The iPhone OS 3.0 Announcement Scorecard

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Tomorrow morning the sun will rise, and tech writers from near and far will descend upon Cupertino. The steady rattle of fingers flying across laptop keys will sound like rain on a windshield, drowned out only by the endless assault of cameras firing at the stage. All that typing, all those photos, all with just one subject: the 3rd iteration of the iPhone OS. Guys in button up shirts and blue jeans will talk, slides will slide – and in the end, the masses will turn to their Twitter accounts with 140-characters of pure adoration or utter abhorrence. It’s just the way Apple events tend to go; for those who care enough to pay attention, there isn’t often much of a middle ground.

But what if, rather than attempting to gobble up all of the information and form an opinion on the raw, we were to go about it with predetermined and set-in-stone criteria in mind? What if we ignored Apple’s flashy presentation and entrancing ways, instead looking solely at the fruits of their labor and comparing it to what users have been clamoring for for over 2 years? For that purpose, we present: the iPhone OS 3.0 Announcement Scorecard.

The idea is simple: We’ve assembled a list of the most common complaints we’ve seen that we feel have even a remote chance of seeing a resolution tomorrow, and assigned each a value. This value was derived from how frequently the complaint arises online and in personal discussion. Some items may seem low to some, while others seem too high – every item’s worth is relative to the person keeping score, so feel free to shuffle points around if the values don’t seem appropriate.

Print it out and play along!

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The Criteria:

  • Background Applications: This one’s a bit confusing, as many folks don’t understand that there are two possible interpretations of “Background Applications”. Last June, Apple announced that the iPhone would be getting “Background Notifications” by September of that year. Background Notifications allow for developers to send alerts to the handset, even when an application is closed – but data from the handset (such as its current location) could not be sent back unless the App was opened. A one way street, so to speak. September came and went, and Background Notifications were no where to be seen, leading many to hope that Apple had ditched Background Notifications for a more two-way solution, be it full background processing or something else. If Apple clears the air about Background Applications, they get 20 points – but if it’s still push only, they only get 10. Consider it a penalty for missing their own deadline by half a year.
  • Copy and Paste: You know it, and you’re probably sick of hearing people whine about it. Some don’t care at all – for others, it’s the deal breaker that keeps them away from the phone. Kevin Rose says its a sure thing, and he’s always right. Sort of. 20 points.
  • MMS: Picture messaging. The go-to item for highlighting the iPhone’s shortcomings. How it has yet to make its way into an update still bewilders us. 15 points.
  • Video Recording: 10 points? What!? It loses a few points in our books (well, our list) for not being quite as useful as everyone pretends it is. Outside of the few high-end cameraphones where the camera bit is a major selling point, cell phone video tends to be absolute garbage that clogs up the (You)tubes. Jailbreak-only apps have already demonstrated the video quality as being rather meh. Apple might be able to do it better on the software end, but there’s really not that much you can do to a crummy camera sensor. It’s nice for catching that awkward moment at the bar, but it tends to devolve into a toy for many users.
  • Bluetooth Profile Upgrades: It’s a three-fer! There are a number of Bluetooth profiles that may be useful, but these are the three that seem to be on everyone’s mind. The Bluetooth Human Input Device profie, or HID, would allow for Bluetooth keyboards and mice (though the latter would almost assuredly be a no go on the iPhone) to be hooked up. This would be tough for Apple to pull off elegantly, as all of the Apps in the App Store are written for the on-screen keyboard. Wireless Sync would allow for the wireless transfer of data to-and-from a Bluetooth-enabled computer, though what sort of data that includes would be at Apple’s discretion. Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP) would allow people to enjoy the media through stereo Bluetooth headsets. 5 points for each Bluetooth enhancement.
  • Flash in Safari: With the iPhone having one of the best mobile implementations of Youtube, we’re not 100% sure why the clamor for this is so strong – but it’s pretty deafening. Banner ads may be a nuisance and most games would work a bit strangely (if at all) due to screen size and input methods, but Flash has intertwined its way into the web in an almost unavoidable way. 15 points.
  • Landscape Keyboard in all default apps: Go start a new SMS. Turn the iPhone on its side to try to bring up the landscape keyboard. Won’t work. Try it in notes. Same deal. Email? Same. Apple may not be able to force every developer in the App Store to enable the landscape keyboard in their applications, but they can do it in their own apps. 10 points.
  • Tethering: We know it’s coming at some point – we just don’t know the nitty gritty details. Getting this to work in an officially endorsed and carrier-manageable way would presumably take a good amount of tweaking on the software end, so there’s no better time than now. 15 points.
  • Any of the 8 things we can’t stand: Last month, we wrote an article on 8 Little Things We Still Can’t Stand About The iPhone. As the title of the story implies, these things are quite little. Though trivial, they allow us to measure something we otherwise couldn’t: attention to detail. If Apple resolves any of our nit-pick issues, we can assume they’ve fixed plenty of other little things that don’t justify time during the presentation. Cumulatively, these little things matter to the experience just as much as some of the big ones. Chances are these things wont be touched on during the presentation – but if they are, that’s 5 bonus points for Apple for each one.

The Score:

120+: The perfect announcement. The untouchable debut. Apples will rain from the sky, the energy crisis will be solved, and cats will stop being jerks.
90-119: Not technically perfect, but we’re still mighty impressed. No more Copy and Paste jokes! Hurray!
70-89: If Apple manages to squeak into this range, there probably won’t be much naysaying around the internet. (Just kidding. Everyone will still complain, because that’s what people on the internet do.)
45-69:: If we were the bettin’ type, we’d put our money on Apple landing somewhere in this range tomorrow. Of course, this would also require a mystical gambling hall where they bet on Apple events. Most will walk away satisfied, others will feel burned that their must-have feature is still not at hand.
20-44:: Meh. One or two significant features, but is that enough to warrant the big jump from 2.2 all the way up to 3.0?
0-19: Event got canceled.

All that said, there’s one item that no scorecard could ever take in to consideration: the good ol’ “One more thing..” If Apple comes out and blows our minds with some feature we never knew we wanted considered (“By the way, your iPhone? It’s now also a love-powered jet pack. Enjoy.”), there’s no way for us to assign it a value. If something mindbogglingly amazing happens, consider the scorecard nullified – or just give the new goods a value and pretend it was on the scorecard the whole time.

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