The JBnator Diaries – iPhone OS 3.1.2 Vs OS 3.2 for the iPad – a breakdown of new features

This week’s JBnator column will be a bit different. With all of the hype around the iPad I just couldn’t ignore ite. While a lot of rave has been going around the web about the new hardware and apps for the unveiled iPad, many people forget that it is also running a new version of the iPhone OS. And while the 3.2 version is iPad only it would a safe guess that at least some of the features available on the iPad will find their way into the next iPhone and iPod Touch-friendly version of the OS as well. So let’s see what new stuff Apple have put in there and discuss whether we’ll see it on the iPhone.

1. Popover

As we have seen in the keynote by Steve, the iPhone OS 3.2 features popover menus, kind of like the ones commonly found on the desktop. While this effect looks and works simply amazing on the iPad, the small screen of the iPhone and iPod Touch make practicality of the feature iffy.

Strike one for the iPad.

2. Split View

The other interface feature commonly found on the desktop is split viewing when there are several active areas on the screen displaying separate data. Think of any e-mail application for example. As with the popovers, the screen size of the iPhone and the iPod Touch make it an unusable concept for the more portable devices.

Strike two for the iPad.

3. Custom Input Views

On the more notable things in the iPad presentation that Steve touched only lightly, is the ability to customise the home screen with custom backgrounds. I also noticed the iPad has a landscape icon view as well.

This is an awkwardly lacking feature on the iPhone and iPod Touch and I think it’s quite safe to say that some people  will soon have one less reason for jailbreak (hoping and praying). At the same time it seems quite unrealistic to me that Apple will allow the same amount of customization, that Winterboard allows for the JB’kd iDevices. That is, there will be no way to customise icons, sliders, taskbar and all that other stuff.

I would say that here we have a tie.

4. External Display Support

With one of the main features advertised in the iPad being the iWorks suite, it’s no wonder Apple decided to open it up for external screen connectivity. At the same time  it is also available for the iPhone and iPod Touch for the Photos and iPod apps. Taking this into account and the fact that Apple is releasing the iWorks suite themselves I feel it’s safe to say that the iPad itself will not open up external displays for 3rd party software.

As I said – the iPhone and iPod Touch already have limited external display support and I feel it will stay way. Sorry, it seems we’ll still have to use external cameras to record game and app videos.

5. Gesture Recognition

iPhone OS 3.2 has finally opened up native gesture recognition to app developers, instead of just transmitting the coordinates as was previously the case. Common gestures like two-finger scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, two-finger spinning, etc. are recognized by the OS itself. Hopefully we will now see none of the clunky 3rd party gesture-controls that are found in many apps.

This is a 50/50 chance for me. I’m not sure how much processing power is required to implement this at the core level and ultimately that will be the deciding factor whether we will see it on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

6. Improved Text Support

Developers have been blessed by new libraries to work with text, as well support for custom fonts and keyboards. This doesn’t seem to be not that big of a deal, but for some apps it may well be a breakthrough. I am an avid user of QuickSMS which has a custom keyboard thanks to being a jailbroken app and the simple addition of “?”, “,” and “!” symbols to the main layout decreases the time for typing by about 2-fold by eliminating the need to switch layouts to get to those commonly used punctuation symbols.

This also a 50/50 chance for me, mainly due to political reasons. I see it is a must for the iPad as it has a huge keyboard the devs might want to customize, but whether Apple will open it up for the iPhone and iPod Touch is anyone’s guess.

7. File-Sharing Support

Ok, now this seems to be manna from heaven. For the longest of times developers had the strictest rule of having their apps completely sandboxed. That means the apps could only access files from within. And while security benefits are obvious it made the lives of many many developers, especially ones making various Notes and Office applications a nightmare. But it seems there is light at the end of the tunnel – provided the developer specifically notes that their app requires access to files. The files themselves will be stored in Documents/Shared and on connection with the PC or Mac the folder will mount as an external drive.

What does this mean for the common user? Well, for one thing this is the death of myriad of various File Sharing applications on the AppStore. On the other hand – this will make the lives of everyone much easier. Also this may mean that Safari will finally support downloading files from the web and you’ll be able to view them from any app that supports them.

Regarding seeing this on the iPhone and iPod Touch – another 50/50 percent also due to political reasons. But I for one will pray for it to be so!

8. Document Support

This is what is more commonly known as File Association. I.e. you tap on an RTF file an Text editing app will launch. I’m not exactly certain on how this will work since there is no built-in file browser in the iPad, or at least none has been announced. We will just have to see.

On the iPhone and iPod Touch we will see this only if the previous point is implemented.

Ok, so here we are at the end of the list.

I, for one, was surprised that the iPad runs iPhone OS 3.2 and not 4.0. I feel the reason for this is probably due to some technical difficulties with 4.0 and that it will be showcased some time in the coming months. Maybe about the same time as the previous year, meaning March. And it will probably have at least some of the features mentioned above for the iPhone, as well as, hopefully, multi-tasking. Currently it’s laughable that a device like the iPad powered by the exclusive A4 1GHz chip is limited to running one app at a time.

[images and basic info via iphones.ru]

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