Travel and The “Seventh Coming” of Apple’s iOS

September 6, 2013

in Travel Tech

  • SumoMe

iPhone 5

If you travel with an iPhone or an iPad, next week Apple is going to tell you something that you may not want to hear.

The bad news for those who have recently purchased an iPhone 5 is that the Cupertino company will probably unveil two new iPhones: The “5S” and a lower-priced “5C” model.

However, the advent of those new gizmos might actually be good news if you own an iPhone 3GS, 4, or 4S that you are anxious to replace.

But what could be either really great or really awful for both iPhone and iPad users is the “Seventh Coming” of Apple’s iOS operating system for its mobile devices.

The Changing Face of iOS

Here’s a crucial revelation about iOS 7 made by Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic and a visiting scholar at Berkeley’s Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society, in “Beyond The Shadows: Apple’s iOS 7 Is All About The Screen,” his contribution to Tuesday’s broadcast of the popular NPR show, “Fresh Air”:

“If you’re an iPhone user, everything — your email, your calendar, your texts, your phone dialer, your photos, your notes — will look and work differently.” (Emphasis added.)

image

So why is Apple making everything “look and work differently,” and should I stick with iOS 6 or jump on the iOS 7 bandwagon?

The Screwdriver 1.0 Lesson

Here’s one of Dictionary.com’s definitions of “technology”:

“A scientific or industrial process, invention, method, or the like.”

One of the “inventions” hanging in my garage is “The Screwdriver.” It comes in two basic “flavors,” flat-blade (for installing or removing screws with slots in their heads) and Phillips head (for those screws that have the little “crosses” on top).

(Wikipedia Commons Photo)

I needed just a single demonstration session (given way back in the last century) to learn how to use screwdrivers. Like riding a bicycle, once you know how to operate a screwdriver you never forget.

And you needn’t upgrade Screwdriver 1.0 to Screwdriver 2.0, 3.2.5, 4.3, or beyond. Screwdriver 1.0 will, unless abused (such as using it as a chisel, hammer, or pry bar), lost, or stolen by a gang of screwdriver thieves, last your entire lifetime. Sure, you can buy a battery-powered screwdriver, but mine are all manually operated and fit my needs just fine.

Screwing Yourself Out of Business

The problem with being a screwdriver manufacturer is that, sooner or later, everyone who needs screwdrivers will have eventually bought them. And since they are long-lived tools, those buyers will rarely have to purchase a replacement.

To keep from going out of business, a smart screwdriver manufacturer will diversify and make other tools, like chisels, hammers, and pry bars, and maybe pliers and wrenches, too. And don’t forget saws.

High-Tech Screwing

I have at least 20 different hand and power tools out in my garage, more in the tool boxes in my two cars, and more yet inside of my home. And in some cases—such as screwdrivers—I’ve got ones of different sizes, too.

Screwdrivers

(buba69 Flickr Photo)

By comparison, I’ve only got one of each of these three types of high-tech devices:  Computers  (iMac desktop), tablets (iPad 4th generation), and smartphones (iPhone 5).

The problem with making such high-tech products is your customers’ computing and communication needs can be met with just a few purchases. And except for the odd peripheral, such as a keyboard, mouse or printer, you don’t have any other hardware to sell to them.

iPad photo

(meedanphotos Flickr Photo)

Solution #1: Keep “improving” the software needed to run that hardware until it overwhelms its computing power, forcing the customer to replace it.

Solution #2: Keep releasing new hardware models because advertising will pressure customers into to buying them in order to “keep up with the Joneses,” gadget-wise.

Solution #3: See Solutions #1 and #2.

Ascending the Learning Curve

The Free Dictionary by Farlex says that a “learning curve” is:

“A graph that depicts rate of learning, especially a graph of progress in the mastery of a skill against the time required for such mastery.” (Emphasis added).

The learning curve for mastering Screwdriver 1.0 is both flat and short. It doesn’t take much time to figure out how to use that tool.

Learning Curve

(billsoPHOTO Flickr Photo)

On the other hand, the learning curve for mastering any computer software program varies depending on several factors:

  • How many separate functions must the user learn in order to make productive (let alone full) use of the program?
  • Is the program intuitive to learn, or must the user watch several video tutorials, read a detailed printed manual, or sift through online “Help” or Community Forums?
  • Do updated versions of the program make it easier, or more complicated, to use?

Upgrade of Die

Is it reasonable to expect that high-tech products should have a useful lifetime as long as that of Screwdriver 1.0? Perhaps not.

Maybe buying replacement hardware every five years or so should be acceptable, even if still works fine. But from the consumer’s point of view, shouldn’t we demand that high-tech companies—particularly smartphone manufacturers—slow down their “arms war” against each other, and release new hardware and software less frequently than every few months or every year.

Back to The Future (of iOS)

We’re now back to the question I raised earlier in this story:

“So why is Apple making everything “look and work differently,” and should I stick with iOS 6 or jump on the iOS 7 bandwagon?”

Some technology pundits (and presumably consumers) have faulted Apple for not being “innovative” because it does not come up with new products as quickly as it might.

So with iOS 7, are we dealing with an operating system that isn’t fundamental broken and doesn’t need major “fixing”? In other words, in order to prevent its share of the mobile device market from sinking like the Titanic, is Apple simply “re-arranging the deck chairs” in its mobile operating system so  that it appears to be a new product when, in fact, it’s more a like an old ship with a newly painted hull?

image

Will any of the existing apps on your iPhone that were created either by Apple or third-party developers have to be updated themselves in order to properly work on a device using iOS 7?

And then there’s the “learning curve” issue. Will iPhone (and iPad) users have to spend hours learning the new and maybe-not-improved way to perform functions that they already know how to do in a perfectly acceptable way?

At the end of Alexis Madrigal’s iOS 7 commentary on NPR’s “Fresh Air,” show host Terry Gross offered iPhone and iPad users these reassuring words:

“If you have an iPhone or iPad and are wondering how difficult will the adjustment be, Alexis says most people shouldn’t have a problem finding their way around the new software.”

We’ll see, Terry.

What We’ll See is What We’ll Get

Apple has invited the media to a September 10th press conference. At that time, the world will probably get a more definitive look at the new iPhone models and a further “demo” of iOS 7.

But Apple has already put some iOS7 “teasers” up on its Website so you can get a “sneak peak” at the look and feel of the new operating system. And here’s the video that introduced iOS 7 to developers back in June.

 

Apple makes iOS 7 look very “cool.” You do want it now, don’t you? (That’s the idea folks.)

Leap or Stay Put (For Now)?

My thirty-plus years of experience with various types of computer (and lets face it, iPhone and iPads are computers) software is that it’s never wise to leap into using a newly released version of a program or operating system, unless you really can’t live without it.

Even software that has been extensively tested by the developer may not work “as advertised” when installed on customer’s equipment. Program “bugs” seem to inevitably occur, sometimes being merely “pests,” and sometimes seriously impairing the operation of the software or hardware.

Software Bug

(FastJack Flickr Photo)

We can probably expect Apple’s new mobile operating system to be infested with at least one or of those coding critters, and for  a version 7.01 update squashing them to follow pretty close on the heels of the initial release of iOS 7. So my advice is to let other Apple customers be the “lab rats” subjected to this new and ambitious software “experiment.”

iOS 7 is not going to be delivered to you on a CD-ROM. You’re going to have to download it over the Internet. And if thousands or millions of other “iDevice” users are trying to get the new operating system at the same time as you, your download may be slow, fitful, or fail.

Waiting two weeks to thirty days—or even longer—to install iOS 7 is not likely to have any practical effect on the use of your iPhone or iPad. So why not wait? Certainly don’t try to install it while you’re on a trip when you need your phone or tablet to work without a hitch.

And if you’ve had your existing iPhone or iPad for more than a couple of years, maybe it is time for you to buy a shiny new one that will already have iOS 7 installed on it.

I’ll be one of those taking a “wait and see” approach to iOS 7. And, in the meantime, don’t get any ideas about screwing with my Screwdriver 1.0 tools, Apple. (Hands-off to you, too, Google!)

(Look for further updates to this story after Apple’s September 10th press conference and once iOS 7 has been independently tested by technology writers and Tales Told From The Road. Click on the player below to listen to Alexis Madrigal’s “Fresh Air” commentary. If you read the comments to the transcript of his remarks, you’ll find opposing views regarding the upcoming major “makeover” of Apple’s mobile operating system.)

[Update, September 10, 2013: Today Apple announcement that on Wednesday, September 18, iOS 7 will be available for he iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, the iPad 2, iPad third and fourth generation, the iPad mini and the iPod touch fifth generation.]

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