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10 features Apple iOS 4.2 still needs

Apple still hasn't got it quite right

Now that iOS 4.2 is out and we've lauded its best features, it's time to take a look at its biggest omissions. (It's only fair, right?) We took an informal survey of Macworld editors to determine the most-hoped-for features that still aren't here, then whittled the list down to the top ten.

More Mail features

It's great to see the iPad finally get the best new features of iOS4 Mail: a unified Inbox, multiple Exchange accounts, threaded discussions, notes syncing and MobileMe alias support. And Mail on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch continues to be a solid app that gets the most important things right. But we can't help but wish that - over three years after Mail first debuted - Apple would bring a few more oft-requested features from Mac OS X Mail onto iOS. Just a few examples include the capability to mark all as read and delete all; send to email contact groups; flag messages; and choose between multiple signatures. More ambitious wishes include on-device folder editing, junk-mail filtering, smart folders and more control over text when viewing and composing messages.

Better application data sharing/syncing/access

One of iOS's most significant barriers to productivity continues to be the lack of a robust way for applications to share data and documents with other apps. Apple has taken a few baby steps in the right direction - with iOS 3.2 on the iPad and iOS 4 on the iPhone and iPod touch - by letting apps register themselves for particular types of files (for example, PDFs, Word docs, and text files). That way, when you receive one of those types of files in, say, an email message, you can open the file in one of the apps that supports it. But this is more of a kludge than a solution - for example, if you want to open a Word document in two different apps, you need to save a separate copy of that file in each app. As much as Apple seems to be trying to avoid it, iOS needs some sort of central file-storage area where applications can share data and documents with each other.

Similarly, getting documents and data onto your iOS device is still a pain, and the process differs wildly between apps. Some require you to drag documents in and out of iTunes when your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is connected via USB; others sync via MobileMe, Dropbox, or another online service; still others include some sort of built-in web server that mounts a volume on your Mac or Windows PC for transferring files; and a few support only the email method mentioned above. Apple needs to make this process simpler and provide a way for app developers to incorporate this new-and-improved method into their apps, so that getting documents onto your iOS device - and, just as important, being able to do something with that data once it's there - is as easy as it is on a Mac.

iCal to-do syncing

Judging by the seemingly astronomical number of to-do-list apps in the App Store - many of them using third-party programs or cloud services to sync with your computer - you'd think Mac OS X and Windows didn't include any way to track tasks. But they do. In fact, on the Mac, that feature is a prominent part of iCal, a program that otherwise syncs flawlessly with your iOS devices. It's been over three years, Apple - can we please sync our iCal tasks with our iPhones and iPads?

NEXT PAGE: Wireless syncing

  1. Apple still hasn't got it quite right
  2. More mail features
  3. Wireless syncing
  4. A hardware orientation-lock switch on the iPad


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