April 5th 2010 12:34 pm

Heads up! A newer version of this product is out!

final rating

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Criteria Comments Rating
  • Ease of use Launching apps is easy, doing anything else is either tedious or impossible. so-so
  • Speed Each version of iOS has gotten sucessively more resource hungry. iOS 4 is the worst yet. so-so
  • Configurability Even with jailbreaking, the options are seriously limited. It is configurable, but not in all the ways you'd like. poor
  • Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.) Tons of apps, even if a lot of them are crap, it still has a ton of them. great!
  • Openness No comments
Detailed review
A lot of people like to claim that iOS has a great, intuitive design and interface. That's simply not true. These same people like to claim that iOS has a lot of great apps, that's simply true. Let's start by looking at the first point.

The lock screen is stupid. iOS devices use capacitive screens, there's no way anything would happen accidentally while it's in your pocket – it's a legacy from resistive screens, and was just done for demo purposes. The lock screen is iconic to iOS and is always shown in demos for fake iPhones, but was never useless. It'd be much better to be able to just bypass it. While we're talking about that, given the simple design goals, iOS doesn't even need a power button, the single home button could be used to bring up the shut down lock screen by holding it for a few seconds.

Once we're in the main application launching screen there's the next problem. The status bar at the top gives all the most relevant information to you right away, but it also relates to everything you'd want to change – WiFi and BlueTooth status being the primary ones. SBSettings provides this functionality, and has for a long time, yet Apple hasn't seen fit to copy it and integrate it into the OS. Instead you have to go through the settings menu, which is pretty inconvenient normally, even moreso if an app is open.

Speaking of open apps, multi-tasking is implemented horribly, it's done with a really awkward double tap of the home button, and offers nowhere near the customisability of Activator and Kirikae. When playing games there's always the potential to accidentally hit the power button with the side of your index finger, or hit the home button with your thumb. In either case it's useful to set activator to not close the app with a single quick press, and to rely on a long press or double press to close.

Copy & Paste was a feature apparently everyone was clammoring for, while I do occasionally need it, it's not that important, and I find far more often that it crops up accidentally when I don't want it than I ever need to actually use it. iOS' copy & paste was supposed to be the best implementation ever, yet it's still intrusive, and it would be much more useful to activate it from a shade menu along with WiFi and BlueTooth toggles rather than having it try to guess based on how long you've held a portion of a web page, in the hopes that a contextual menu shows up (as is the case in Google Maps).

The keyboard is a horrible design, a touchscreen keyboard is already going to be bad as is, but it relies on autocorrect (which does more harm than good) to handle apostraphes, which works well until you want to type 'its' instead of 'it's', and idiotically requires hitting the shift key to type , or . Simply switching from a staggered layout (which is actually not good at all, despite it being present on almost every desktop keyboard) to a grid layout would have afforded the extra space necessary for those 3 key punctuation marks.

These are only the really obvious cases, it's so easy to improve it massively that it's mind boggling how crappy the user interface still is after 3 years. As far as functionality goes, iOS 2 is still best, as it does the one thing that iOS is good at, and leaves everything out, to be customised with some jailbreak mods. That is if it weren't for the fact that Apple's App Store policy apparently requires Apps to depend on an iOS version that's current when the apps are released. iOS 2 just doesn't support enough apps to be viable, so iOS 4 is necessary.

And that's because iOS has a lot of good apps. While some things could still be improved, with jailbreaking it is possible to implement some work arounds for the most serious issues, and since most of the time is spent using various apps rather than actually interacting with the UI, it ends up being OK. iOS 4 is the best portable gaming platform available right now, and it covers a ton of other functionality as well – whatever your diversee or niche tastes may be, there usually is an app for it (hell, even Skyfire fixes the less than stellar browsing experience).