Apple iOS 4 Is Good, but Not Perfect
UPDATED: The updated operating system for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch brings a raft of new features to these mobile devices; iPhone 3GS users in particular will be able to congratulate themselves, knowing they finally have an OS that pushes the smartphone to its limits.Rule No. 1 when upgrading devices with new software is, "Your mileage may vary," and that seems to hold true for early adopters of iOS 4, the updated Apple operating system that became available for download on June 21. After experimenting with the new features for a couple of days, I'm ready to label my experience with iOS 4 as "relatively painless." But not everyone agrees with me; a colleague of mine with an iPhone 3G is disappointed by his device's post-upgrade behavior, as he has experienced repeated application blackouts that eventually dump him back to the home screen. Perhaps more troubling, his phone now hesitates when executing tasks, in a way that reminds him of a beaten dog. This less-than-rosy view seems to be shared by other iPhone 3G owners. The device is undoubtedly being pushed to the edge of its capabilities by the new operating system.
Although some reports indicated that customers were experiencing problems when downloading the OS update, I must have been one of the lucky ones, as my download of iOS 4 (for an iPhone 3GS) at high noon of release day passed without incident. Because I'm the cautious type, I'd made sure the phone was fully charged, and that I could replace anything on the device without undue stress.
But Apple is facing some challenges to do with the way iOS and Exchange interact; the company has already suggested that users experiencing Exchange server overloads after device upgrades should reconfigure the ActiveSync polling interval for those devices. Unfortunately, Apple points end users to a Web page where they can download an unsigned profile, rather than updating the iPhone Configuration Utility to allow the updated setting to be applied in a managed fashion. Apple's chosen method may get the fix out quickly, but it's a reminder that end-to-end management is not the company's strong suit. One alternative, hand-editing the XML-based profile, has the virtue of preserving a degree of control, but is far from convenient. For many users, iOS 4 will be an upgrade worth having, and I plan to spend as much time as I can in the weeks to come examining how well it works in an enterprise setting. Since third-party tools can now use the operating system's Mobile Device Management service, there will be companies looking for an opportunity to establish themselves as maker of the tool of choice for iPhone management. To what degree Apple will let them do that is another story altogether. Editor's Note: This review was updated with information about the update's effects on the iPhone 3G and Apple's update approach.