer native Gmail application, but really all it has is a POP-based Gmail client. That's useless to me because I organize my email up on the server using Gmail's amazing labels-based technology, which treats email like a database table which you can access using different filtered views. This stuff doesn't get pulled down to any client, POP or otherwise, so Google and/or Apple would need to actually do some work to make the iPhone a first-class Gmail citizen. I desperately want a smart phone that can do this. The iPhone isn't it.
Update: I've written a follow-up to this post which could be of interest: iPhone observation: Mail application, Take TwoPermalink ]