Thursday, September 2, 2010

iOS4 now announced for iPad

As I hoped, the latest Steve Show announced the iPad iOS4 update, but for November. One might look at this as rather negligent, to be honest, but it does seem to go hand-in-hand with just about everything else that goes on in the iPad space.

We've had iOS4 for iPhone for a good few months already. That software update combined with the new iPhone has managed to overshadow the iPad rather well in terms of functionality. Only months after it's limited availability release, and during a time when Apple still struggles to keep up with demand.

The iPad's worldwide availability is still really limited. You can't officially buy them here in Finland, but you can go pick up the iPhone 4 easily - a product that was released months and months after the iPad. People here are starting to wonder if they'll even bother selling the iPad at all in Finland. They haven't even announced the next list of randomly-picked countries that are winning the iPad lottery.

Then take a look at the apps. No native Facebook. No native Skype. No iTunes remote. No iMovie (you can't even get the iPhone version on the iPad). App developers seem to be putting the same amount of care and effort into supporting the system as Apple themselves are, with a majority of apps still coming out for iPhone only and separate "HD" releases instead of universal apps when the iPad version finally arrives. In fact, for the most part, the only thing that's really impressed a majority of people I've shown my iPad to has been FlipBoard.

And then, for the extra 4-5 month wait, we don't get any new features on top of what the iPhone will be getting. No new interface that makes use of the larger screen. No widgets. I'm going to bet they don't even re-add the apps they dropped from the original iPad release like the clock, stocks, calculator, compass or weather.

And no mention of better iPhone-to-iPad integration.

What did they spend those 4 months doing, because if you ask me, porting folders, game zone (or whatever its called) and multitasking over to a slightly larger screen shouldn't take that long. Hell, they didn't need to port facetime, HDR or any of those multitude of fixes that have been bothering iPhone users.

It all adds up to neglect and a feeling that they released a product that they weren't willing to support with the same enthusiasm as they even support a cell phone. Or are they just not feeling the pressure from the tablet competition enough to get their development into gear? It certainly does leave me, an original owner, with a rather bad taste in my mouth, and a feeling that I won't be in a hurry to buy next year's model unless they change their tune.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The current problem with iPhone gaming

Taking a look at the current state of iPhone gaming, there's a lot you can be happy about. Plenty of games available, most at a low price, and so easily available. I, myself, am guilty of more than the occasional impulse-buy.

The quailty of games, too, has been steadily rising, as the bar is raised in graphics, sound and overall presentation. More and more, you'll see games arrive on the scene with online highscore systems and acheivements built in - something that was rare a year ago.

The problem with the gaming on this platform is evident when you compare iPhone games to games on the PSP and DS.

The problem stems back to the beginning of the just over two years of history of iPhone gaming. The first few developers who put out games on the device priced those games quite aggressively. With the void in quality games during the early days, people bought whatever they could and those developers became independently wealthy overnight. Most of us have read the stories in the news about the few guys who were able to quit their day jobs on the back of particularly simple games back then. To be honest, it's not unlike the original developers of old 8-bit games back when those systems became popular, only it's easier now than it was then.

Ever since then, two phenomena have prevailed. The first is a buying trend - people are used to 99 cent games. People often impulse-buy 99 cent games. Everything else pretty much requires a little online research to see if the game is worth buying. Moreso, the higher the price rises. The upper limit for games seems to be between 10 and 15 dollars, although there are only a handful of games in this category. For most iPhone owners, this price is already excessive, especially since a high-priced game occasionally will become free for a day or
two - every now and then.

The second phenomenon is the selling trend. Game companies make a good profit from simple "flash-style" games which fit the low-depth, low-replayability category. They are unwilling to invest more time into games that are not of the "impulse-buy" category, since this is the category that makes the most profit. The higher-priced games tend to involve a lot more development work, especially on the content creation side. Often when you see a game with depth, it's a port from a game on another system, so most of the actual content was reused.

The fact that a lot of games are being developed by hobbyists in very small teams means they don't have the resources to create games with a lot of content, and they make good money from games that look like everything else, anyway.

What needs to happen is for some of the larger games companies to raise the bar on this platform and actually develop proper titles as they would do for the PSP (for example). They should also not be afraid to charge higher prices for these sort of games. If enough larger developers start a trend towards developing proper games for the iDevices, the customers will get used to expecting better games and paying for them. A few companies have already started, but these have been few and far between. Again, a lot of these have been made with re-used content from an existing system, such as the DS.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

iOS4 for iPad: What it should have

So, the iPad has been around for a while now, and things are appearing to be a little slow for many people's liking. For one, we have no Facebook or Skype native apps on it. No iMovie, as yet. Most games are still only appearing on the iPhone and often the "HD" version is sold separately and for a higher price.

So what am I hoping for in the long-awaited iOS4?

Communication with iPhone
It should be apparent that the iPhone and iPad go hand-in-hand for a lot of people. I carry both of mine around almost everywhere. It would be nice to be able to easily transfer content between tho two devices without the need for klunky third-party apps. Being able to capture photos and movies with the iPhone and then transfer them to thie iPad for editing would be an immediate use. In fact, transferring almost anything between devices should be possible without needing a computer with iTunes acting as a middle-man. I'd also like to not have to download the same apps and app updates twice on two separate devices.

A more computer-like feel
For one, a proper filesystem that can be accessed from all apps would be a start. A place where I can download images, PDFs, etc. To access that filesystem wirelessly from my computer would be nice also.
Multitasking is obviously coming, but given the screen size, I'd hope it will be implemented in a better way than on the iPhone. There should be no need for double clicking the home button to bring up the switcher. Perhaps the ability to "alt tab" in some reasonable way would make quickly switching between apps nicer.
A redesign of the home screen. For a device with a large screen, the iPod touch interface is simply not needed. The way that folders are implemented in iOS would not make much sense on the iPad. Widgets are obviously something that should be there.

Keyboard improvements
Honestly, I still find it hard to need to click on text when I want to move my cursor. I could really use arrow keys on the keyboard to move around. I'd also like more access to some symbols from using a meta key. Switching between the alternate keyboards is clunky and slow.

Better organizing options for videos
Being able to put movies into folders would be nice. Sure you can categorize things as TV shows, but it feels like a work-around.

iPhone retina mode support
When I launch an iPhone app with retina support on my iPad, I get the non-retina version that I can double-size. The iPad can support retina resolution, so why can't it show the app in that resolution? I'm sure it would look better on the iPad. Also, it would probably kill the current need for developers to make non-universal apps.